I have always hated folding laundry. I used to scrunch socks together and not really care how shirts got folded in an effort to get them into my drawer, if I was industrious, as quickly as possible. The drudgery and time consumption of household tasks used to really irritate me, and I know I am not alone.
Since getting married, though, and sharing some of this work, I have found, oddly, a kind of Zen to folding--sitting quietly on the bed neatly arranging, finding sock mates (mostly), folding and rolling shirts in my husband’s military style. I accomplish this order out of chaos while my husband might be grilling our dinner or vacuuming and feel a two-fold sense of accomplishment: teamwork and then this uncanny feeling of accomplishment with even the small things of everyday life.
Reflecting on the next Benedictine tenets--balance and flexibility--fits in nicely with doing laundry and folding and accomplishing the everyday in part because we all need to do these ordinary things, but perhaps we do not all see them as moments for prayer, as parts of a well-balanced life. The ways we get through our days in the simple things can help establish something more powerful in our connection to God and to each other.
Balance and flexibility can come even in the tenuousness of human relationship. Consider a balance of self and other--of connecting from within to God who seeks us within our hearts and of seeing our fellow humans--family and committed friendships, those beloved to us--as God who seeks us through their hearts and souls. We have to grow adept at recognizing God’s Word come to life, from church to porch to dining room to wherever--and this practice builds in us a flexibility.
Of course, we do not always find what we expect. It may be there’s a sacredness waiting to happen in strife, argument, discord. As with all things these do not last, and must lead to resolve. We become channels for resolve, if only we show flexibility in the ways we see ourselves and one another. This seems the hardest part.
This world God has given us provides so many opportunities to start a practice of balance that leads to flexibility. Balance time and you might be flexible with it later on by spending more time with a friend who needs an ear and open heart, or a child who tugs at your sleeve, or a spouse who needs simple patience and understanding after a bad day. Balance a practice of body, mind, and soul by exercising, reading, and praying--however briefly each day--and this would create a flexibility between mind and body that forges an invisible flexibility between this physical self and the soul. I know I feel better when I strive for this each day.
That’s where our practice takes root and bears fruit and helps create, as Rev. Dr. Tomaine says, “a grace and unity that bring our thoughts and actions into harmony.”
In that case, I turn folding underwear, walking the treadmill, meditating quietly or in a beautiful and unexpected moment--all into prayer. Maybe you will find yourself in that Zen moment, building a spiritual earthworks, a vessel to fill your life with God’s real grace.