At the end of each session your Shifu/Teacher will ask you to, collectively as a group, clean your training environment. This will take a few minutes at the end of each session. You may be asked to sweep the floor or clean a shelf or maybe even to put back some equipment to its correct place.
You may be wondering to yourself why we have to do this and what is its significance. The answer is very simple. You are asked to clean, because this is a great way to cultivate your body and mind. Cleaning has always been a traditional practice in Zen/Chan temples. It is a part of regular morning practice not only for exercise but also because of its symbolic nature and the wisdom it can generate.
In Zen or Chan practice there is no separation from the self and your environment. It is one way you can express and practice respect for everything that surrounds you and gain a deeper insight into your true nature.
When you are at your next training session, see if you can apply some of the basic principles below of Chan or Zen practice as part of your next cleaning exercise.
1. Practicing cleaning with no mind,with no self.
Did you know that cleaning can be a type of meditation too? When you clean, try not to fix your mind on any emotion or judgement. Try not to think about what is right or wrong, grasping or rejecting instead maintain an ordinary mind. In Zen this is called Mushin – mind without mind.
2. As you clean try to be present in the moment.
Be aware of your surroundings. Try not to think of other tasks or objects; try to hold your awareness in the moment. When sweeping just sweep. Immerse yourself in the moment. Concentrate and take your time and do the task at hand with focused deliberate intention.
3. Do your work with gratitude and compassion.
As you clean you can remind yourself to be grateful for what you have, for the people in your life, and all the things we take for granted like good health, food, loving friends and family etc. Remind yourself that you and others have short precious lives. Understand that your actions affect others/ your cleaning not only helps you but also impacts everyone around you.
4. Practice sweeping away illusions and ignorance.
Every time you clean and sweep away the dirt from the floor you can imagine you are sweeping away the dirt or stress/worry/fear – negative emotions from your own mind. You are giving yourself a spring clean and are releasing, clearing out and letting go.
5. Remember everything has its proper place.
6. Do one thing at a time. Simply. Be natural.
I hope this is helpful. If you have further questions you can email us or text us your thoughts.
By Chen Miao Shan / Martine Niven