“At this time I find it more and more important to have outer activities that can connect us to what is more natural and help us live in relationship to the deep root of our being, and in an awareness of the moment which alone can give real meaning to our everyday existence.”
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (“The Art of Cleaning” Parabola, Summer, 2017, p. 11)
Long ago, when I was married and had one young son, my husband and I met some college friends of his on an island in the Caribbean—St. Bart, I believe. We rented a house that offered the services of a caretaker for cleaning and cooking. Each morning, two French-speaking women came very early, before we were up. They cleaned the house and cooked breakfast, and while we were eating, they made the beds, swept the porches and even swept the sand that surrounded the house. They used hand-made brooms with fan-shaped bristles, and created over-lapping arcs in the sand. It was quite beautiful.
Those were days long before cell phones. I was an emotional mess because I was away from my child for such a long time, and the phones were down on the island, so I couldn't call and check on him. Our friends, who did not yet have children, thought me crazy--and they were right. But these women, dressed in simple cotton dresses and sandals, jet-black hair tied back with a ribbon, seemed perfectly happy doing what they were doing. They worked in tandem with total concentration and seemingly effortless movement, and watching them calmed even me. It was a demonstration of whole body meditation that I have not forgotten. Today, when my head is swirling, I head for my basement, and sweep, and organize and dust. It never fails to pull me back to earth.
There is something about performing simple, essential tasks—sweeping, dusting, ironing, cooking—that anchors us in our bodies, and reminds us of our attachment to time, and place and home. As we sweep out the debris of our living space, we clear out our mental garbage as well. These simple chores can be considered onerous, or they can be an exercise in grounding. If done with attention to detail and presence of mind, they provide a connection to antiquity. They link us to our ancestors back through the ages, because these are tasks that humans have always done. In these days of super connectivity, and technology over-load, we need them more than ever. Approaching every aspect of life with reverence makes for a sacred life.
In the Spirit,