Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
It might be surprising, but scrubbing your house can be a soul scrubbing experience. When done with intention, cleaning can be a meditative and ritualistic act that fills us with awareness, meaning, and connection and deepens our spirituality.
Cleaning something means we are caring for it, and caring for something expresses gratitude for it. As Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat state in Spiritual Literacy, “Our usual attitude toward things, especially seemingly inconsequential ones, is to ignore or causally discard them. A more spiritual approach is to practice gratitude and love toward them.”
Cleaning something expresses gratitude for it, and gratitude is the quickest way to not only deepen our spirituality, but to also improve our mood. We also take better care of possessions that we are grateful for, so expressing thanks for your possessions by cleaning them will help you to take better care of them.
When you clean, it doesn’t matter what you do so much as how you do it, which is true for most things in life. It doesn’t matter if you wash dishes, vacuum the floor, dust the shelves, or clean out the garage. What does matter, though, is the way in which you approach the task. Approaching your cleaning in a focused, meditative way with gratitude and awareness will turn your house cleaning into a soul cleaning.
If you approach the task with boredom, frustration, or fatigue, that’s what you’ll get back from it. You get out of things what you put into them, so if you approach cleaning in these ways, this is what you’ll get. However, if you approach it with a sense of awareness, meaning, gratitude, praise, and even reverence for the object being cleaned, then this is what you’ll likewise experience.
One of my favorite cleaning tasks is washing dishes. I find something very meditative in the warm water, the foam and smell of the soap, and the motion of scrubbing. I even treat myself to special dish soap that enhances my experience. I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction seeing the flecks of food removed from the plate and rinsing off the suds. I sometimes use dish washing as an opportunity to give thanks for water and my dishes, and I am certainly more grateful for my dishes and cooking implements when I mindfully care for them. I am also, by extension, showing gratitude for the food that my dishes held.
As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “while washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes,” and so approaching cleaning as a spiritual experience is meant to be an absorbing experience. Like my dish washing experience, a spiritual cleaning task is best performed as a sensory, meditative task that you allow yourself to focus on and be present with. You want to approach the experience with awareness of the moment, the task, and the object, create a connection to the object, and find meaning in caring for and appreciating the object.
The best way to turn cleaning into a spiritual ritual is to start small: choose just one thing and clean it thoroughly. You can polish a pair of shoes, scrub your toilet, or clean out a drawer. Starting small with any task, life change, or new habit is always best to accomplish early successes that you can build upon, but cleaning has big spiritual implications. It can help you to deepen gratitude, show care for our possessions, get us into a focused and meditative state, and calm our minds. So what needs cleaning in your life?