Our dirty minds

I shower every day and in this heat, often more than once. I brush my teeth morning and night. I do yoga to stretch and care for my body. I try to eat well (not always successfully) and I go to the dentist… less than I should.


green-juiceGreen juice anyone?

I do the dishes every day. I sweep, take out the trash, wash the clothes. I do these things because I have been taught to do them and I have been taught to do them because they keep my physical environment in good shape.

Pool-cleaningI make Tyrhone clean the pool though.

So why oh why, with all this maintenance of our physical environments and bodies are we not taught to also maintain our mental one? Why oh why are we not taking care of our minds; our beautiful, messy, dirty minds?

I attended a short Vipassana meditation retreat in Chiang Mai a few years ago and the monk who led the course basically said as much. We need to ‘clean’ our minds just as often, if not more, than our physical bodies.

And yet, most of us do not.

Whilst I have been heading in this direction for a while, I have only very recently been practicing the cleaning of my mind. And now that I have, I cannot imagine how I ever got on without it.

In fact I can imagine, and it wasn’t very well.

I have a very dirty mind, you see.

And whilst I am partial to a rude joke or two, what I really mean is that my mind gets messy and dirty like any other thing which is not cleaned out. Like a closet that we keep chucking clothes into, one on top of the other; never taking the time to organise or clear out but then expecting clean, laundered and wrinkle-free clothing from every day.

It is insane.

What’s even more insane is that we are afraid to tackle the cleaning of our minds. We are afraid to go in to the mess; to wade through the dust and dirt our minds have accumulated in fear that if we do, we might never come out.

I have a theory that this is because we have simply not been taught that cleaning our minds is a vital and necessary part of human existence. Eastern cultures have known about this for millennia, but in the west we think that we are above the menial task of cleaning our minds, and as a result we are suffering.

We are medicating with alcohol and drugs (prescription or otherwise) and we are feeling isolated and afraid. We suffer from anxiety, depression, rage and addiction, which occur when we are unable to process our thoughts and feelings with a clear and present mind.

I get it. The task seems so great. For most of us, including me, sitting still and attempting to present can be the most daunting thing we do in a day because it is so far outside of what we are used to.

I am often filled with great discomfort before and during my morning meditation practice. But that discomfort is only my mind rebelling from being cleaned, like a mud-covered kid who wants to roll in puddles and definitely does not want to take a bath.

We know the kid needs the bath. He’s filthy, and whilst he may be okay with being dirty now, eventually, he’s gonna start feeling not-so-good. So we put him in the bath. He squirms a bit, but before long he’s splashing around in that soapy water and playing with his rubber ducky.

Our minds, like that that kid, need the freaking bath. We may find it annoying, or uncomfortable, or boring,  but as we grow up, we begin to enjoy the bath or at the very least enjoy the results of it (I, for one, think that taking a bath is one of life’s great pleasures).

There is much which is not yet understood about the mind and mental illness is one of the great plagues on humanity in the 21st century. I am not saying that it can all be cured with meditation, but I do hazard a guess that much of our mental discomfort such as stress, anxiety and depression stem from the fact that we have not been taught to care for our minds.

IncenseThis needn’t be a spiritual pursuit if you are not that way inclined. Cleaning our minds needn’t be relegated to the yoga mat or the meditation hall or the Buddhist temple. You do not need to sit in the lotus position and you do not need to burn incense (although I like to do both of those things because it makes me feel more zen than I actually am).

You don’t need to ‘become’ anyone to do it and there is no qualification required except for being human. Or feline, because felines do this really well, I think.

downward-catDownward cat?

A friend posted this great TED talk on facebook the other day (thanks Jodie).

The speaker talks about taking just 10 mindful minutes every day to be still and ‘rest in awareness.’

Our minds rarely get any rest. When we sleep they are dreaming, and when we wake they continue to dream all kinds of weird and whacky scenarios; projecting into the future, dragging up the past and worrying in the present.

They need rest, and only we can give that rest to our minds. The world is not going to give us permission to do it because the booze and drug companies would go broke and the economy would collapse due to the sharp decline in impulse shopping.

But I digress…

Imagine the changes in our lives and on our planet if we took the time to clean our beautiful, powerful, capable, amazing dirty minds! The part of ourselves we rely on for our very survival; the place our thoughts originate; the control center of our emotional and physical lives which drives our relationships, creativity and imagination.

In my own experience with meditation, the progress is slow and the results are varied. Which is why it can be tempting to give up. But the slither of awareness I gain in the space between my thoughts and the part of myself which perceives them keeps me showing up, in the hope that I may experience my present moment with more clarity than I currently am.

How, when or where you clean your mind it is not as important as actually doing it, and while it may feel strange or uncomfortable at first, you will soon wonder why the hell you weren’t taught to do it before.

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Our dirty minds — 19 Comments

  1. Wow. I know I have said it before… But THIS POST is my favorite.
    I am working on this daily. It is so simple yet soooo difficult. Why? I totally agree that we should be teaching our kids to clean their minds as often as we tell them to clean their rooms! If we start now, the next generation would live so differently. Thank u for putting this in writing.
    Holly recently posted..a year of firstsMy Profile

    • Aw thanks Holly! Yes, SO difficult because it’s not something openly discussed or talked about at dinner parties! I have really needed to focus on it by reading about it and practicing every day. I am practicing stillness and mindfulness every morning, and I am still 5 kinds of crazy by 5pm, which shows me how much I really need this!! Love you. Look forward to practicing together.

  2. Imagine if we could just take our brains out and put them through a quick wash in the machine…Unfortunately because it’s not that easy we probably forget to give our minds a good clean out once in a while.

    I’m all for a bit of bit mind cleaning but can I leave the swearing and dirty jokes, I’d feel a bit too clean with out them!
    Kellie recently posted..A Mexican Wedding – Aztec Ceremony (non-nude)My Profile

    • I’d much rather sit still than do laundry, so maybe my laziness serves me well 😉 No Kell, it just wouldn’t be you without prolific F bomb droppage!

  3. The last two weeks I’ve gone to a yin yoga class and each week during my practice my mind is just SCREAMING. You’re words really resonated with me that getting to that stillness and cleaning the mind is what keeps us sane and centered. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Ha! Yes Katherine, I know the feeling! It’s amazing how when we actually take the time to notice our thoughts, we see how erratic and crazy they are, skipping from one topic to the next like a lunatic.
      I sat down for a bit this afternoon and had to laugh at my crazy head. It reminds me how much I truly need this. Good on you, just keep showing up! :-)

    • Hey Kendra, when you think about it, it is pretty easy to be still a few minutes a day, it’s just that because we haven’t been taught to do it we aren’t familiar with the idea. Once it becomes a part of the routine it’s as normal as brushing your teeth!

  4. I’ve noticed that a lot of the yoga videos I’ve been choosing lately have had extended 10-minute periods of either Savasana or Viparita Karani. I love inversions in yoga, so while my legs and feet sometimes don’t love being upside down for so long (at first), I feel so refreshed and ready to look at the world from a new angle…because I literally have been for 10 minutes. It feels so good when I clean out my house, I wonder why I don’t spend more time cleaning out my mind. And you’re right, it’s been leading to better choices. Not always, but at least I’m more conscious of my choices, which often leads me to making better ones.
    Carmel recently posted..WHEREVER I’M WITH YOUMy Profile

    • That sounds great, will have to try one tomorrow! Yes once you start becoming aware of the mental clutter it seems ridiculous that mindfulness and meditation isn’t taught in schools. I wonder if it is in India…?
      Sarahsomewhere recently posted..Allow joyMy Profile

  5. You know how a person with a supremely dirty house (such as a hoarder) can sometimes get quite ill from the effects of not cleaning? (Such as the effects of mold, or dust allergies, etc).

    I feel like it’s the same with our minds. Only our minds are so much more sensitive so the process is quicker. So although a hoarder may take years to really get physically sick, our minds can only take a few days.
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..Ballarat Part 1 – ArdenleeMy Profile

  6. Great post Sarah ! I began meditating about 2 years ago …. Difficult at first but persevered. Changes in me were profound and have been off anti-depressants for this period of time (had been on them for 18 years!). So so glad I persevered ….

  7. Hi Adele! Wow, that is amazing, good on you! Thankyou so much for sharing your inspiring story with us! I really think meditation is one of the most overlooked solutions to many of our problems. Keep up the great work! :-)

    • Hi Amanda! I know the feeling and it’s horrible! I find breathing exercises help at night if I am having trouble sleeping, otherwise listening to an audiobook or something helps my mind focus on one thing and then I generally fall asleep. Thanks for sharing!
      Sarahsomewhere recently posted..Let it go.My Profile

  8. We neglect our minds so so much!! We really need to learn to take care of them, and do it often! I have a post coming up about grief, which has a similar sentiment – we seem to skip over sadness as much as we can, because were afraid to be mindful about it.
    All emotions are natural, and we need to be mindful about them :)
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..East Meets West in Istanbul!My Profile

    • Can’t wait to read it Tim! I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that humanity is in a phase of great change in consciousness. There are polar opposites at work. Huge amounts of ego fueled violence and also a massive movement swinging toward mindfulness, awareness and peace. I know which camp I wanna be in!
      Sarahsomewhere recently posted..Let it go.My Profile