the Zen of cleaning blinds

I don’t live in Japan.

I have Venetian blinds on a few windows.
They are large windows.
I have shown disdain at my blinds’ deteriorating looks and I let them deteriorate further.
My resistance to cleaning Venetian blinds has been solid throughout history.

But I like their look. There is something about the scattered picture through a white blind that I find comfortable and appeasing. In a Zen way. Whatever that is.

The blinds are complex in that there are twenty-five horizontal slats to cover one window. Each horizontal slat is divided into seven portions, but it’s not literally cut up into individual hanging portions, just logically divided, to make it more manageable and balanced and to make the tilt and rollup function possible.

Cleaning Venetian blinds should become the standard dissertation for any aspiring master.

Threads running through each slat make the functionality possible.
They are white threads. They demand extra caution increasing the intensity of the cleaning task.

Each window thus has 200 white slats. My field of vision was filled with slats.

The message this morning was unambiguous.

An attitude was required. The right one for the task.
I pulled my stomach in and tensed up the abdominal muscles to center myself. Then I tensed every other muscle in my body in a call to mobilize. I slightly bowed my head and like a body-builder flexed those butterflies, pecs and biceps in a ‘bring it on I can handle it’ grimace.
A statue of chiseled determination and resolve emerged in front of its nemesis.

A Venetian blind had hijacked my morning. I was urged to practice focus and patience and to stop questioning. The cleaning had to be done today, now, after years of disregard.

Once I had sunk into the ‘Aum’ moment, purging all thoughts of frustration toward this exercise, it gave way to an acceptance of the reality. I allowed the notion that the activity of blind-cleaning might harbor a pertinent message and reveal itself in the meditative-mechanical motion I was performing.
I wipe the first layer of the dust-crust careful not to exert undue forces on the Venetian blinds. There are two hundred slats to clean. It takes fifteen seconds to clean a slat properly. The math is challenging, the answer is grueling, the required effort enormous, the result brilliant.

The process requires at least three passes with separate wet cloths. The cloth must always present a clean surface to the slat. Three cloths can provide a fair amount of uninterrupted cleaning activity and the duration of the task allows a range of activities from daydreaming to gardening. You question gardening in this context? Simple. You get distracted and leave the task.

Distractions happen frequently.
I hear the birds in the garden through the open windows. Incessant chatter, rasping, tweeting and calling. I stretch my neck to see them. An airplane passes overhead. I watch it through binoculars. Bees abound. I need to harvest the honey. It is a hot and sunny day. I want to be outside. A car tire squeals and the Yorkie barks. I perform a quick security check around the house and garden. I get distracted even more in the garden ending up with a clipper and a spade in the bushes.
The monotony of cleaning blinds is in stark contrast to life unfolding this day.

Focus. Stay focused.

A Whatsapp announces itself. The phone is next door.
Not now!


One hundred and twenty-five slats to go.
Focus. I absorb myself into the task.

Seventy-five to go.

Amusing thoughts loiter in my mind.
I see my reflection like a silhouette in the glass behind the slats.
Bad guy looks without the bad guy, and handsome perhaps.
Should I start a blinds-cleaning-service, – by a Zen master.


I am the task. I am the slat. I am the cloth. I am all of it.
There is no show of emotion. I am the person designated to do the task. I am not a mercenary in thoughtless-program-mode although it looks like it.
Nothing is by force. It is my free choice to clean or to neglect.

There is no problem.

When you become the task, resistance disappears.

The task is done.

two drawings


I have made two drawings:
 the way my life is now and the way it will be,
 the current state and the desired reality
The difference between them is easy to see: 
 question marks, dullness and a head hanging down
 versus color, poise and a smile with no sign of a frown
Vividly I believed and I wore that hat
 filling the page I outlined my vision in black
 and then added some colour so I‘d remember to act
I imagined, I felt it and I was focused like a beam
 not on what wasn’t or what broke or all that had been
 but of flying a kite, my symbol of freedom, and
 living my dream
A drawing quite clearly it needed to be
 because a picture brings out the purest form
 of my fantasy
 while words would leave far too much room for ambiguity
Inspired by and credit to Patti Dobrowolski 
 Draw your future, TEDx Rainier

the fluidity of air

We can’t see the air. It’s ‘nothing’ to most of us, besides air. We become aware of it when we become conscious of our breath. That happens seldom. We gulp for air when we run out of air and then realise how utterly important and necessary it is. During meditation a great practice is to focus on the breathing of air. Slowly breathe in filling your lungs, over say about five seconds, hold the breath gently while the word ‘Aum’ forms in your mind and breathe out again for five seconds. That focus alone quietens the mind. We now become aware of the flow of air. At the same time if you practice a little you could associate a picture, a word and a feeling with that process of breathing. You could imagine a movie screen in your head showing those desired pictures and it could happen to the rythm of the breathing, unobtrusively. The thing about air is that it flows like water flows and surrounds us too.

We are critically aware of the air-flow when we fly close to mountains. That’s where up-drafts or waterfall-like down-drafts occur that affect our stability in the air. Air flows like water. Air is fluid. Obstructing it creates barriers causing detours that change the unhindered flow. It will still flow, but obviously not as easy. If we now associate well-being with air we will be inclined to want it to flow as natural and unobstructed as possible and stay with us. Why? Well, let’s have as much well-being as we can. Let’s have the air flow around us comfortably. Let it flow through our home peacefully and not zoom in and out like through a jet. Let the air be fresh and rich. Let’s view it as the bringer of energy and health and wealth.

I love air. It’s my medium and while I am not a bird I often wish to be able to become one at will. Imagine being a Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Imagine being a swallow or a Gymnogene.