This is not a history review of “spring cleaning”. This is a call for clean living year-round

By April 19, 2018 4 Comments

It is spring —and according to popular tradition and more importantly social media, time for a thorough clean. Although “spring cleaning” has come to refer to any act of putting one’s house in order, both literally and figuratively, my trusted guru Google has highlighted some historical perspective to “cleaning” and “spring.” What follows is not a history lesson, despite some interesting information. It is also not an endorsement of cleaning as it relates to a specific time. This is really a call for clean living year-round: spring, summer, fall, and winter.

There is logic in attributing spring cleaning to the Iranian Nowruz, which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians “shake the house” just before the Persian new year. (I remember celebrating with Iranian friends who lay out glorious tables/altars celebrating prosperity, health, new beginnings, and self-reflection, in the form of such plates as lentil sprouts and apples.) In Jewish tradition, thoroughly cleansing the home happens prior to the springtime festival of Passover. Traditionally, the Catholic church cleans the church altar the day before Good Friday in the spring. In Greek and Orthodox traditions, spring cleaning takes place right before or during the first week of Lent. Most interesting to me according to Wikipedia was that during 19th century America, prior to the advent of the vacuum cleaner, March was often the best time for dusting because it was warm enough to open windows and doors (but not warm enough for insects to be a problem. Incidentally, this is part of the reason why this is my favourite time of the year. I can still enjoy my mosquitoe-free house). And when coal furnaces were not running,  it made sense to use this time to wash all the soot from the walls and furniture left by the furnace.

Thanks to global warming, this is no longer applicable. As I write, there is an ice storm sweeping the East coast of Canada, while I enjoy the dust-free air blowing through my newly-cleaned window screens at home. (Allow me to throw in a silent prayer of gratitude for the glorious weather we have in the Middle East. Spring and snow do not mix in my head. At all.)

I am a fervent supporter of drastic measures. I believe it is human nature to crave radical acts sometimes in order to be effective. It is also human nature to get stuck in delusional comfort. Often times, we know there is much we need to address from habits to relationships. Yet, the numbness resulting from a crippling sense of fear —of the unknown— stops us from action. Until spring arrives.

There is something healing about cleaning house. Cleaning is clearing, making space for the expansion we are all on this earth to work on. The physical environment around us and the many layers of our own existence down to its cellular make-up are interconnected. Energy moves through it all.

There are plenty of resources on physical decluttering. My favourite is the KonMari method in the 2015 publication “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. I have recently been blown-away by The Minimalists. Today, I am the happy owner of a few empty shelves in my cupboard —and a lot of lightness in my heart. This remains an on-going project for me.

Blog delivery room. Urgently in need of intervention. Work in progress.

The bottom line is that we need very little to thrive. In fact, we SHOULD have very little IN ORDER to thrive. (Forgive me, I don’t mean to yell.) The less we have, the less we need to clean.

Cleansing the body, mind, and soul is no different from cleaning the physical environment. Just as I find it impossible to rationalize snow and spring, I find it difficult to accept that rubbish-strewn streets are compatible with a clean nation. I cannot associate an honest, respectful human being who claims to have integrity with the owner of the arm that unabashedly tosses a cigarette butt outside the car window.

There are countless programs, teachers, and guides offering incredible opportunities for detoxing and cleansing this spring time. The beauty of technology is that one can do all this from the comfort of home. For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is around the corner. (Ramadan will fall in spring for the coming few years.) I cannot think of clearer messages from the universe that this is the time for some brave introspection: to reconsider tired patterns that have not served our wellness, and more importantly figure out the way to move forward.

I have a friend who takes a month off from drinking alcohol every year. On the eve of the cleanse, my friend binges in a late night of alcohol farewell. I imagine it takes the liver an entire month to process the alcohol intake of that farewell evening alone. This is followed by an equally indulgent evening of alcohol welcoming at the conclusion of the month of “detox.” Similarly, on the eve of the fast of Ramadan —and every evening thereon for the month— most Muslims indulge in copious amounts of food and drink to fuel for the sunrise to sunset fast the next day, putting their bodies in a state of shock and I imagine serious blockages of the digestive tract. I remember going to bed late at night with food taking up residence in my throat due to overbooking of my poor stomach. In my delusional state of “comfort”, I would convince myself this was the only way I would not die of famine the next day. By the end of the month, I am a few kilograms heavier, and not dead.

My point is simple. There is no better time than this moment for turning inwards. Look at what is working —and what is not. Sign up for a program, read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a documentary. Use any resource you have available to support you to expand. Once you have this intention, the universe will show up for you in more ways than you can imagine.

And it often shows up in unexpected ways: you drag yourself to a social function you would have preferred to skip but somehow attended anyway for reasons you cannot explain. You end up next to someone you meet for the first time. You have a conversation that changes your life —or the next week or so. As you lay your head on your pillow at night, it all makes sense. You wake up the next morning inspired. And you make some decisions that support you in your efforts to grow. Some time into your new “commitment,” you hit a wall. You lose steam. You start making excuses for yourself. Before you know it, you have jumped off the wagon. You have jumped off so far you have lost sight of the wagon. So you convince yourself you will have to wait till the following year —spring— when the wagon comes your way again. In the meantime, to celebrate the wait, you drink, eat, shop, and numb yourself to oblivion.

This is really a call for clean living year-round: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The key to success is sustainability, patience, and small changes. Every day.



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