“Waxing Philosophical on Cleaning the Soul”
Some practitioners of Buddhism claim that a person’s external environment is a mirror of their inner being and state of mind. This can be true, because a person’s inner state can often motivate their external actions. For the overwhelmed person, clutter and disorganization can seem like the natural outgrowth of a busy mind pulled in all directions. The irony is that resulting clutter can lead to even more feelings of stress, just simply by being present. The obvious way to combat this stress is to clean and organize clutter but, to keep the clutter at bay and reduce stress levels further, meditation and mindfulness should be practiced during the cleaning.
Clutter has the habit of making people who live around it feel stressed. The confined space in which its located can make a person feel closed-in. The simply the thought of having to clean the clutter can add a task to an already busy schedule, and drain a person of energy. The process of untangling and reorganizing clutter is a freeing one, because it contributes to giving a person a sense of control — as someone de-clutters an area, they begin to feel like the own the space again, and new possibilities open for the future. To make the task manageable and less daunting, cleaners should only take on one area a day, to guard against exhaustion and clutter fatigue. Cleaning for open spaces also helps people let go of attachments (another Buddhist principle), and aids them in releasing the past, no matter how important or insignificant the items.
Mindfulness and meditation can work wonders during cleaning. When a person is mindful, they are paying attention to each moment in their lives in a calm and non-judgmental way. This can significantly reduce everyday stresses, like those associated with cleaning. Instead of getting angry or frustrated because of having to clean a mess that someone thinks shouldn’t be there, the person chooses to view the situation in a way that will give them insight and help them learn about the mess, such as why it’s there, and how it can be avoided in the future. Paying attention to one’s mind, body, feelings and mental content can do wonders for the inner state. Best of all, meditating is not relegated to a specific pose, or time of day — it can be done anywhere at anytime, even while pushing a vacuum.
It’s important to remember that “Spring Cleaning” isn’t just supposed to be done during spring. Minds and moods are present all throughout the year, and they should be given the proper environment to thrive. Meditating while cleaning is a great way to sweep the mind of negative thoughts and inhospitable emotions. The following links give information on the connection between stress and clutter, and point to ways to reduce stress by cleaning:
Cleanliness is Next to Sanity?: An article summarizing psychologists’ new emphasis on cleaning as a form of stress therapy.
Secrets of a Stress-Free Home: Reduce Stress Room by Room: Health magazine provides information on how to make a home more like a sanctuary than a stress factory. Tips are given for particular rooms in the house, including how to use space wisely and lighting advice.
Reduce Stress: Interior Paint Colors That Will Change Your Life: Shape magazine gives pointers on what colors to paint every room in your house, and what effects they will have on mindsets. Information on specific colors are given, making it easy for consumers to purchase them.
Spring Cleaning Can Relieve Stress: These are ways in which cleaning can reduce stress, and simultaneously lead to a clearer mind.
Spring Cleaning Meditation: A Rabbi talks about meditation and cleaning. It’s useful for those of other religions who are interested in meditation.
Insight Meditation: Meditating at Home: A Buddhist website about the art of meditating at home. The website posits that no task is unimportant, including domestic chores.
Cleaning as Meditation: How to Transform Your Chores: A feature that waxes on the meditative meaning of chores. It contains examples of taking particular chores and relating them to Buddhist principles and meditation.
Five Steps to a Mindfulness Meditation Decluttering Practice: This website contains five tips to make decluttering a meditative experience, focusing on the concept of mindfulness.
Practicing Mindfulness for Busy People: These are tips giving the busy person with a full schedule ideas on how to practice mindfulness throughout the day. It includes advice on how to practice mindfulness while doing chores.
Practicing Mindfulness: A doctor explains the advantages of mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Resting in The Present Moment: A 3 min Guided Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation of the Present Momement
Explaining the purpose of remembering the present moment.
Introduction, when most people hear the word meditation, they often think of transcendental meditation or similar practices used to evoke the relaxation response. In these approaches you focus attention on one thing, usually the sensation of breath leaving and entering your body or a mantra (a special sound or phrase you repeat silently to yourself). Anything else that comes into your mind during meditation is seen as a distraction to be disregarded. These practices can give rise to very deep states of calmness and stability of attention. They are known as the concentration, or “one-pointed,” type of meditation — what Buddhists call shamatha or samadhi practices.
Mindfulness is the other major classification of meditation practices, known as vipassana, or insight meditation. In the practice of mindfulness, you begin by utilizing one-pointed attention to cultivate calmness and stability, but then you move beyond that by introducing a wider scope to the observing, as well as an element of inquiry. When thoughts or feelings come up in your mind, you don’t ignore them or suppress them, nor do you analyze or judge their content. Rather, you simply note any thoughts as they occur as best you can and observe them intentionally but nonjudgmentally, moment by moment, as the events in the field of your awareness.
Paradoxically, this inclusive noting of thoughts that come and go in your mind can lead you to feel less caught up in them and give you a deeper perspective on your reaction to everyday stress and pressures. By observing your thoughts and emotions as if you had taken a step back from them, you can see much more clearly what is actually on your mind. You can see your thoughts arise and recede one after another. You can note the content of your thoughts, the feelings associated with them, and your reactions to them. You might become aware of agendas, attachments, likes and dislikes, and inaccuracies in your ideas. You can gain insight into what drives you, how you see the world, who you think you are — insight into your fears and aspirations.
The key to mindfulness is not so much what you choose to focus on but the quality of the awareness that you bring to each moment. It is very important that it be nonjudgmental — more of a silent witnessing, a dispassionate observing, than a running commentary on your inner experience. Observing without judging, moment by moment, helps you see what is on your mind without editing or censoring it, without intellectualizing it or getting lost in your own incessant thinking.
It is this investigative, discerning observation of whatever comes up in the present moment that is the hallmark of mindfulness and differentiates it most from other forms of meditation. The goal of mindfulness is for you to be more aware, more in touch with life and with whatever is happening in your own body and mind at the time it is happening — that is, in the present moment. If you are experiencing a distressing thought or feeling or actual physical pain in any moment, you resist the impulse to try to escape the unpleasantness; instead, you attempt to see it clearly as it is and accept it because it is already present in this moment.
Acceptance, of course, does not mean passivity or resignation. On the contrary, by fully accepting what each moment offers, you open yourself to experiencing life much more completely and make it more likely that you will be able to respond effectively to any situation that presents itself. Acceptance offers a way to navigate life’s ups and downs — what Zorba the Greek called “the full catastrophe” — with grace, a sense of humor, and perhaps some understanding of the big picture, what I like to think of as wisdom.
One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of the mind as the surface of a lake or ocean. There are always waves, sometimes big, sometimes small. Many people think the goal of meditation is to stop the waves so that the water will be flat, peaceful, and tranquil — but that is not so. The true spirit of mindfulness practice is illustrated by a poster someone once described to me of a 70-ish yogi, Swami Satchidananda, in full white beard and flowing robes, atop a surfboard and riding the waves off a Hawaiian beach. The caption read: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Source- Jon Kabat-Zinn, Director, Stress Management Clinic
University of Massachusetts Medical Center