I don’t like cleaning. Never have. I’ve always felt, even as a child faced with a list of chores, that there were so many other more important, interesting things to do with my time. I think that one of the sweetest times in my relationship with household cleaning was when for a few years, money was abundant and I hired someone to come in and clean for me on a weekly basis.
But something interesting has been shifting for me in the last year. I’ve been learning about stewardship through my spiritual practices and its been quite revolutionary.
I’ve read many Zen Buddhist writings about the importance of presence in whatever you do. This to relates to cleaning. There is no act that is insignificant, and all acts lead to a meditation in presence if you show up for it.
Earlier this year I attended an intensive with one of my spiritual teachers, Parvathi Nath, in which she spoke about Stewardship as it related to a specific Dakini. She said something that so resonated with me in terms of my home space and my kitchen in particular. She said, “What you clean, you know. And what you know and give attention to, you give value to. ”
This added such a powerful dimension to the keeping of a home sanctuary for me. Yes, I have always known that cleaning anything is a beautiful meditation in presence, but the notion of knowing… this was rich for me.
It made me think about the act of becoming intimate with each of my kitchen tools as I cleaned them, cared for them. It also made me think about learning every square inch of the kitchen, particularly in my situations, when I’m living such a nomadic life and the kitchen I may have this year isn’t the kitchen I will have next year, let alone, next month.
It also, even now as I write this, makes me look at this resistance I have to cleaning. It’s a carelessness. A lack of care.
I remember in the very beginnings of my relationship with Jon, we had struck a deal, that I would do all the cooking and he would do the clean up. It took a couple of times for him to stop and inform me that every time I cooked, I made the kitchen look like I had used every single pan, dish and utensil in the kitchen! And it was true, but I simply looked at him and exclaimed, “I’m an artist! Mine is not to clean, it is to create!” Have I mentioned that I have a propensity for the dramatic? Yes, well… moving along.
Over the course of our almost 7 year relationship, I have learned to clean as I go which goes a long way towards getting help with the clean up afterward, let me tell you!
The new layer revealing itself to me now, however, is that I’m the Priestess of this domain. By that I mean, that there is an ownership, responsibility and full engagement that has been lacking in me with regards to the kitchen hearth, in which I make the food that sustains me and mine. And this realization leads to a very different approach to my cleaning, because now its about stewardship.
This space is mine to care for, keep, and know… fully. Its a powerful act of magic to care for something with your hands like this. And as I continue to make food for myself in this little foreign kitchen that belongs to another, I’m feeling a deeper sense of authority, presence and alchemy with my food.
So my Food Practice lovelies, I want to hear from you. What are you thoughts on looking at kitchen cleaning as a practice in stewardship? Have you ever thought about this way before? How do you feel and think about cleaning your kitchen? Share share share!
“Let kitchen work no longer be a chore, but a blessing that brings you peace and healing. Look for and find joy in every aspect of cooking, not just in serving and eating – yes, even in washing the lettuce and the cleaning up afterward”
~The Sacred Kitchen: Higher-Consciousness Cooking for Health and Wholeness
*psst! That lovely up there cleaning a pot is none other then Sanam of My Persian Kitchen
This is a beautiful post, that really speaks to me. I have always hated to clean. I have loved the times when I have been able to indulge in having someone clean our house. But in the present time, I am the house cleaner. I try to remember to have an attitude of gratitude for our beautiful home. It then is my pleasure to care for it. I'm working on it, but it helps for me.
I too once had a cleaning person, bigger sigh 🙂 You know I can so relate to the knowing part however I never ever thought about it! I hate, despise, loathe cleaning! My kitchen stuff on the other hand, I take great care of. If only I would think of the rest of the house is the same manner. It truly is carelessness. Great post!
Jason Phelps says
Truly lovely. In college I donned the "if you don't know, you don't care" idea. After cancer I live this idea by example. I'm lucky I got to play in the bonus round and now I want "to be there" for everything I do, just because experiencing is so precious. I often wondered how else others might learn to appreciate this way of thinking, .e.g not cancer or trauma. Now I know. Thank you so much for sharing.
Jason, What an amazing comment. Thank you for sharing this. "If you don't know, you don't care." Thats powerful and its a statement that reverberates to all aspects of our lives. Mmm… wonderful, thank you. And I'm so glad you got a bonus round. 🙂
Caring for objects is absolutely a demonstration of respect for them. And it makes it so clear that the respect is missing from desire to possess all too often. We get things knowing they are replaceable.
This is an interesting point. Everything is so replaceable in our western world. As I read your comment I imagined how I would clean and store my wooden spoons (which I love to use all the time) if I couldn't get anymore. I literally felt a shift in my body thinking about it. Its a powerful visualization that can probably be used for most things in our lives. Amazing.
Fantastic post, Elena. Washing up is something I absolutely detest, but Momma Lee also said to me as a little girl 'a good cook always cleans up after themselves', and so, even though I loathe it, I force myself to do it. I find it much easier to do so when I'm in a shared space, though – when I'm at home that's when I'm at my laziest. Maybe because there's nobody judging me…? Well. Except for myself.
Actually, this past year I got into a really good habit of cleaning up as I went, mostly because my ex-housemate is a complete clean freak and would tell me off if I left anything out! A habit that has fallen into bad ways since moving back home… I am, however, much tidier than my boyfriend, so whenever I'm cooking with him or hanging out at his place I tend to be the one cleaning up after him! Learning good habits, I guess =)
Its funny you mention the times when you're at home. I experience the same thing. When I'm alone in a house, like now that Jon is back in California and I'm still in Maui, I tend to make a meal, leave the dishes in the sink and maybe get to them before going to bed or if not then in the morning the next day. There is a laxness to how I attend to the kitchen when I'm alone and want to focus on a post I'm writing or a project I'm working on. Very 'single girl' behavior! This month I'm really trying to shift that.
Beautiful post. My sense of my own presence in my home has taken a while – I always felt like I was the visitor even when I wasn't. Maybe from all the years of travelling and moving. Somedays cleaning is joy – I'm present with appreciation for our living space, pots -pans – beds – even toilets! Other days – it's a blur of activity just trying to get to the next thing. The difference isn't in what might be going on for me during those times, but in how I have been attending to my own spiritual self -care.
Wonderful post and I love your writing!
The Mom Chef says
Thanks for the wonderful post and the honesty with which it was written. I think I come at it from a different perspective though. My kitchen is the vehicle though which I use the talents and gifts I've been given of cooking. Cooking is a way that I express my love to my family and friends. Their willingness to help with the clean-up is their way of expressing that love back to me because they know that I am tired after making the meals I do and that I detest washing pots and pans. It's a mutual love-relationship happening.
*smiles* I love this. And what you speak of here is a whole other dimension to the kitchen which is in essence the heart of the home. Coming together as a family to clean up and work together, especially in gratitude to you for having prepared their meal is so beautiful. It becomes a family practice or ritual, that I imagine bring you all closer together even though it can seem like such a mundane thing to do. Thank you for sharing this!
Magic of Spice says
Very lovely post… I agree with Janice. I have several very special object that grace my kitchen, and although I am not that fond of cleaning as a chore. When I love my kitchen it loves me back:)
this is an interesting post, and very well written. i like your insight on the spiritualness to cleaning, which i agree with. i make it no secret that i loath cleaning. i also have little free time and wish i could spend my time on other things than cleaning. my mom used to use cleaning as a punishment, like taking q-tips and scrubbing grout, etc. so i've never been able to get over my association of cleaning as a punishment. there are times that i find a satisfaction when i make my home sparkling clean, but those are very rare times. my goal one day (hopefully sooner than later) is to be able to afford to have someone else clean my home – someone who does find "joy" in it and who does it much better than me. hopefully i'll have a breakthrough one day regarding this topic, but i haven't reached that point yet.