This I Believe

Aliyah - Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa
Entered on July 28, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: work

Good Clean Fun

I believe cleanliness is next to godliness. Or, more precisely, cleanliness is a means to achieve godliness. Like any child, when forced to tidy up the colony of dolls inhabiting my bedroom floor, I stomped my feet and complained. But as a teenager at boarding school, I developed an obsession with cleaning when I discovered that the internal messiness of adolescence – the grimy self-esteem and splatters of confused identity – could be vacuumed, scrubbed, and sprayed with Windex to create a more presentable façade. My sparkling-clean, lavender-scented dorm room was the one thing in my life I could control and consequently, feel proud of.

My fanatical love of cleanliness prompted me to spend summers house-cleaning. I learned the right way to polish kitchen tiles and the wrong way to remove carpet stains, but more importantly, I learned the higher purpose of cleaning: cleaning doesn’t need to be a chore, nor does it have to be a way to hide flaws. With the proper attitude and application, the act of cleaning can elevate one’s life to a more divine level.

Think of a simple act of cleanliness – washing dishes. Take a dirty plate, run it under hot water, remove the initial layer of gunk with a brillo pad, then squirt some Palmolive on it and sponge it until it’s clean. Set the dish in the drying rack, dry it, and place it in the cupboard. Now, grab the next dish and simply rinse and repeat dish after dish, meal after meal, day after day. You get pulled into a rhythm where everything fades away, and all that remains is nothingness. In this state, you are the ruler of your domain of soapsuds, bravely conquering grease and residue. You become the master of dish washing, the King of the Sink, a god or goddess in your own right.

I clean not merely for sanitation, but for ultimate sanity – for the journey to that state of godliness. I see the practice of cleaning as similar to prayer in Catholicism or meditation in Eastern cultures. Both use the common element of repetition, such as Hail Marys or mantras, to reach a state of unity or nirvana. Cleanliness is the great unifying agent of spiritual seekers because regardless of religious beliefs, we can all scrub a dish.

Cleaning is an example of the Buddhist attitude of non-attachment. Buddhist monks will create elaborate sand mandalas only to destroy them. Similarly, cleaning is not a one-time deal. We are constantly battling entropy. It’s inevitable that our mopped floor will soon be covered in muddy footprints.

Cleaning tests our ability to let go of the results of our actions. I guarantee that if you clean because you feel burdened or overwhelmed or ugly, the bathtub you’re bleaching with Chlorox will never be white enough. But if instead you sing as you scour and dance with your vacuum, you’ll be free. In the end, an act of necessity becomes an act of divinity.