YK’s 365 Release: Day 49

I am getting a tattoo today, a meaningful and permanent reminder to always be mindful.

In Korean school, we the students cleaned the classrooms. Everyday after school, based on a rotation schedule, a handful of students a day had cleaning duty.

This involved pushing all 60+ desks to the back of the room, sweeping, mopping, oiling the floors. Then taking rags and wiping down every desk, every ledge, every object in the room. Then we had to put all of the desks back into lines ready for the next morning. Every single day after school, this is what happened in every single classroom.

This practice gave us a sense of accountability to our surroundings. Students didn’t litter, we didn’t make messes, because everyone had to eventually clean up after one another. It taught us how to be mindful in this way.

This is a deeply instilled value in me now; I try to always be aware of my presence in the universe and what kind of mark I leave or space I occupy.

Back then, Korea was still considered a developing country, and the air quality was low because it was not a priority. My mother used to comment on how black our socks would get after wearing them for one day, and how there would be a layer of dust on everything if we left the windows open for too long.

Because of this excessive urban grit, cleaning rags were omnipresent. Rags were used to clean everything and rags were always being laundered. There were rags at school, rags at home, rags at stores and restaurants. Most people did their laundry by hand, and rags were beaten, scrubbed, hanging on laundry lines everywhere.

They were constant reminders of how everyone was continuously cleaning. Constant reminders to always be mindful of littering, trash and your “footprint” left behind.

We also had to boil any water we wanted to drink to ensure it was untainted and consumable. When I first moved to Korea my stomach was in a constant knot because I was not accustomed to having to boil every drop of water. And though places boiled water for consumption, unboiled water would inevitably be used to clean the dishes or would be used for preparing food and my virginal stomach took a while to get used to all of that.

There was always a teapot of tea or water sitting on the stove. Sometimes even when it was hot out, you had to drink boiled water if you forgot to boil water previously. And if you ran out of ice cubes, you had to boil water to make the ice cubes. The requisite of boiling of this most basic and necessary resource taught me to be mindful as well.

I try to remember that whatever mess I leave, it is mine to clean up, and so too, the rag is mine to launder, in a metaphoric sense as well. That whatever I consume must be prepared and has gone through a whole process before it even reaches me. Sometimes I think about these lessons and wonder if I would have reached my realizations of today had I missed anyone of these experiences. I am grateful then, for the rags and the boiling of water.

I bought a solar charging lamp from IKEA (for commentary on me and lamps see Day 13). I bought it because it was only $8. Unfortunately, in this capitalist society this happens sometimes; we buy things mindlessly simply because they are placed in front of us. I purchased it not only because it was cheap, but because I believed it was a way to be accountable by way of solar energy. I get ample sunlight in my office for me to render the desk lamp futile. So, I wasted $8 and purchased a lamp for the sake of it, thereby creating more waste. Ah, capitalism, how you have a hold of us. Fie. What good is an object I am attached to because I believe it will help the environment, yet I am not using it to replace another source of energy? What good then? None.

So today on Day 49 of my 365 Release I let go of something I have held onto and purchased because of lack of mindfulness. May we always and constantly remind ourselves that everything around us should be considered with mindfulness, like boiling every drop of water before drinking. May we never take anything for granted so that we are never wasteful and ever accountable.


[I created the 365 Release Project to practice non-attachment, letting go and change by giving away 1 thing a day for 1 year. The background, vision and guidelines to the 365 RELEASE project are here. The running list of everything I have released is here.]

2 responses to “YK’s 365 Release: Day 49”

  1. […] Day 49 (10/26/10): solar lamp [pragmatism] […]

  2. […] repugnance toward overhead lighting and preference for floor lamps (see Days 13 and 49) continues with today’s […]

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