Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, forever cleaning! Cleaning is and has been very much part of the practice in the Way within the Zen tradition (the only one I know anything about). Cleaning the meditation room and then the rest of the house in readiness for a half-day retreat is before me today. It is nearly midday and I’ve not started yet. There always seems to be something more important than getting out the vacuum cleaner and duster. After all, everything is clean enough!
Sometimes that ‘something more important’ really IS more important, you just didn't know why at the time! You know the kind of thing, you inexplicably turn right rather than left taking the longer route home (to start cleaning) and you meet an old friend. One time I was traveling through London transferring from one station to another and bumped into a friend I’d known in India. We had lost touch over time. What a coincidence! Or was it the winds of the Buddha’s benevolent influence that had us outside Victoria train station at the same time, and notice each other. Nothing spooky or fatalistic I assure you just something to do with how life throws up karmic cleaning opportunities: when all conditions are ripe.
Chance encounters such as the one in London are breath taking in the width and depth of what takes place in just a brief encounter, they can be life changing. One meets the deep heart of the old friend and, while knowing love remains, part lighter and brighter accepting that life paths have diverged. Some speck of glue in ones being has dissolved and walking on into ones life, in ways seemingly unconnected with the encounter itself, become obvious and non ‘sticky’. The way is cleared simply because the flow of cause and effect had one in the right place at the right time, you turned right rather than left on the way home. If I remember correctly, it was so long ago, the friend and I had a meal and then I caught a latter train home. So often meals and the like can act as cement and sometimes they can be as water carrying one on freed, unencumbered by the past.
We have a verse that can be recited while washing ones hands: “I wish to cleanse my body and my heart”. There it is, intention together with action, a great reminder in the rush of the day.
Now, having got that whole thing out of my mind and onto paper, onward to the vacuum cleaner.