Mindfulness and Housework
As a guest on a local television show recently, I decided to bring along my vacuum cleaner.
No, it wasn’t for a segment on household hints. I wasn’t there to share secrets for deep-cleaning a carpet. Instead, I was using my vacuum cleaner as a memorable visual (aural?) aid to talk about mindfulness.
My host, Roland, gamely turned it on during my bit, and we attempted to shout over the roar of the machine. After a few seconds, we gave up, and as he turned it off, the ensuing silence was a welcome relief.
I used the vacuum cleaner to talk about how we have this noise in our heads all the time. Our thoughts are creating a swirl of sound, and it can be exhausting to try to concentrate, relax or get creative with all that racket going on.
This mental vacuum sucks our energy and makes it difficult to gain clarity, let alone peace of mind. We need to turn it off in order to have the quiet space we need to truly pay attention.
The surprising part of this is that turning on a REAL vacuum cleaner and running it across your floor provides an excellent opportunity to quiet the noise in your head. You can use your power switch to make an intentional shift toward mindfulness, and let this housecleaning task become your chance to watch your thoughts.
Any slow repetitive physical task lends itself beautifully to mindfulness practice, and the back-and-forth motion of your vacuuming can give a soothing rhythm to your thought-watching. Set your body on auto-pilot and focus on the thought parade in your head.
Or, you can choose to use your dust-sucking time to focus on the physical activity required. Feel the muscles as you move. Focus on your shoulders and arms as you stretch and retract, stretch and retract. Switch arms and watch how it feels to relax that one side while flexing the other.
The point here is to make use of the task as a trigger for mindfulness, but remember this: fun is a huge motivator in all things. So, if you can’t get too excited about vacuuming in general or thought/body-watching in particular, I heartily recommend Option #3–the “Mrs. Doubtfire” approach to mindfulness.
You remember the scene in the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, when Robin Williams, dressed as the matronly nanny, rocks out while vacuuming to Aerosmith’s “(Dude) Looks Like A Lady,” right? This must be the greatest housework scene ever. It makes me want to go to my cleaning closet and dance with the vacuum wand myself.
That’s what I’m talking about.
If you’ve ever been stressed about something and gone on a cleaning binge, you know how good it feels to scrub the floor and wipe away your frustration at the same time. You might as well get something done while you’ve got that adrenaline pumping, right?
So, if a meditative vacuuming session doesn’t inspire you, you can still use this time to be mindful by focusing on your air guitar moves. Pay attention to your sense of fun as well as your sense of perspective. Exercise your concentration. Focus on what it feels like to cut a rug while cleaning it.
Mindfulness doesn’t require stillness, and it certainly doesn’t have to be serious. Turn on your vacuum, and let the focusing begin.
Suck it up.