Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Meditations Upon Cleaning the Cat-Litter Box
There is much wisdom to be gained from the simple, mundane, and often forgotten tasks that life requires of us. Today, as I washed the dishes, cleaned out the cat litter box, and emptied the garbage, I rejoiced in the 'such-ness' of my work!!
As I washed the dishes, I relished the feel of the clean, hot water, the scent of the soap, and the squeaking sound of newly cleaned dishes. Rather than absent myself from my task, I remained silently mindful and appreciative of this moment as being as much a part of my life as any other moment... and this helped me to remain 'present' as I worked.
Washing dishes is a supremely optimistic activity, if one thinks about it at all; If we had no expectation of yet another meal to come, why wash the dishes at all? Truthfully, the act of washing dishes is cause for much appreciation - in order to have dishes at all, we must have had the means of acquiring them... in order to wash them and to have them, we must have some place in which to both store them and wash them.. a kitchen perhaps!! To have a kitchen is to have a place to prepare meals, maybe a place where one can live, and rest... or sleep. The fact that I could do dishes rather than remain wary and be constantly on guard is due, primarily, to my sense of security. I must feel safe from harm to be able to focus on dishes... rather than on my personal safety.
If I consider one dish, I have reason to be grateful to a vast number of people whose efforts were brought to bear in the design, manufacture, transport and sale of this single item. Someone had to conceive of its design, and sit down to draw the design out. That person needed a table, pens and pencils, rulers, and other tools, inks, erasers, a chair, clothing.. and an office.. in a building! Each of these items, in turn must also be designed and manufactured!
Once a dish is designed, it must be made. Clay must be obtained, and tools are needed to excavate the clay... perhaps an area must first be cleared of trees... a road constructed for access... vessels in which to store and move the clay... and machines or devices to process it. Molds are needed, as well as racks, a kiln, paints, glazes, packaging, vehicles, and all of these things in turn require the work of many... for each step of the way some item is required ... and each item is brought into being only as a collective process... the trees are felled with tools... someone must survey the area to be cleared... the direction that the road will take... and so on. Accountants, administrators and managers must ply their trade... drivers, receiving clerks, packagers, salespeople, cashiers.... all work so that a dish will come into being, and I will be able to use it! I must have some means by which I can earn money in order to purchase my dish... and clothing to wear in order to shop... and someplace to bring the dish once I have acquired it. This one small item involves the work and cooperation of literally thousands,... if not millions of people.
And it is only one dish.
How wonderful to realize how my life is intertwined so inextricably with the lives of so many others! Many of whom I shall never meet, or see!! And yet... I have a dish from which to eat food that nourishes my body, and the bodies of my loved ones... so that we may continue to live, love, be healthy, and stay happy!!
How grateful I am to be able to do the dishes!!
Cleaning the cat litter box seems very unpleasant... it smells foul, it is dirty, and I must be in an uncomfortable position as I work... and yet, in order to have a cat litter box to clean, I must first have at least one cat. In fact, I have two. Two beautiful, perfect, silken wonders... two generous non-judgmental spirits who love me unconditionally. It makes no difference to them that I be rich, famous, honorable, or truthful... only that I be kind. What matters to them is that I am me. And we are of the same tribe. They never speak.. but, when I move from one part of the house to another, they silently get up and follow, in order to be near me. They ask nothing of me. They give whatever is in their heart to give. Each and every day. In order for them to use the cat litter box, they must be fed.. and in order for me to feed them, I must be at least wealthy enough to be able to afford to purchase food for them. It occurs to me that I am very lucky indeed to be fortunate enough to clean the cat litter box. There are many people in this world who have not a single friend as loving or as loyal as my cats are to me.
Taking out the garbage seems to be a nuisance at first glance... however, when I realize that what I throw away... no matter how thrifty my habits may be, is often more than many people ever own in all of their lifetime. I take the garbage out to the trash can, and it is picked up by men who are paid to do this.... and carted to the landfill or dump... this process involves the work of many... and indicates to me that I am enfolded in the protective arms of a society that is wealthy and organized enough to have such luxuries as a garbage disposal system. The plastic garbage can that I line with plastic garbage bags... and the bags themselves are beyond the means of many, many people in the world. Some of whom would feast on the bits that I consider garbage.
Washing dishes, cleaning cat litter box, taking out garbage... these are as much a part of my life as my greatest triumph... and pray that I will always have the presence of mind and the wisdom to appreciate the many, many gifts that these seemingly unimportant tasks reveal to me.
These tasks which are mine to perform are a gift to me from the whole universe.
Each item that I own represents a sacrifice of time, effort, and perhaps a sacrifice of life by some being... may I be always worthy to receive that.
May the wisdom that I gain through the performance of my work give me, each day, the strength to transform my unwholesome qualities into wholesome ones...
May I be ever grateful of the marvelous blessings, however small, that are bestowed upon me each moment that I live...