Cleaning as a Zen Practice

How to Get a Clean House and Mind

A common thing in spiritual practices is the Inside/Outside connection. Meaning, what one has around them is similar to what is in your mind. Often times, papers littered around the room or disorganized drawers can signify a littered or disorganized mind.

clean zen temple

Built with peace in mind, the temple structure can bring satisfaction just by sight.

Now, not everyone has a spiritual connection, but that doesn’t mean the psychological benefits to Zen practice are off-limits. Everyone can reap the rewards of good mental health care. This can be used as a supplementary meditation practice.

We see Zen temples and their wide-open spaces, simplistic structure, and peaceful atmospheres. These vibes all can be brought to your home without spending too much money through a cleaning Zen practice. Here’s your guide to a clean mind and house in three steps: reduce, cleanse, and maintain.

Reduce

The reduction part is the decluttering step. Like the tidy guru, Marie Kondo says, “The best way to find out what we truly need is to get rid of what we don’t.” This should be your intention during this step.

Pick up your clothes that you haven’t worn in forever, maybe the ones you’ve promised to wear again when you lose weight. Take a second look at those tourist knickknacks you bought on a whim because you felt like you should, and leaf through the stack of important papers or mail taking up counter space.

Do you really need to hold on to those? Are we keeping them because it satisfies some security need, or do we actively need these things taking up space in our lives?

Most likely, we have mental attachments to the unnecessary physical items in our homes. Taking stock of these will bring up why exactly we feel this way. When you start throwing things away, you’re giving yourself permission to let go of the factors holding us back.

Cleanse

Keeping with the same theme is the cleansing step. You’ve finished pushing out all the unnecessary from your home and now you’re left with the items that support you. But, they all have become dirty from the dust buildup or simple day to day life.

person meditating on clear zen landscape

Putting yourself back into moments-even small ones- throughout the day can help reduce stress.

Cleaning is an act of kindness for your home and its inhabitants, even if you’re living by yourself. When you wash the dishes or sweep the floors, you’re lowering dirt and grime that can make you sick. It will uplift you with a sense of pride; you’re making your own corner of the world a nicer place. Even if it’s just for you, that can impart a sense of accomplishment.

All these good feelings can come from picking up a broom or a rag at home. Of course, it feels good at the moment to relax on the couch after work, or scroll the media on your phone, but the sense of a job well-done carries through your life, bolstering you in other endeavors.

Maintain

The final step is recognizing this is a cycle. It’s not going to end, ever, and that’s okay. You don’t want to stop improving yourself and your surroundings in small, meaningful ways. It’s part of life.

Illuminating this aspect may settle some dust in your mind. You may think “Oh, I have to clean today,” or “Oh man, I hate all this upkeep,” when in fact, the upkeep of the house may be just the mental boost you need to keep your spirits high.

It’s all about perspective.

zen archway over calm meditative waters

With clean, purposeful action comes clean, purposeful thoughts. Utilize this mind-body connection.

Just remember to keep these things in mind as you take these steps:

  • Be Present. Don’t worry about how much you have left to do, or what else is coming up in the day. Just relax and focus on the work.
  • No Judgment This work is going to be in an intimate setting, so the judgments fall on you and those you share the space. Judging won’t solve things while you clean.
  • Gratitude You have things to clean, or you have a space to take care of. Some people don’t. Even if you feel like you’re not in the place you want to be, cherish what you have. We humans easily get comfortable in what we think is a given.

So, remember: reduce, cleanse, and maintain.  If you pick up those papers and organize your car, not for anyone else, but for yourself, then you’ll reap the mental benefits of reduced anxiety and a sense of well-being.

 

 

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