Sunday, December 25, 2005

So this is Christmas ...

It's Christmas Day but it doesn't feel much like it here in New Jersey USA. The temperature is in the upper 40s, there is a steady rain falling and this morning a blanket of fog wrapped the area in wisps of cotton. Very atmospheric. But not very Christmas-like.
I enjoy days like this -- they provide the perfect excuse for relaxation -- but something more seasonal would have been nice.

I spent Christmas Eve and part of today indulging a habit I picked up while living in Japan: end-of-year cleaning.
In Japan, there are essentially two kinds of cleaning. There's soji, which is garden variety housework (and schoolwork, too; schools in Japan don't have janitorial staffs. The cleaning is done at a set time every day by the kids and teachers).
And then there's o-soji, the "o" prefix meaning "big." O-soji is what you do at the end of the year in preparation for New Year's Day, and also when the seasons change.
I wasn't always conscientious about this year-end housecleaning in my small apartment in rural Japan. I was an o-soji slacker some of the time (and my batting average in plain old soji was none too high, either).
But at the karate dojo where I trained, I have fond memories of year-end cleaning, which was a communal event full of symbolism: Out with the old, in with the new. I remember helping to scrub the wooden floor till it gleamed, and cleaning dust and dirt from places I never knew it could gather.

And so, this habit has carried over, and with greater consistency, in my post-Japan life. I want everything to be spic and span for the new year, everything in its place -- even if this dedication to neatness and efficiency may last only a week or two. Hopefully, regular soji will kick in at intervals more frequent than in 2005.

I also want to do spiritual o-soji, going through the heap of ideas and notions I accumulated this year and neatly filing those that worked in the proper mental cupboards and consigning the rest to the dust heap.
It seems like just yesterday when I was making such preparations for 2005.
Time moves too quickly these days.
I once heard a very clever saying that sums things up: Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.


anu said...

I spent one hour of my christmas day washing vessels :)

Hopefully i have washed all my hurts, aches, illnesses, pains, misgivings, misunderstandings and pettiness along with the vessels.

Michael :)

Michael said...

Hi Anu,

I think there's a very good reason why Zen training temples have samu (work practice, usually involving sweeping, cleaning, etc.) as an integral part of the training.
Perhaps you and I can vouch for its importance.

Beth said...

michael: yes. this is a good practice. i spent several weeks doing this and it was amazing. it is interesting to hear about the customs in japan and at the dojo.

That Was Zen This Is Tao said...

O-Soji sounds like a lovely practice. I think I'll take part when I return to my house.

Michael said...

Hi An,

Yes, I enjoy this practice for its spiritual component. On a more mundane level, my apartment was becoming a pigsty. (I have three cats. Enough said.)

Best to you in 2006!!