The other day I had just finished my breakfast and as I put my dishes into the dishwasher, I noticed that there were a few random plates, wet, swollen bread crumbs, knives with butter & jam on them and a sharp knife all haphazardly in the bottom of the sink. Not pretty, but for a few days it just kept looking like that.
It was time to clean up – again. Seemed like I’d done it (washed things) just a few days ago and since then hadn’t really had much time for food prep at home. Living with two men, they hadn’t either. Just the bare minimum of dirty dishes were in the sink, but it really looked dirty. Like, super dirty.
Maybe it was due to the very full drying rack. The one that probably had about 4 previous dish washing sessions, similar to what i was about to conduct stacked up. It was a couple feet high, loaded with various cups, plates, pots and strainers all precariously balanced in such a way that it appeared that someone made an effort defy physics in order to avoid putting anything away.
Maybe it’s because I’m hard wired to care for the home… like, I actually believe that it’s my responsibility to have the house clean when my husband comes home from a trip, for instance. Archaic, I know but it’s how I seem to be wired.
Also, due to my long term career in the most popular but lowest paying home based businesses on the planet (and people who do this work, mostly do it free of charge), I feel like I have the equivalent of a PhD in laundry, cleaning of surfaces and wiping up various explosions causes by short people.
Much like what Malcolm Gladwell said in “Outliers”, the key to success in any field is accomplished by practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours, as well as being exposed to opportunity.
Certainly, I have put in the hours and my opportunity to do it (clean things up) was laid out from early on, but I honestly didn’t see how metaphorically perfect a kitchen sink is to being confidently spiritual.
Not until the other day.
The area around the sink often gets snarky, greasy or littered with random things. Lots of people will clean up the obvious, but leave the sink to become layered with weeks or even months of debris and detritus.
The view of our kitchen is that it’s mostly clean, but clearly a bit of “I didn’t eat that, make that, do that… so it’s not my job to clean it up” is part of the inner talk we may have. If one of us does decide to clean up, it can also be an opportunity to be very put out that it needs to be done. Loud bangs & bumps start happening in the kitchen, punctuated by snorts and sighs as the sound of water running and the action of scrubbing starts to happen. It’s clear that whoever took the time to clean it… Well, they “get” to be EXTREMELY unhappy that they had to do so.
My personal experience that particular day, cleaning the sink became one of great peace. Given that I struggle with getting my hands wet (my skin is compromised a bit), the gloves went on and I started first with the drying rack.
Once all the items on that were stored in their proper place, I cleaned the surface under it and made it shine. There were no water spots or residual anything any longer on the stainless steel surface, so the drying rack was next. Cleaned that within an inch of it’s life and put it back.
Looking to the right, I saw the various little jars, bottles and random items that no one (but me apparently) ever really knows what to do with. It requires a bit of scraping out of the last dregs of food or herbs left inside them and a determined washing of the inside, rims and outside then – all clean – they go onto the drying rack.
Little by little the stuff around the sink was cleaned and put up to dry. Like I said, not much was there but it was all fairly gross and took a bit of effort to put right.
Then it was time to tackle the sink itself. We have a stainless steel sink; two sides separated by a barrier between. Dumb design but whatever, it’s what’s here. Yuk, though. It was greasy and sticky and I thought that regardless of how clean we got all the various pots and dishes that land in there, without the sink actually being clean how clear were those “cleaned” dishes anyway?
Soap and water, mixed with elbow grease does wonders! One thing I marveled at was how nice it was that we have an abundance of water here. Again, my gratitude practice kicked in and offered me something to appreciate while doing something quite mundane.
Stepping back, I surveyed my handiwork. PhD quality work, obviously some experience backed my efforts. The sink just gleamed & sparkled!! Curious the feeling that washed over me. Total contentment and peace.
Why was that? I just cleaned up the sink. Seemed like not a big deal, but clearly there was another thing happening.
Much like a vessel that holds things, our lives and bodies hold our spirit inside and around it. When someone is actually practicing loving kindness, gratitude and being the change they want to see in the world, they have likely tapped into their soul quite a bit. But we still have to occasionally clean up the residual gunk that accumulates in life in order to have a pure response to what occurs.
In other words, just doing a practice won’t offer a clean and clear response to life that completes your practice or makes certain that your life is a smooth, easy experience. Part of the practice is you to take the time, periodically, to SEE the garbage that you allow to collect in and around your being and sort it out.
You have to get the “spiritual” soap out and wash yourself down. Throw out what’s done, put away what isn’t needed in the moment and create a level playing field for your life.
It’s when we ignore the obvious negativity that can emerge through living life; that lack of gratitude for things, the need to be “right” rather than to simply “be’ or feel like we’ve done something wrong if we missed our fucking yoga class. These are just a few of the perceptions or beliefs that don’t serve us, but ones that will slink their way back into our consciousness, messing up our perspective.
It could be that some people in our lives are an issue. They may be mostly negative but related somehow, so we adjust and allow things that simply aren’t in our highest good to continue.
Maybe you have habits of thought and behavior that need to be addressed, which left to their own devices land you back into behaviors that are not true to your soul’s purpose. Or maybe it’s a lingering belief about life that you have already addressed, but it’s back again and you haven’t recognized that fact because you’re too busy.
No matter what it is the makes your life messy, it’s usually a quick clean up that can get you back on track. How that happens is simple and two fold. Do the actual clean up of your space; throw out anything that you aren’t benefiting from anymore. Organize the areas of your life with an eye for clutter that can be put away or released. And then take the time to practice true gratitude more. This is an act where you list out what you are grateful for that day.
If you focus on how your life is overall, instead of only what you are accomplishing or doing, you’ll have time and energy to keep the proverbial sink clean. All of it.
Sure, there will be times like I had the other day when a little extra effort has to be exerted, so don’t shy away from a day of being nothing but present for your soul. Listen carefully to it’s song because it’s pretty quiet, something like a whisper….
“Go right, pick that up, take a breath, pet that kitty, wash the dishes, call your friend, step to the left, turn around, take a nap, make a gift, sink into a bath, use your words, do nothing, cry a little, stop working, take a walk…” On and on… and for a single day, make that acute listening be your work.
The container of your life will shore up some. Being quiet enough to allow for the area in and around your soul to have no debris to contend with, offers a tremendous return on your investment.
Then dream a bit. What do you want to create this week, month, year? Who do you want to spend time with? Where would you like to visit and with whom? What would making a difference in the world look like, if you were doing it? Give yourself the time to imagine what you would most love to do with your time and energy and allow the dream to take you over. You may not be in a position to live your dream right this minute, but with time and focus, you will. Let yourself believe this truth through your dreams.
Celebrate right now, but with a determination to keep it clean and clear.
Given that a few days have passed, I may not have expressed the profound level of awareness I got from washing the sink the other day. I’ll keep listening carefully to my soul, and maybe the inspiration that comes through will be even clearer next time.