Greenwood learned that meditation and routine chores are seamless. Here are some of her insights:
1. In the monastery cleaning is an act of meditation and a religious art. " In the convent where I trained there were at least five different cleaning rags, each with its own unique function. The zokin was only to be used on the floor, whereas the jokin, combining the character for “pure” and “cloth” was reserved for cleaning sacred spaces such as the alter. A fukin (pronounced FOO-kin) was used for drying hands. Mixing up any of these cloths at any time was blasphemy."
2. Neatness and mindfulness belong together. " I remember one day hanging some tea towels (chakin, another kind of towel) in a haphazard, crooked way and having a senior nun yell at me. “This is zazen!” she screamed, pointing at the crooked towels (zazen, of course refers to Zen meditation). “You came to Japan to study zazen but you don’t realize that these towels are zazen!”
3. Inanimate objects have Buddha nature because they are teachers. "For millenia, Zen practitioners have debated whether objects have buddha nature, the ability to attain enlightenment. As the scholar Fabio Rambelli points out, the Tendai and Shingon schools of Japanese Buddhism argued that non-sentient objects such as nature, the environment, and inanimate objects 'exert a salvic influence over sentient beings.' This understanding that inanimate objects hold salvic power spread to Zen and other forms of Japanese Buddhism."
4. Objects are not mere objects. The Zen Buddhist approach is to treat all "things" with respect. Greenwood cites an example from Marie Kondo, a Japanese minimalist expert who is featured on a Netflix documentary (Tidying Up With Marie Kondo) " She approaches cleaning with the basic understanding that “objects” are more than objects. In the Netflix show, she often has families kneel on the floor and “ask” the house for “permission” or “cooperation” before they clean. She encourages people to say “thank you” to clothes as they fold. Over and over, she treats inanimate objects as living things, speaking to them and communicating with them, and encouraging us all to do the same.