The other day I was on my haunches sweeping my sparsely furnished bedroom. Since I sleep on a futon, the dust on the wooden floor irritates me. The idea for this short write up came up as I was gathering dust and fluff still squatting with my short broom and a damp rag cloth- that was once my bed sheet. The whole thing was so funny, I did laugh aloud. I do believe daily chores are the best movement meditations. But I had never thought about writing a piece on it. My Tai chi master used to say, the flexibility of the hip is an indicator of the flexibility of the mind.
As someone well into my mid-sixties, the choices I have made in my life have helped me stay lucid and flexible. Austere living has been an influence from my childhood upbringing, always a blessing being brought up with meagre resources, but rich in all other aspects of life. Simple, self-reliant living has thus become a part of my being.
The paradox of modern living is deeply embedded in the extractivist paradigm, exploitative of life on the planet. Very little of it is sustainable despite all the green washing mumbo-jumbo. But I do believe, if we keep a sense of connection with the inner self, learn to listen to the incessant little voices inside us, we sure can survive this paradox with a greater sense of balance.
Simple acts of everyday living have been given a bad rap. They are deemed chores, drudgery that needs alleviation. People think they need to be freed up of these daily chores, so they can use their time for bettering their lives. This is the sales pitch given by the same fossil fuel guzzling extractivist industries killing our planet. We, the ordinary folks forget to ask the right questions - is the machine-assisted alleviation truly rescuing us from drudgery of daily chores? Or is it yet another market pitch to seducing us to spend our hard earned monies on yet another gadget, another app?
Little does one think that the catch-up-to-a-life-of amenity in pursuit of ever-eluding quality life is making millions of people around the world to perpetual indebtedness. Longer hours on a chair, earning more, simply to pay back in loans This repetetive vicious cycle has been meddling with our postural integrity, loss of
flexibility and early onset of dis-ease patterns and end of life not so well-lived..
The self reliant repetitive ‘chores’ on the other hand, leads to a virtuous cycle. These chores in itself becomes a mindful meditation, quieting the mind. As one gets older, these chores, at no-costs keep us stay flexible, strong, focused and enthusiastic about life, always curious to learn, keeping the mind and intellect sharp.
Many years ago I was walking up the Takshang monastery, in Paro Bhutan. I was on an assignment there. But the education minister who had invited me decided I cannot return to Cape Town without walking up the Takshang. It is a pilgrimage for the Bhutanese, a sacred place of Padmasambhava. So there I was, no hiking shoes, in my sandals struggling to walk the steep terrain towards the majestic mythical Takshang. The Bhutanese say, “when Takshang calls you go”. As I was struggling my way up, there was a family trekking up. The grandfather was carrying a child on his shoulders, 2 hefty bags of food in his hands. I noticed he was walking in his flip-flops. The young family with him had even more bundles strapped to their backs. They were walking up for a Sunday family picnic… it took me five hours while they scrambled up for lunch and probably down with the same ease before the sun set.
A famous Zen saying comes to mind, chop wood carry water… meditative movement however repetitive, does something to one’s soul.