The Wisdom Broom: Dust, Clutter and Insight!


In China, New Year’s Day is celebrated twice! Once according to the Gregorian calendar (in Chinese called 元旦 yuán dàn) and once according to the lunar calendar (春节 chūn jié) which this year begins on January 28th. On both occasions, however, it is the tradition to sweep the house. This ritual did not come out of nowhere. This practice carries a lot of wisdom and intelligence. As a matter of fact, when one looks at the Chinese character for wisdom, a number of interesting “keys” or “radicals” show up.

A Chinese character is often a combination of several simple pictograms. For example, in the second character for the word wisdom (the huì 慧 of zhì huì 智慧), one can find a hand holding a broom over the four arteries of the human heart.


Now what does the action of sweeping have to do with wisdom? As a professional development coach, I am constantly asking my clients to physically move their bodies. “I beg your pardon?” “Yes, that’s right! I’d like you to get up off your chair for a moment…” “Why?” “Believe me, it will change something in your awareness.”

Too many times the person being coached gets stuck in his or her head, “discussing” their feelings in a very analytical way.

Recently there have been a number of interesting self-improvement books on the topic of “clutter”. They extol the benefits of keeping one’s environment clean and orderly. (As I write this, I take a side glance at my very messy desk! ha ha!) Not surprisingly, we are reminded that a workplace filled with piles of books, papers and miscellaneous objects is NOT conducive to clear thinking! However, it seems to me that dust can settle on the mind as well as one’s desktop! Once our hearts are aligned with our minds, I believe that we are more likely to recognize and rise above situations or people who “trigger” us.

In this coming New Year, shall we all try to see the world with a different pair of eyes, with a bit more huì yǎn 慧眼 (wisdom + vision = insight)? (We can see the Chinese character for eye on the left of the second character.) This term in Buddhism is sometimes translated as “discerning mind”, capable of perceiving both the past and future. When our perspective gets “dusty” or we get distracted by the noise of outside events, may we all learn to quiet our reactive little minds and tap into a little of this huì yǎn.

This is my wish for you today and for every day of 2017!

Now that I’ve finished this article, I’ve got that huge pile of papers on my desk waiting for me — and as for you, dear reader, you may now get up off your chair and pick up that broom!

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