Now I know why they call these fuzzy little balls dust bunnies. Every morning I am greeted by a new brood of them on the floor of my cottage. Somehow, they propagated in the night out of nothing, just like rabbits. They are unsightly and I don’t want them in my house.
So, I take hold of the Indian-style broom, made of long grassy stalks bound together at one end, and begin the process of pushing the dirt and dust bunnies around on the floor. The sweepers, the fellows who do this sort of thing for a living, are expert at getting the dirt to go in the direction they want it to go. I am only partially successful, especially with the dust bunnies, which have no weight and often explode upon being touched into several smaller bunnies.
I start in one room and work my way through the cottage in a manner calculated to end at the front door where I can sweep the dust bunnies, bugs, and gritty dirt that accumulated overnight, out of the cottage. Having watched the sweepers, I know not to sweep in a straight line, but rather to move in a serpentine course, tacking back and forth across the line I want the dirt to move in and sweeping in that direction. I also know that it is essential to move very slowly, as if I were stroking the hair of one I loved, so as not to create wind currents that pick up the dust bunnies and carry them into other directions. Sometimes I forget the method and try to sweep straight, which doesn’t work. Half the dirt ends up staying right where it started, or just blowing off to the side. After a while, I manage to get the dirt to move, generally, as desired.
Then, once I get to the door, the next challenge begins, which is getting the dirt out the door. This is a key time. The door has to be opened ever so gently, and great patience has to be taken to tease the dirt and dust bunnies out the door so they don’t just pick up and resettle in a different part of my cottage. Also, the wind has to be considered. If it is a calm day, then I just have to pay attention to how I’m moving. But on a windy day, if extreme care is not taken, the dirt just blows right back into the cottage before I’ve had a chance to get the door shut.
I do not know where all of this dirt comes from. It just is there in the morning. When I’ve missed a day of morning sweeping, the floor really starts to pile up with bunnies and there are huge areas where the cream colored floor-tile is grey. Then the dust bunnies end up in my socks, in and around my travel-bags, on my yoga mat, and many other places where I don’t want them. Dust bunnies and gritty dirt just seem to be a given here in Rishikesh, like air, water, monkeys, and trees.
In a way, my daily battle with the dust bunnies is a lot like my daily quest to quiet my mind. Every day, soon after awakening, I sit down and turn my attentions inward, to see what is in my mind, and every day, in some corners of my consciousness, I find bits of irritation, confused thoughts, envies, and other pains---the things that the science of yoga calls “afflictions” of the mind, that have somehow propagated in the night. These little pains are the things that spoil my inner environment, and make living with this mind unpleasant. If left alone, just like the dust bunnies, these agitations and irritations multiply and grow, and before long I find myself disturbed.
Just as I like a clean house, I also like to feel happy. A clean mind, according to yoga, is a pleasant mind, and a pleasant mind is naturally happy. This is why people like my meditation teacher Swami Veda Bharati are so attractive; they are always happy. A couple of days ago, when Swami Veda Bharati was speaking about silence, he said that the agitated mind is like agitated muddy water. If the water is allowed to become still, the dirt settles, and then the water is clear and fresh again. So it is with the mind. If the agitation is allowed to settle, the mind becomes still, then it becomes buoyant and I feel happy.
Just like with sweeping, there is a method to stilling the mind. In that same talk, Swami Veda Bharati said that one very simple method of silencing the mind is to repeat, over and over, a mantra. He told us a mantra, So Hum, and asked us to repeat it over and over---So on inhalation, and Hum on exhalation---mentally with no external sound, really focusing our minds on that sound. The mantra "So Hum" is known as a Universal Mantra, that can be used by anyone safely. After a few minutes, he asked us to stop repeating the mantra in our minds and experience what was there. My experience was that my mind was now very, very quiet and I felt absolutely wonderful. At that point, Swami Veda Bharati told the group that the natural state of the mind is serenity and happiness, and that we don’t experience this when the mind is agitated.
So, just like with sweeping the cottage, there is a method to cleaning the mind: The attention is put on a soothing inner sound that is repeated over and over for some time.
There is one more similarity between cleaning my cottage and cleaning my mind. It comes at the end, when the dirt is just about to be swept out the door. Just like, in using the broom, I’ve learned that I have to exercise great finesse at this point, so that the dirt doesn’t come right back in, it is the same with meditation. At the point where I am finishing practicing repeating the mantra in my mind, and going back to my daily activities, how I make the transition from meditation to the rest of my day can spell success or failure. If, when finishing meditation, I pick up one of the thoughts I was agitated about and start obsessing on it, well, then the dirt has just blown back in. Similarly, if the environment I’m in is exciting, I find that it is important to keep some of my attention on the inner-feeling of serenity that was just created and not completely throw my attention outside of myself. If I do, it’s like the wind blowing into my cottage, and carrying all of the dust back in. I’m sensitive after having meditated and it is easy to get very agitated at that point if I’m not careful. So, just like with sweeping, the final transition requires great finesse.
Randall Krause © 2004