Lent, Zen, Decluttering

For the first month and a half of 2013, I was doing pretty well getting up a blog post every day. Then, last Friday I hit the wall, and have let a few days slip without writing any blog posts.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. There is a lot happening at work to deal with. In my personal life, I'm dealing with settling my mother's estate, including the giant task of getting the childhood home ready for the market. The wintertime colds continue to ravish the family. There are Health Leadership Fellows Program tasks to complete. Politics is heating up again as the General Assembly meets in Hartford and we enter the local electoral season. I'm becoming more active in my church and attended my first vestry meeting at Grace and St. Peter's last week. Then, there are all those online courses I've been so interested in.

My mother lived in my childhood home for fifty years. She was a daughter of the depression and she saved many things. There are old tins that typewriter ribbon once came in that have been storing rubber bands or twist ties for decades. Our home was on a small farm and we have a root cellar with canning jars of food my mother put away in my childhood. The dust, combined with cat hair has encrusted everything that hasn't recently been used.

One of my brothers joined my sister and I as we started the task of cleaning. One morning, I was up early before my siblings and I tackled the dishes in the sink. I remembered the story from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:

A monk told Joshu: "I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me."
Joshu asked: "Have you eaten your rice porridge?"
The monk replied: "I have eaten."
Joshu said: "Then you had better wash your bowl."
At that moment the monk was enlightened.

The kitchen looked much nicer after the dishes had been washed and put away. I felt a little guilty having taken this opportunity to gain enlightenment from my siblings, but I looked around the house and realized there would be many more such opportunities

What really does matter? What do we hold onto as important memories? What is the clutter that blocks us from seeing them? What do we throw away?

Sunday morning, I rose early and went to St. John's Church in Williamstown. During communion, the congregation sang, "On Eagle's Wings". It is a song that I have sang at too many funerals. This evening, I will head off to yet another funeral.

It now Tuesday morning, a week after my most recent trip to Williamstown. I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Middletown attending a meeting that didn't materialize. It has given me a chance to sit, and think, and write.

Various songs play over the loudspeaker, but my mind drifts to Elton John, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and Paul Simon, "Kodachrome".

What do we hold onto as important memories? What fades away?

It is Lent, and the church newsletter spoke about Lenten detoxification. How is the clutter in our lives getting in the way of us seeing what really matters? Perhaps it relates back to washing our bowls.

So, I take a few moments to reflect before throwing myself back into the fray.

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