I learned a lot while cleaning. I was only working with Zenith for a couple of months but I had ample opportunity to explore the practice of revealing beauty. I sense that every space has an inherent beauty of some kind. But without our care and attention these spaces so easily become dusty and cluttered, often falling into decline. Of course, if left to nature, a beauty of its own would take over, but for as long as we build self-contained spaces we are also left with the responsibility to maintain them. This can be taken on as an honour. We can become stewards of our spaces, a job so widely neglected, cleaning not only tangible dirt but generally preparing spaces for purposeful and productive use.
As I touched upon in my first article about cleaning, the title of custodian is actually one of great dignity, despite what our society may have come to think about it. A custodian is not merely someone to pick up trash. They are guardians of spaces. A true custodian cares. This makes more difference than we could ever know. An appreciative presence goes a long way.
In whatever work we may be doing, we need not act as if we are robots, locked in a strict task-oriented mode of operation. We can be carried by a spirit of wonder and love. This gives life to our activities, subtly perfuming the spaces we perform them in with love. Living like this can become an act of service. When we move through spaces with the wisdom and will to serve, working with patience and persistence, our entire landscape changes from the inside out. We become calmer and more present. A natural extension of this attitude expresses itself in the form of more caring behaviour, benefiting the very spaces themselves.
See for yourself. Take time to appreciate the spaces you move through in your day to day life. Your attention will create a stronger connection with the spaces and thus a greater care for them. After some time you may find yourself seeing through new eyes in every space you inhabit. You may also begin to notice things you once overlooked, gaining valuable insights into your own life.
I found that as I cleaned – occasionally catching myself preoccupied with speed, working in a mechanistic frame of mind – simply stopping to appreciate the space again found me working more smoothly and efficiently. Since coming home to my parents’ condo in Toronto, my sharper eye for detail has spotted little bits of dirt in various places I had never before noticed. And my care for this home space has found me moving from awareness to action, if only simply and briefly, gently tending the vessel holding the life of my family.
The act of cleaning can change the lens through which we see life. I encourage you to clean something and see for yourself. Make a new habit for a few weeks to clean spaces you usually don’t. Experiment with this and see what you reveal in your home and your life. I’d love to hear what happens!
I am riding a train at the moment, traveling from Toronto to Montreal. It was a quick turn-around trip. But it was packed with activity. I arrived around noon on Saturday and had a brief meeting regarding my summer job as a pilgrim coordinator for the GO Project, then enjoyed a couple hours of basketball before heading home for a shower and some family time. I met up that evening with a handful of good friends for a game of cards and a lot of laughs. I attended a stirring worship at Islington United Church on Sunday morning, enjoying various visits during the following coffee hour, and got downtown for a longer meeting about our cross-country pilgrimage this summer. Twelve of us from across Canada met online and chatted with the aid of a conference call and various little video windows on our computer screens. It was pretty cool – a bit overwhelming at first, but eventually just great that we were able to connect in such a way.
It amazes me how connected we are today. And yet the balance remains. The more absorbed we are by our devices, the less available we become for those around us. The gifts always seem to come with challenges. Not to say any of our technological capacities are not worthwhile. It obviously boils down to how we employ them, ever-mindful of the need for balance. Here I sit on a moving train – passing through small towns, crossing softly rolling rivers, sliding beside golf courses – and I am able to be typing a blog post which will instantly reach anyone who wants to see it. That is pretty incredible. And yet the reflection of the setting sun on my screen reminds me to be mindful of the really important things in life – the light, namely. We wouldn’t have much without the power of the sun pouring upon us. I am grateful to keep perspective as I engage with technology, remembering the real foundation of life. The more immersed we become in technology the greater the risk of slipping into a strictly mechanistic view of life, wherein we more easily lose touch with the reality of nature (and the nature of reality?), in some ways so delicate, in other ways capable of teaching us harsh lessons for our ignorance.
So I suppose this is a call for awareness. If we were all more aware of our natural foundations, I feel we would be living in a more harmonious way with our environment and our neighbours. If we truly understood how connected everything is we couldn’t help but respect our surroundings, honouring the delicate and dynamic balance of nature, upon which all else rests. But life teaches us when we find ourselves wandering ‘off course’ – are we listening?
I think I will wrap it up there for today, keeping it short and sweet. I want to watch out the window as the countryside slides by. I wish everyone a wonderful week. For those celebrating Easter, may you have a blessed Holy Week! I fondly recall Semana Santa both in Spain and South America. Enjoy the revitalization of the spring season! I am relieved to see most of the snow melting, certainly feeling ready for the renewal of green over grey.