The Benefits And Limits Of Cleaning Up

Yesterday I advanced an argument in support of “cleaning up.” Today I provide a separate argument the point of which is to ensure that cleaning up is put in its proper place.

Defining Messiness

Whenever you sense contractions in the body, strong feelings arising in the body, and mental proliferations, you’re very likely in the midst of “messiness”: something has activated a pain body, which is tantamount to your taking this something personally. Notice as you take the dharma, or phenomenal arising, personally how the body contracts (there may be tightness in the chest or a block in the stomach), feelings arise (perhaps anger in the first case, fear in the second), and thoughts proliferate and then loop back on themselves.

Defining Cleaning Up

Cleaning up, then, is clearing up the bodily contractions, the unresolved feelings, and the mental proliferations. When the body and mind are clean and clear, there is just quietness, suppleness, and openness in the presence or absence of whatever phenomenal arising seemed, perhaps for many years, to activate this process. To clean up is to slowly let go of whichever ego self-views are causing you suffering–gross suffering in particular.

The Limits of Cleaning Up

Thesis #1: Cleaning up is necessary but not sufficient.

Those who reject the very necessity of cleaning up may fall prey to “spiritual bypass.” (To see a case of this, consider that of Joshu Roshi.) While going ever deeper in meditation, they may inadvertently make an end-around on whatever baggage needs exploring. Consequently, they may continue to behave in ways that are harmful to others or to themselves.

That said, the danger in modern secular culture is that one gets fixated on cleaning up to the detriment of actually realizing one’s true nature (that is, awakening) in the first place. Breathwork, Reiki, energetic practices, emotion-centered modalities, and more can be misused with a view to fulfilling the desire to feel good or feel better or to having euphoric or ecstatic experiences. Therefore, special care should be taken lest one become a spiritual materialist or a therapeuticist.

Thesis #2: Cleaning up can be in the service of waking up.

One’s spiritual practice can be inhibited by especially painful forms of ego-self. If “I am inadequate” or “I am powerless” carry through much of one’s interpretation of one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, then finally being able to let go of “I am inadequate” or “I am powerless” can enable one to experience immense spaciousness. But then that immense spaciousness is a clue or a pointer to the full realization of one’s true nature.

Proper Place

Theses 1 and 2 help us put “cleaning up” is its proper place. On this understanding, one’s root practice would remain oriented toward enlightenment while some of one’s supportive practices would, especially when necessary and thus when the occasion warrants, aid in the process of cleaning up. When whatever needs to be cleaned up is cleaned up today or for good, one then returns to one’s root practice. Cleaning up should be regarded as no big thing.