Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Domestic Mysticism

I must give credit to Grace for the title of this posting. Grace and her sister came to our church once recently and stayed for lunch and the inquirer's class afterward. We were talking about calling, and Grace said that she is called to domestic mysticism, among other things, you know: where you meditate as you sweep. Someone else that day was a proponent of mindfulness while doing dishes.

Poet Ann Weems poses the question of how we might do this in her poem, The Holy in the Ordinary, from her book, Kneeling in Jerusalem, a recommended resource for Lent and Easter. The last part captures the question:
Spiritual contemplation is all right
for those who have the time,
but most of us have to make a living.

Most of us have to live in the real world
where profanity splashes and blots out
anything holy.

Where, O Holy One, can we find You in this unholy mess?

How, O God, can we find the holy in the ordinary?

The Buddhist version of domestic mysticism is found in the saying, "chop wood, carry water." How do we practice mindfulness in everyday life? How do we gain the understanding that our everyday tasks are worthy and holy?

Molly Wolf has a book worth reading, or skimming and re-reading, if you've already read it, about this: White China: Finding the Divine in the Everyday. Mostly, I think this is about paying attention, about knowing that God really is present everywhere, and about understanding that being made in the image of God allows the possibility that we are and can be whole and holy, and Wolf emphasizes, while not letting our language about "God-stuff" get in our way.

Personally, cleaning is something I prefer in small doses. Unfortunately, like much of the rest of New England, I spent a lot of time the past two weekends cleaning out my waterlogged basement. After bailing out buckets and buckets of water to keep my basement from overflowing while it rained, mopping up, and picking up and taking out sixteen bags of soggy tiles and trash, I think that I may not want more opportunities to be a domestic mystic for a while.

As Passover coincides with Easter this year, though, I am reminded that a critical part of the ritual preparation for Passover is the attention paid to cleaning the house—mindfully and thoroughly. As we are planning to have both a Passover Seder and an Easter dinner, I just realized that I'm going to need to find the time to give the house a good cleaning. I think I may need to ask for help.

But you know, I don't find the phrase "clean house" in the Bible. So perhaps I will turn to this song that is often used during Lent instead:
Give me a clean heart, so I may serve you, a paraphrase of Psalm 51: 10:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
May our hearts be swept by and with the Spirit, and perhaps then cleaning our houses can be an ordinary, yet mindful and holy practice of our spirit filled hearts.

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