Have you even been in a forward bend (while doing yoga), and all of a sudden you notice your toes and how dirty they are, or your toes nails need clipping, a scab needs picking or other such thing.
Doing yoga we tend to notice our body. We give ourselves the time to notice what we don’t normally look at and as a result we see the parts of ourselves that are less than clean from neglect.
Noticing our body, we notice what needs to be cleaned. While cleaning, to do a good job we notice what we are cleaning.
In either case, doing yoga or clearing, we can become present, even if a little distracted.
As an example, while sweeping the floor we notice where the dust has gathered in the corners or on the edges of quarter board. We notice crumbs under the couch, the discarded pizza way too old to nibble on, a ten dollar note (not quite enough for a movie,) those missing socks and someone else’s mouldy underwear-also not good to nibble on. Cleaning the car, a motorbike or piece of machinery that we use for pleasure or for work of for both we may notice lose nuts or bolts or pieces missing or parts in need of adjustment or refurbishing or replacing.
Noticing these things we can take care of them. As such we can keep what we are working with in good working condition and we can fix things before things get bad and we can use it as a way of keeping things from getting bad because we can see when things are about to go wrong.
(If we take the time to remove that pizza crust before it goes mouldy we prevent the onset of a bad smell.)
Sweep Away Yesterdays Problems
One of my inspirations for this article was an article by a sword smith who talks about cleaning the shop every morning. He mentions that it is a way of sweeping up the problems of yesterday so that we can deal with the problems of today. It inspired me to start cleaning more regularly and to make it a part of my morning routine.
To make cleaning simpler, I like the idea of cleaning regularly. Rather than one big round of cleaning I do little bits at a time. One day I’ll do the living room, the next day the bedroom and so on.
On the other end of the spectrum we can leave cleaning as a once a month, bi-yearly or yearly project where we put everything else aside to get on with the task of cleaning, reorganizing or improving. If we do this, one of the ways that we can make this job easier is to work as neatly and as organized as possible when we are not cleaning so that we save ourselves the task of having to sort everything out.
As an example, here in Taiwan we can keep our receipts from any sales transaction and every two months check the receipt numbers to see if we’ve won the lottery. (It’s a way that the government encourages shop owners to record transactions.)
Over the course of two or three months you can collect a lot of receipts and if you just bung them in a pile its a real pain in the ass to organize them and then check the numbers. Easier to bundle them as we get them so that we can check them quickly, pick up any winnings (damn it nothing this month, why do I bother..) and get on with our life.
When we don’t clean regularly, or worse yet, if we don’t keep things organized or sorted then when it does come time to clean our work load is increased. Not only do we have to clean, we have to sort as well.
At one time my job was washing dishes at a restaurant. Helping one of the waiters set up some tables for a few extra dollars near the end of the night I neglected my work station. The dishes piled up haphazardly into one huge disorganized pile. I spent the next few hours sorting through and then washing and drying and putting away. I think I got home at 4am that morning.
Having learned my lesson, I applied it cleaning up tables after a wedding at a banquet hall. I suggested that one group of people going around sorting everything on the tables in like groups. Other people could go around with buckets collecting only like objects, only water glasses, only wine glasses, only cutlery etc. Everything was sorted as it was collected and this made it easier for the person loading and operating the dish washer to load everything and put it away.
This is not to say that pre-organizing is needed in every case, but where it can save time in the long run it is a worthwhile endeavor. Doing laundry, I find it more convenient to sort everything as I fold and put it all away-which just might account for my white shirts which are slightly pink.
Organizing Equals Thinking
The beauty about organizing as early as possible or reducing the need for organizing, is that then we don’t have to think. Organization, sorting things out takes thinking power and if we get that out of the way then we can more easily focus on using our senses and focusing on what we want to do.
And that is part of the beauty of cleaning as we go. If we clean after each little job there is little or no organizing to do. The thinking effort required is minimal. Better yet, because we haven’t got so much to cleaning to do we avoid thoughts of “I’ve got so much cleaning to do, I’ll never get this done, I don’t have enough time.” Instead there can be the simple use of our consciousness to sense what we are doing and responding to what we sense. We keep things simple and as a result we can flow.
Taking a cooking class, whether cutting onions, cutting carrots, cutting meat, after each stage we tidy up the scraps, put away what we’d done or at least put it out of the way, and then get on with the next task. Likewise, while cooking we cleaned up at any opportunity.
While initially I thought this was a pain in the ass, working in this way had a pleasant rhythm and the added benefit was that there wasn’t a whole lot of cleaning to do at the end.
Regular Cleaning Equals Rhythm
Cleaning, organizing, writing, doing all of these things at regular intervals, taking a break to stake stock and organize, we can make our lives easier and give our lives rhythm. Instead of thinking about all the stuff we have to do, we can focus on doing, taking a rest, taking stock while we sort, clean and organize and then we get on with whatever is next on our list.
Say what we are learning a new Tai Ji form or a yoga pose or a math technique. If after we try or practice or learn, we can look back at what we’ve done by checking the answer in the back of the book, looking at the example or video, we can then see if what we did matched what we were supposed to be doing. We can also ask the teacher. In this way we learn faster… faster than say trying to practice a very long sequence and then try to remember what we did and then try to check if we did it right.
That’s not to say that thinking doesn’t have its place. When learning, trying to understand, trying to figure things out, then thinking can be useful. Actually where it is most useful is in figuring out how to simplify. Once we’ve simplified we can then focus on doing. Then we don’t have to think.
When we aren’t thinking we can focus on what we are doing and sensing and as a result we become present. We flow.
Why Get into the Flow?
Why get into the flow?
Because it feels good. It’s like doing a forward bend and because your feet are clean you can focus on feeling your hips and using them, on feeling your spine and lengthening it, on doing a yoga pose with effortless ease.