Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Folding Towels in a Sweet Way

"Spirituality doesn't look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you've had a long day. It's enfolded into the act of parenting. You fold the towels in a sweet way. It doesn't take extra time."

Sylvia Boorstein from “What We Nurture”

I've been sitting with this quote for a while, thinking about all its implications. . . 

"Talking kindly to the people in the family." And I would add talking to everyone kindly. This was underscored by a recent training for registering and greeting participants of a large meeting, verifying their voting credentials, etc. The woman who coordinated the meeting encouraged us to greet and welcome people with as much love and kindness as possible. Our instructions included a reminder that if a check-in doesn't go smoothly, someone made a mistake, but it can be fixed. Just reassure the person in front of you that it can be fixed, and don't worry about who messed up. That's folding towels sweetly. 

"Talking kindly to people . . . even though you've had a long day." Pretty much everyone over the age of ten has a long day, every day. To do lists are lengthy, sleep cycles are short, the calendar is full, and maintenance is almost a fulltime job for most families. It's useful to remember that we have a choice in how we respond. If we choose to respond kindly as a matter of course, we will be able to talk kindly when we're tired, or worried, or distracted. And, as she says, it doesn't take any more time. 

"You fold the towels in a sweet way." I don't usually think of folding towels as either sweet or spiritual but recently, folding napkins for an upcoming meal with people I cared for deeply, I understood. I was folding them for people I loved, and it was a joy to do it carefully, and lovingly. I was focused on the other instead of myself which made the chore a pleasure. And it didn't take any extra time.

Spirituality is a vague word. Some people would call it religion. Others would say faith. For me, spirituality is recognizing the meaning and relationships inherent in whatever we are doing. That's probably why it's impossible to be a parent without bouncing against issues of religion and faith and spirituality. Parenting must be spiritual because it is both meaningful and relational. 

So if you would be spiritual, or a loving parent, and you can't find time for "sitting down and meditating," start folding your towels sweetly. Recognize what your task means and who that task impacts. Infuse your chores, your actions, and your work with kindness. Those sweetly folded towels will enfold your child after baths, after swimming, and every time her hands are washed. Your touch is present in that sweetly folded towel, caressing your child or spouse or guest.

It may initially take some effort, but like all habits, once formed it will become part of you and you will be able to fold your towels sweetly; you will spend your "doing" time thinking of who your task will affect. That is being spiritual. 

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