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HONORING MY MOTHER l Cleaning as lifesaver (a Rewrite)

By Icoy San Pedro

I happened to read a Buddhist’s blog online that talked about cleaning as a meditative tool for achieving inner peace. One section discussed at length that the “self” in all of us is an integral part of the environment we live in. That being so, any simple process of cleaning, i.e., sweeping the floor, gardening “expresses our respect for, and sense of wholeness with, the world that surrounds us.”

In retrospect, is this the reason why during our elementary years, an hour of our time’s been devoted to cleaning our classrooms? In some schools even, they’ve special days where students were required to bring scythes and bolos so they could cut the grass and tidy their surroundings. In fact, up till this day, they have weekly “cleaners.”

It goes on to say that a person’s personality is nothing but an illusion perpetrated by our ego, and as such is just the result of our daily dealings with others in society. Because of these interactions with other “egos”, we unnecessarily add layers or “masks “to the personality, which we consciously and unconsciously create along the way to gain acceptance or advantage. (One layer is attachment to material things) With all these, it’s only by cleansing that one can one be pure again. 

The monks believe that cleaning the physical world manifests greatly into the spiritual, so that, in time, your “ego” will also look like Mr. Clean. So, interested in chipping away at pretensions, defense mechanisms or other sources of worldly stress? Okay, get a broom, I’ll hold your beer. 

Whether or not there is any logical basis to all these, it will still depend on where one is coming from. During our brief stay Down Under for example, we’ve met several Filipino university student-scholars who worked part-time cleaning offices in the city. Aside from earning extra bucks on the side to augment their allowances, most of them agreed that cleaning was a great stress reliever. As this chore just required the minimum amount of decision-making (compared to, say, writing your Master’s or PhD’s thesis) and consumed only 2 to 3 hours per evening, they returned home somewhat detoxed from their daily university grind. 

As for myself, doing laundry can create an almost-Zen-like experience too, as my mind is free to wander as I wished (and washed). Sorting the colored from the whites can likewise turn into a hypnotic exercise as I daydream (er meditate) of space battles between good and evil, ala-Star Wars. 

However, it is equally-effective as an anger management tool as well. Imagine wringing the neck of someone as you twist your shirts dry. Anyway, I guess this is the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to cleaning as a means of meditation. However one fancies it, the advantage of the Japanese Buddhist concept of cleaning is not only relevant to the times today but is a progressive approach to the de-cluttering our society’s gadget-intoxicated ego and contaminated beaches. 

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