Monday, April 25, 2011

Scrubbing the Floor

One of our spring projects at the Burning House has been turning a little Zen group that meets in the room over our garage into a little Zen Center with a non-profit corporation and a bank account of its own. Sounds so ambitious, doesn't it? There is some talk of us renting a commercial space that is easier to keep clean, warm, and cool. In the meantime, we continue to meet in the room over our garage.

My first attempts at washing this simple wooden floor were lazy. There are layers of engrained dust, quite possibly original dust from the house's construction in 1905. Even when I got down on hands and knees to scrub it with a cloth, most of the dirt just got pushed around until it dried in paisley swirls all over the floor.

During this long Easter weekend, the scrub brush came out. Light incense. Hands and knees, very hot water. Five to nine boards at a time, moving lengthwise across the dharma room. First the brush, dip into hot water, scrub in a circular motion until the dust comes up into the water, floating over the wood like a little poisonous cloud. Then the cloth, wrung out, picking up the dirt and carefully wringing out and rubbing together to knock the dirt off. The progress is very slow, but the difference is amazing. We now have a two-tone floor. There is no question where I left off. The clean side is clean enough that a regular mop could handle it.

Or we could start a daily ritual for the floor, similar to what monks do at work period in Japanese temples. Maybe you've seen pictures of the hallways of these ancient temples, wooden floors shining like polished mirrors. Every day at work period, monks take cloths dipped in plain water and push them across the entire floor. It is an exercise adopted by Yoshi Oida in some of his acting workshops, because cleaning a floor this way makes good physical training. When a floor is cleaned this way every day for a thousand years, of course it will shine.

Similar advice for Zen meditation: ordinary as plain water, but try it every day for a thousand years.

1 comment:

Mandy_Fish said...

Lovely in every way.