By JUDY A. TOTTS
When I chose the name â€œSmall Thingsâ€ for this column, it was, in part, a response to Mother Teresaâ€™s beautiful statement, â€œWe can do no great things, only small things with great love.â€ But is also reflects my belief that everything we do can be a prayer, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others. This came home to me again when I started to page through â€œThe Way We Pray,â€ a book that is a sampling of prayer practices from many different faiths.
You can pray when you walk a labyrinth, sing and chant, draw, dance, meditate, light candles, read sacred text, spin a prayer wheel or attend a worship service. And thatâ€™s just a few of the paths the book explored. With intention, all things can become sacred and part of our faith journey.
So why not housekeeping? I was drawn to two other books that seemed related: â€œZen and the Art of Housekeepingâ€ and â€œSpiritual Housecleaning: Healing the Space Within by Beautifying the Space Around You.â€
I am the first person to admit my house is dusty. Our corgi, a perpetual shedding machine, creates little tumbleweeds of hair the two cats also contribute to when theyâ€™re not putting paw prints on the windows in pursuit of dust motes floating on sunbeams.
I start out with good intentions, beginning with a list that would keep the cleaning staff of a five-star hotel busy for months: clean the cupboards, wash the dishes in the cupboards, line the cupboards with fresh paper, wash the walls â€” by the time I reach â€œscrub the floor,â€ itâ€™s time to clean the cupboards again, and never mind the other 10 things I didnâ€™t reach.
The Zen koans on the back of the â€œArt of Housekeepingâ€ book sounded like intriguing points to think about, little springboards to spiritual questions. â€œIf the kitchen is the heart of the home, what is the heart of the kitchen?â€ â€œWhat is the color of clean?â€ and â€œIf the purpose of cleaning is to remove dirt, what is the purpose of dirt?â€ There also was the playful question: â€œWhat would the Buddha dust?â€ The whole point being you can learn to â€œput more than elbow grease into your daily routine.â€ For Christians, that might mean choosing a favorite Bible verse to meditate on, to let our â€œMaryâ€ side blossom even as we experience our â€œMarthaâ€ mindset.
For me, it all begins with decluttering, a holdover from Lenten practices. If we can shovel out the old stuff, we can make room for more spiritual things. The Zen mirrors the Christian concept of not accumulating material things. To declutter in a mindful way, the author suggests the physical act of sorting and discarding can compare to spiritual decluttering as well.
The â€œSpiritual Housecleaningâ€ book takes it a step further and includes a simple ritual â€œseparation ceremony.â€ It reminds me very much of the Lenten practice of fasting or abstaining from something to promote spiritual growth.
In the long run, the goal is not perfection, but the opportunity â€œto embrace the process of keeping house.â€ Sing as you sweep the floor, pray as you polish it. Learn to let go of old, detrimental things in preparation for renewal, for new beginnings.
Totts may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.