7:49am, there is only one clean mug left in the cupboard! 6 or 7 are on top of the dishwasher, huddled together like some teenage gang, some are getting piggy backs. The remaining clan are in chilling in the dishwasher; some of those are on their sides and a few are face up - a wine glass sits haughtily at a jaunty angle. Next to the mass of dirty cups, part of a banana skin pokes out of the brown food waste bin whose partially open mouth appears to demand that I empty it now. When I open the door to the garage I remember that the washing machine harbours a now un-freshly washed load from maybe a day or two ago!
All this mess that we and those around us (mostly those around us!) create can be a real challenge. We tidy away the mess as much as we can, all the time denying that we know the same or a slightly different mess will be back tomorrow. And then we carry this haunting heaviness of never being able to fully clear up all the mess in our lives and we step out of the door and project our sense of lack in the mess control department out onto the world.
Life is messy. Right from the very beginning life is messy, very messy and dealing with all the mess in our lives is one of the ways we come to learn about control but maybe the real cause of our suffering is our desire to try and control ALL this mess. We find out we can control some of it, great, that makes us feel good, powerful even. It boosts our egoic sense of who we are and what we are capable of - I'm a fixer, a facilitator, I am Captain Sort It Out. We get confidence and satisfaction from knowing we are that person who is in control, who has their 'stuff' together. Ah but annoyingly and all too soon we come up against situations we cannot control (damn it!) which challenge this idea of who we think we are, (damn it again!) –then fear arises displaying itself in the form of irritation, frustration or anger.
It’s initially even a bit frustrating to know that relinquishing control of the mess is the answer. We know that doing this is going to take practice, use up value time when we could have been tidying up mess and perhaps be more difficult than the mess tidying we have grown used to. It’s irritating to have to succumb to the acceptance of not being able to control someone else’s behaviour; a piece of machinery not functioning correctly, or a perfectly constructed and painstakingly thought out plan not going the way you expected. Yet cultivating acceptance and just practicing not being constantly in control helps us cut through the perceived mess as it develops clearer discrimination as to what and what isn’t important. Which messy parts do we really need to focus on and actually clear up and which are we just wasting our life energy on – they are never going to leave us so we may as well accept them, we might even find some beauty in them if we look hard enough.
So each morning when you face the cups, pause for a moment, take a good long inhale and an even longer exhale and just see those cups. They aren’t going anywhere and they probably aren’t going to clean themselves - so what… does it matter? Instead see those dirty cups stacked on top of the dishwasher as an opportunity to practice acceptance and discrimination - in Sanskrit this known as viveka. Feel how doing this starts to create a real sense of peace and balance and clearer perspective. Being willing to practice this on a regular basis is a gift. You get to receive true clarity and then as an extra present a calm, contented, peaceful happiness arises. And when we open up this gift it expands out into the world as our own kindness and compassion towards the people we encounter throughout the day because don’t delude yourself, everyone has those same dirty cups - in one form or another.