Cleaning Up Our World Begins with Cleaning Up Our Homes.

Via elephant journal
on Feb 7, 2011
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“Being Tidy and Meticulous is the Buddhist Message.”

~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

I often argue with elephant journal’s editor Waylon Lewis about environmentalism.  He believes that the ground of being eco is keeping the heat down, using water sparingly, and never purchasing plastic.  While I agree that all of those things are wonderfully mindful, I also believe that environmentalism must begin with respecting our personal spaces.

If we keep the thermostat on 55 degrees and never use plastic, but our house is messy–the sink is filled with dirty dishes, the drawers are filled with clutter, dirty laundry piles high in the closet or basement–then it seems to me that we are missing some fundamental point.

I found the following quote from Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in which he addresses the matter:

Being tidy and meticulous is the Buddhist message—meticulous in cleaning your oryoki bowls, meticulous in how you walk, meticulous in how you treat your clothing and your household articles. We can’t get away with being sloppy; we have to introduce the principle of tidiness more and more into our lives. When economic chaos or family chaos takes place, apart from obvious issues of economic mismanagement, marital problems, or emotional problems, we find that domestic details have not been taken care of. There are cockroaches running all over; there is never enough toilet tissue; the toilet bowls are overflowing; and the dishes are not washed. All those problems come from a careless attitude. It is predictable. But when we clean up after ourselves, according to exactly the same principles we follow in oryoki, we have nothing to blame. When we begin to live our lives in that way, cleaning up after ourselves, what is left is further vision and further openness, which leads to cleaning up the rest of the world.

I love the last line in particular:

When we begin to live our lives in that way, cleaning up after ourselves, what is left is further vision and further openness, which leads to cleaning up the rest of the world.

Any thoughts?  How do you think taking care of our homes and belongings fits into environmentalism?



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16 Responses to “Cleaning Up Our World Begins with Cleaning Up Our Homes.”

  1. BenRiggs says:

    Well, Julianna… I have not had the privilege/ burden of sharing personal space with Elephant Journal's editor, Waylon Lewis, but I do agree with you… To a certain degree.

    I think tidiness and meticulousness is the general message, but I think that tidiness and meticulousness has internal origins. When I allow my mind to be in order by recognizing and revering space— that is allowing space to establish order in my mind— my personal space will be an expression of that order. If environmentalism means anything to me, it means that!

    I have recently wondered down a similar road (moving in with the misses, new job, busy-ness!) and wrote an article about it on my personal blog, The Web Of Enlightenment, that further illustrates the point made above. Here is the link:

  2. anniegirl1138 says:

    I think too that untidiness stems from having too much to keep track of.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Juliana…you make me chuckle. Good article. Rather than environmentalism I think your Buddhist slant has more standing. If you are a Buddhist then your environmentalism has been consumed by your Buddhism and you act towards the environment as a Buddhist…hopefully your Buddhism treats the environment with respect and with attention to detail as dictated by your samaya and Bodhisttava vows. Having said all of that, both of you, for all of the obvious "mind training" opportunities that are happening for the both of you, both of you are correct in your thinking. The more retreat we do the less we need. The more our mind becomes spacious the less space we need. Clutter is produced by laziness of our actions dictated by our minds. On the otherhand Waylon's clutter is pressing you to work on your mind trainng. Thats good. Maybe do with less. Eat meals at prescribd times together and commit to having the dishes done immediately after.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Lindsey Lewis. Lindsey Lewis said: RT @elephantjournal: “Being Tidy and Meticulous is the Buddhist Message.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche #buddhism […]

  5. elephantjournal says:

    I do think those things you listed at the outset are great ways to be "eco-responsible." That said, and as I've said for years, the "ground" of being eco-responsible is inspiration to be mindful—which, for me, is meditation and the bodhisattva vow to be of benefit. That's why I enjoy bicycling or turning off a light or tossing water out of a bathtub onto my xeriscaped former lawn. Not because I want to be an extra in Portlandia!

    And that's why I chose the subtitle "It's about the mindful life" for elephant, back when we were a magazine. Not the "green" life.

    So amen. Another great article, question, issue from you. We all have our challenges and love to gloss over our own blind spots while putting others' under a microscope—I know I do. ~ Waylon

  6. Juliana says:

    Waylon, I am sorry if I am indeed "[glossing] over my own blind spots while putting others' under a microscope" with this article. I found that particular Trungpa Rinpoche quote today and it inspired me to write–we have been discussing this topic as potential blog for a while now.

    Confession: I do like the occasional long shower (especially with my recent back injuries) and sometimes I cave and buy products presented in plastic packaging when there are no alternatives (I do, however, forgo many products I love when they are sold in plastic packaging.) And I admire you, Waylon, for your fastidiousness surrounding such eco issues. That said, I want to shed light on something that doesn't seem to be a priority for many with regard to the mindful life, and is a huge one for me: cleaning our homes. Also, I am interested in how the topics of cleanliness and tidiness fit into the scheme of environmentalism.

    Thanks for responding. Again, I apologize if this article came across as criticism. I really just wanted to start a dialogue. And I certainly don't have the answer–the very reason I am posing the question.

    With Love and Curiosity,


  7. Juliana says:

    Love, love, love this response. Thank you.

  8. Katherine says:

    I can only speak from my heart, personally I think what was said here is a bit obsessive compulsive. I do believe that there are many different personality types, some are better at certain things than others. Some are more prone, given, to behave in certain ways than others. It is not possible to be brilliant at everything.

    While I agree that our homes are often a reflection of our inner lives, I don't necessarily think that meticulousness is required of everything we do. We should certainly focus well, and do the best we can with our own personal strengths, but this word "meticulous" opens the doorway for judgment of others which I am completely against. "Your meticulous isn't good enough", then becomes the order of the day. :o)

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Via FB, I posted: A friend questions my true eco-responsibility. And I have to agree: "there's some hypocrisy at play…" ~ Waylon Lewis

    Kelley: it would be good if all meditation instructors came with degrees in house-cleaning. if i had money, i'd hire them on the spot!

    D.j.: clutter stems from laziness of actions, and at the same time business is a sign of laziness.

    # Love that you said that! Check this:… ~ Waylon

  10. elephantjournal says:

    I think there's two brilliant questions in this article: one, how can we claim to be eco-responsible or help others if we can't keep our own room clean, do our dishes, do laundry, pick clothes up off floor. That said, while I am admittedly messy, esp. in the sink area since my dishwasher went kaput, most folks do love my home, it's not a pigsty!

    Secondly, how can you or I or anyone help another to see their blind spots without insight becoming righteousness? When all we all want is to help one another wake up and uplift, not harden and feel guilty.



  11. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, lovely, thoughtful, helpful. ~ Waylon

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Guilty. And will be guilty of said charge for at least a year or two more..! ~ Waylon

  13. Juliana says:

    I wasn't pointing fingers at you, Waylon. I was speaking hypothetically. Your house is lovely, even if you don't do dishes.

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