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.
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.
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.
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.
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.