January 21, 2006

Polishing the Mirror

I love the look and fragrance of clean –of fresh air, polished wood, and uncluttered shiny surfaces reflecting streams of sunlight. Because of this I sometimes get into little cleaning frenzies. Today has been that kind of day – a Meredith cleaning frenzy. I began cleaning something and then just went on and on and on with cleaning everything, every nook and cranny, emptying drawers and dusting behind the books, washing the woodwork and polishing the mirrors. I call this my cleaning meditation. When I’m cleaning, many thoughts drift up within me and I realize that important cleaning and clearing out gets done in me, too. My thoughts move about flowing in a stream of consciousness, resting momentarily on anything that needs a little dusting and polishing. I examine these thoughts, and then try to let them go.

Dear friend, your heart is a polished mirror.
You must wipe it clean of the veil of dust
that has gathered upon it, because it is destined
to reflect the light of divine secrets.
-al-Ghazzali

As I cleaned, I thought about that metaphor of polishing the mirror. When I look at my mirror, what do I honestly see? What is this cloudiness that covers my heart? What is this dusty veil of accumulation preventing the reflection of my purer presence?

In my cleaning meditation, I come up close to dirty things I don’t like about myself – for me they include many self criticisms and judgments of others, as well as egoic feelings of envy, pride, desire and arrogance. These attributes don’t match my larger Self-concept. These are qualities I usually keep in the shadowy dark recesses, or at least I try to keep them there. Occasionally, they pop up when I don’t expect them to. Anything suppressed is likely to try this maneuver. These qualities painfully remind me of my humanity. As I brought them forward in my cleaning I looked at them more honestly, and turned each of them as I dusted.

If you could get rid of yourself just once,
The secret of secrets would open to you.
The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe
Would appear on the mirror of your perception.
~Rumi

I wondered if my egoic self really could ever clean away such sticky debris to reveal the face of the unknown. It was so easy for me just to sit with the admission and the resulting guilt of these messy attributes themselves; getting stuck on self criticism comes easily. But I knew I must keep moving, keep clearing out, and keep letting go, even of the self criticism, to allow the hidden to manifest. After tears helped me with the cleaning, I began to feel compassion flowing toward myself. Compassion came when I was able to identify the truer intention of my heart, which has always been a move toward profound love.

Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted,
like the face of a mirror that contains no images.
When empty of forms, all forms are contained within it.
No face would be ashamed to be so clear.
~Rumi

A wise teacher once said that unexamined likes and dislikes layer the heart with expectation. Even pleasant emotions, such as fascination, can be a veil over the heart. This teacher said, “We need a free, discriminating attention and wakefulness.” He went on, “All relationships should be governed by conscious reflection and a sensitive heart.”

When I am immersed in this deep cleaning, focused on a refining examination of my small self, I see my own inner preoccupations, my likes and dislikes, my fascinations and fictions. I become brutally honest. I feel shame about the qualities of negativity, conditioning, hypocrisy, secrecy, and distorted desire swirling within me. But when I become discriminating, I also sense something else. Shame dissipates when I acknowledge this larger, much purer Being within me – reflecting outwardly as barely perceptible qualities without images, without form. With discriminating attention, these unseen qualities are highlighted.

Everyone sees the Unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it.
Whoever has polished it more sees more –
more unseen forms become manifest to him.
~Rumi

Awareness assures me that the outward projections I clean are only a fragment of who I am. This deeper yet larger and more important part of me, the ‘Unseen’, such as my intuition, compassion, and the deeply loving capacity of my heart, exists within as a pure light. When I am able to clear the mirror of projected and superficial contents, I discover this light within me reflecting so much more clearly, resembling glistening surfaces reflecting streams of sunlight. As the wise teachers have said, when I polish this mirror of awareness, over and over again letting go of the debris of small self, the purer light of my Being is more clearly reflected.

There is a polish for everything,
and the polish for the heart
is the remembrance of God.
~A saying of the Prophet Muhammad

During this cleaning meditation, as my small self-awareness finally slowed, I noticed purity in the silence. In these moments a presence, a small voice within, begins to gently nudge me, making itself known. My consciousness meets this presence, and my awareness expands. This presence is permeating, gentle, and breeze-like. This presence is beyond the myriad of imperfections of self I have spent the morning cleaning out. I see small dust particles dancing with a kind of delight in the midair. I stop what I am doing, just to watch the dust, to witness the light stream through the insignificant, and to feel this same light warmly stream through me. My heart softens. I am filled with a subtle but unmistakable remembrance of God. Inhaling, I celebrate the gift of breath itself. I feel sunlight reflecting off of me; my heart expands with Graceful Presence.

16 comments:

kat said...

beautiful post meredith.

bit of synchronicity, i don't know if you'd seen it. but one of the tasks for week 3 is about doing what cameron calls an "artist-brain" activity such as painting, driving, walking, scrubbing, etc...while listening for what insights come up. you've done it exactly, right here. :-)

Meredith said...

Thank you for coming by, dear Kat.

I'm glad I cleaned before you got here! (Sparkle!)

And thank you for the outstanding job you are doing to facilitate the Artists Way project. I really appreciate you!
~M

krista said...

"I'm glad I cleaned before you got here! (Sparkle!) "

That totally made me smile.

azure atelier said...

Ooh Meredith, your post makes me want to rush off and start cleaning! Polishing and clearing out the outside and "inside". Thanks- Shelagh

Meredith said...

Krista and Shelagh, thanks for dropping by. Your comments made me smile!
~M

Kerstin said...

Wow. I know that a good declutter and scrubbing of my living space often results in an equally satisfying cleansing of my mind and soul. Couldn't have described the process as beautifully as this though :)

In Otter Space said...

Cleaning is like meditation. Thanks for reminding me of this...sometimes I forget this as can be seen by the piles of dust and debris in my house (& art studio) Lisa

Genna said...

This was beautiful. I stumbled across your blog and am very glad I did. I am working on a lot of change within myself, negative things that I am holding on to out of fear. I need to clean the mirror.

For some reason, God keeps mentioning the word "mirror" to me. This made it very clear why. Thank you so much.

Meredith said...

Kerstin, Lisa, and Genna,
Thank you for your comments.

All of the kind comments here have led me to reflect further on the value of this kind of inner cleaning. While often this kind of ‘cleaning’ is a solitary practice for me, the most inspirational cleaning has been found through a unique spiritual companionship. This spiritual friendship, perhaps more than any other single outward practice, has been invaluable in helping polish the mirror of my awareness. Having a discriminating spiritual friend, with whom questions and experiences are shared in an ongoing and open dialogue, continually helps to clean out that which is in the way of allowing a purer presence to shine forth. With an open dialogue and reflective inquiry we are apt to see and to face that which keeps us in the cluttered rooms of our thinking and ego. This kind of friendship can mirror to us exactly what we are so attached to, and help us let go of that which is of no longer any use – such as old beliefs, fears, identifications and behavior patterns. Perhaps examining our fears is a good place to begin this dialogue, for fears are really sticky... fears keep us stuck in these dusty, veiled places some people accurately identify as prisons.

Anyway, I went off. I would just like to invite anyone interested to return to Graceful Presence to dialogue and inquire. Through this exchange perhaps we will begin to experience increasing clarity and enjoy the warm glow of Presence reflecting brighter and brighter within and amongst us.

isaiah said...

"I call this my cleaning meditation. When I’m cleaning, many thoughts drift up within me and I realize that important cleaning and clearing out gets done in me, too."

Hey, I thought I was alone! Glad to know you're right there with me M. When you're finished ( are we ever finished? yes, when we realize the way is always in need of clearing)come over and lend a hand clearing out my closet!

Great post...and I learn more, and smile more everyday!

sgb said...

I have so much clutter around me. It seems overwhelming and I give in to the slightest distraction. There is so much judgement around that. Can one "be" by seeing this? I see that I can only begin from where I am.

CJ said...

This reminds me of a silver refiner. They hold their silver piece over the fire melting away all the impurities and gently polishing until they can see their own reflection in the silver. This is what my own Graceful Presence does for me: He holds me over his fire, melting away all my impurities, and gently polishing until He can see his reflection in me. I love it! Thanks Meredith! I am blessed every time I come here.

Meredith said...

sgb, and cj,

Thanks for your comments.

Regarding the clutter that gathers around us, and the judgments surrounding this, sgb asks, "Can one "be" by seeing this?" and then he answers his own question, "I see that I can only begin from where I am." That is all any of us can do. But we do it. We are drawn to do begin right from where we are.

...and cj, sweet friend, God surely sees pure reflection in you.

Thank you both for sharing here.

gratefulbear said...

This is very synchronicitous (is that a word?) -- I plan to do a short class on "Polishing the Mirror of the Heart" at the next Sufi Healing Circle I conduct, and here I find you've gathered all these wonderful quotes for me already! Many thanks!

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