Jack Kornfield has a book titled After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. I haven’t read it, but the gist is that spiritual life is more than states of extraordinary consciousness and rapture; it’s grounded in tasks of ordinary living.

I always think of the title when I’m coming back from a trip. Often, literally, there is laundry to do—like tonight, coming back “home” from a spiritual homeland: the Channeled Scablands of the Columbia Plateau.

But beyond the literal maneuvers of measuring detergent, selecting the cycle, and switching the clothes to the dryer, it’s everything the laundry represents: the regular responsibilities required to support one’s physical existence.

The routine. The regimen. The rote.

This physical reality can be unwelcome after tasting “unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the divine,” in Kornfield’s words.

Unwelcome is one word for how it felt tonight.

I got into town feeling all right: Unpacked the car, put away my gear, started laundry (check!), went on a short walk, and began preparing dinner with a friend.

And then the to-do lists for the week started creeping in. And time suddenly felt constricted. On some level, physical or spiritual or both, I wasn’t breathing.

But I didn’t notice all this at the time. I wasn’t wise or graceful. I just got really quiet, and really angry. In a way that was almost unfamiliar, except that it wasn’t. Not at all. It used to be several times a week, at least, this anger would descend like a cold front, and everyone around me would feel it, too, and start walking on eggshells. It’s part of what woke me up to the need to transform myself.

In The Guest House, Rumi writes:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness

Welcome and entertain them all!

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

If nothing else, tonight was a signpost of how far I’ve come in the last few years. But it’s humbling to remember, the younger me isn’t gone.

Like Sandra Cisneros writes in her story, Eleven:

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

Yes, indeed.

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