More than any other chore, I enjoy dusting and sweeping. It’s simple, relaxing, powered only by my body and a simple hand tool. No spraying or scrubbing, no loud noises.
That doesn’t mean I do it more often. Dusting never seems as urgent as dishes, or laundry, so I tend to neglect it.
This week I traveled to Virginia to be an uchideshi, a student living in the dojo to work and to train. For my personal responsibility, I chose to maintain spaces that required more dusting and sweeping than the other spaces. I believed the meditative quality of the work would be good for me after intensive training. I then discovered the dilemma of clearing cobwebs.
As I cleared the cobwebs from the sunroom on the first day, I felt a growing satisfaction. I looked forward to a week of living up to my ideals of discipline. I thoroughly swept around curtain rods, under benches, behind couches.
The next day there were fewer cobwebs – but not none. Curiously, I found these were not solely webs I’d missed before. Some enterprising young spiders had already built new webs – many of them, in places I was certain I’d swept the day before.
Until that moment I’d held the belief that if I consistently dusted and swept each day, eventually there would be no cobwebs. I looked upon cobwebs as a badge of dishonor, evidence of my neglect.
I had figured spiders would have a natural inclination to do what works, and not what doesn’t – to go somewhere else when they get displaced again and again. Yet it’s also in their nature to build webs right in those exact spots, where conditions are right for them.
I swept more deeply and more thoroughly, and still they returned.
Though I noticed the incongruence – spiders behaved differently than I expected – I did not feel the frustration I would normally feel if this were any other aspect of my work. When it’s me, and not a spider: when getting organized de-evolves into disorganization, when I stop keeping up with cleaning, when I procrastinate and avoid difficult work even after I’ve worked on my clarity and strategy and focus.
So the spiders have a lesson for me, but not the one I expected. Instead of proving to me the rewards of a disciplined, daily practice, they are showing me the way toward being patient with myself.
These faults and mistakes I find in myself, they are just cobwebs. I can clear them, and I should, because it does become easier. But they will return. It is in their nature.
My cobwebs will return, and I will be ready.
What are your cobwebs?
We all have flaws that we’ve accepted as part of our character. Maybe you’ve tried to face the shadows where your cobwebs grow along your path toward mastery, only to find them creeping back in again.
Are you willing to keep sweeping, knowing that it’s in their nature to return?