I have enjoyed steam cleaning the floors at Ojas Yoga Center for over a year. It is a quiet time when I have the studio to myself. On reflection, I realized my attitude toward cleaning floors was probably different than others at Ojas.
I learned the traditional Japanese style of floor cleaning through my Shintaido practice. I describe this to yoga practitioners as pushing a wet towel across the floor while running in Downward Dog — often in full-sized basketball gymnasiums with dirty floors. I put in about 15 years’ worth of pushing wet towels!
Americans generally think of cleaning as menial labor, but I always remember Ito telling me that floor cleaning was an act of spreading good Ki (Chi) energy as a base for our practice. So exhausting though it was, I tried to keep in mind the benefit to those practicing with me.
I remember that when our bodies couldn’t do the traditional floor cleaning any more, we switched to a wide floor mop but kept the same intention.
So when my yoga teacher showed me how she cleaned the floors at Ojas I knew exactly what to do: start at one end and clean board-by-board until the whole space was done. Using a Swifter mop is even easier than a floor mop so it felt almost luxurious. I’ve tried to remember to spread good energy when I walk back and forth across the yoga studio, though of course my mind eventually wanders.
I really feel that intention is important in life. One of the things I do outside of yoga is teaching visual meeting facilitation. When we talk about group dynamics I always say that a facilitator’s intention creates the space for great conversation. And I always remember Ito telling me that I should hold an image in my mind of what I want my students to experience, without revealing what that image is. People feel and respond to a strong intention in subtle and powerful ways.
Care and intention, practiced over tens or hundreds of years, create rich layers of awareness. I am reminded of the feeling in Kyoto, Japan where people have been meditating for over a thousand years.
There is an amazing and indescribable feeling that hangs in the air which I can only ascribe to 1,500 years of Buddhist and Shinto practices. Cleaning the floor is a small thing, but something important in the long term.