Have you ever walked into a house that was so messy that it filled your mind with disgust? Clothes piled up on the floor; unwashed cups filled with mould on the kitchen counter; the stench of urine and faeces piercing the air; on the floor by the couch riddled with burn marks, ashtrays overflowing with ashes and cigarette butts. Your first instinct is to run from the place. How can anyone live in such conditions?
Although it is rare that anyone would let his home deteriorate to this extent, there are many of us who feel the mind will simply take care of itself and allow it to fall into disorder. When all your prayers and wishful thinking cannot remove even a single particle of dust from your room, what makes you think they can magically transform the chaos of your mind into order? We look for silver bullets, magic wands, lucky charms in the hope that they have the power to put our mind right, but what we really need is a little bit of housekeeping.
The primary rule of good housekeeping practice is that if you sweep your trash under the carpet it remains under the carpet and the pile gets bigger. Even though the trash is no longer visible, the unsightly bump in the carpet remains a source of unease. We clutter the mind with thoughts. Our closets are filled with skeletons. God knows what lies hidden in the dark corners of our mind. Unlike our home where we can hire a housekeeper, only we have access to our mind and only we can put it in order. This isn’t to say that we don’t draw inspiration from others, but inspiration should be put into practice. We have to get our hands dirty.
So what does housecleaning of the mind look like? There are no brooms, vacuum cleaners or washing detergent in the space of our mind. The equipment we use is our attention. Whatever we refuse to acknowledge, to attend to, gets buried in the subconscious. It is only when we pay attention to the things we normally suppress, that they come into our awareness. When the buried fragments that litter our subconscious come into awareness, disconnected pieces integrate with the whole.
We resist housekeeping because the presence of these morsels from the subconscious is painful. For example, when we are angry our instinct is to express our anger. Although expressing anger might appear to be the healthy thing to do, the expression of anger results in the suppression of anger. How is that? We express our anger because the presence of anger in the mind is painful and by expressing the anger we gain relief because the anger at that point dissipates. By simply expressing our anger, we lose the opportunity to be present to a part of ourselves, our anger. People who are quick to express their anger get caught up in patterns of conflict because they never really get over their anger.
Good housekeeping means neither resisting feelings we don’t like nor clinging to feelings we enjoy. An ordered mind is not a cupboard where each thing is in its proper cubicle, but a river in motion. Good housekeeping is the practice of maintaining flow by letting go and letting be.