What could be better than house cleaning? You answer: just about anything. But I think you’re wrong.
Yes, house cleaning is drudgery. Yes, cleaning house can be overwhelming, especially I would think for families with young children where the adult or adults have to work full time. Yes, house cleaning is associated with the worst excesses of sexism. Yes, all these things are true.
Thich Nhat Hanh says: “There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.” This is true as far as it goes: any task, no matter how mundane — perhaps even, no matter how degrading — any task can be turned into an act of mindfulness. But I don’t think Thich Nhat Hanh goes far enough.
This winter, I got bronchitis. I wasn’t that sick — I didn’t have to go to the hospital — but I was sick enough that about all I had energy to do was to go to work, and to come home and sleep. This went on for months. At the same time, Carol’s work overwhelmed her life, and between the two of us we didn’t have much or any time to devote to house cleaning. Dirty dishes piled up in our sink, and — well, you don’t need to hear the details.
Finally this week I have been feeling more energetic, and I have been house cleaning. I have not been house cleaning in order to house-clean; I have been house cleaning in order to have a clean house. Thich Nhat Hanh has his perspective, and I have mine: he is full of mindfulness and he is far more spiritual than I; I’m happy just having a clean house.