Sitting and Flossing

Two months ago I went to the dentist.

It was a self-revelatory experience, the beginning of a new phase of my life, and I'd very much like to share it with you.

When you go to the dentist and have your teeth cleaned it is a time of evaluation and introspection. The question is, the question we all must face, the unavoidable question is: How have I been doing with flossing my teeth?

My honest answer was: very very poorly. Hardly at all! Somehow I was born in a generation when flossing was not recommended to the general population and I never really acquired the habit.

I thought about myself and realized that the living habits I inherited from my childhood were rather minimal. My house is a cluttered mess, my garden is full of weeds, papers accumulate in the closet, dishes pile up, I hardly ever cook at home, gutters fill with leaves. I have no real exercise routine. My meditation practice is very irregular.

What a slob I am!! A creative slob; but a slob nonetheless.

I do acknowledge that I'm not a TOTAL slob. I mean I have a job, I support myself, I make the mortgage payments, I have no other debts, I don't drink or smoke, am a vegetarian. I am a bachelor and my habits somehow fit the mold of a typical bachelor. If one has a family or partner at home there is more motivation to keep one's life in order. I did not want to hire a house cleaner and a gardener to do these things for me for I believe in:

Picking up my own Garbage
Still, there was a feeling of dissatisfaction with how unregulated my life was. I decided to make some changes.

I took a 3x5 card, wrote "FLOSS SIT" on it, and pinned it up next to my bed as a reminder. And for one entire month I DID INDEED floss every night and sit in meditation every morning. The meditation practices I do, I have done for years, but not on a regular basis which is very important. The purpose is to calm and purify and focus the mind. They are very simple to describe and do but I have found them exceedingly difficult to do regularly what with the ups and downs of Life with its innumerable obligations and duties.

But for ONE MONTH I DID do it and I was beginning to sense that a new habit had been formed and was very glad of that. A few days I did the meditation in the evening and one day I found myself without floss and had to use a kind of thread but these minor deviations were quite acceptable.

My house was still a mess and the garden was still neglected and full of weeds.

I felt that the flossing and meditation were solidly in place and that I could add a few other things. What? I made a list of all the things (many many) I could do and pondered what I should add.

I made a good decision, I think. After sitting in the morning I would get out my trusty alarm clock and set it for a period of 15 minutes. And then I would spend 15 minutes inside the house doing whatever needed doing. And 15 minutes outside the house doing whatever needed doing. Rather than making an uncountable number of rules about keeping dishes clean or books tidy or clothes hung or watering schedules or ... 15 minutes of WHATEVER needs doing!!

I made another card to pin next to my bed: "FLOSS SIT 15-15".

And for one month I have kept to this routine. And what have I done in those 2 15 minute periods? ALL KINDS OF GOOD THINGS. My house is tidy and I am making progress on many longer term projects that have been waiting for years. The garden is coming to life and is greening up nicely.

It is truly amazing what a focussed mind can do in a mere 15 minutes. In those quarter hour intervals I have:

  • washed the car
  • swept and mopped the kitchen floor
  • cleaned the bathtub and toilet
  • clipped the rose bush
  • moved the compost pile
  • sewed buttons on shirts
  • washed a whole pile of plastic bags
  • vacuumed the carpets
  • organized the tools in the garage

One good example:

Two years ago my brother gifted me with a nice wind vane with propellers in the shape of a sea lion for the garden. Its installation was a little tricky. I had all kinds of doubts. What kind of wood support would I use, where was that special nail that I needed? Where in the garden would I put it? So, I kept putting it off. One morning I decided that I would spend my 15 minutes doing that. And so I began. In the space of 5 minutes (yes 5 minutes!) I found the nail in a box in the closet and located a piece of dowel in the garage that I didn't know was there that served the purpose perfectly. In the next 10 minutes I found a great place on the fence for the wind vane and had begun to cut away a place to mount it. Amazing!! The next day I had it up and it is lovely. I had put it off for 2 years!!

Beginnings. Starting. Perfection. Leaving things incomplete and being okay with it. Decision making. Looking around and quickly deciding what to do.

In conclusion:

An old dog CAN learn new tricks.
No, I am not available to clean your house.