Today is Sunday. My wife got up late and after breakfast decided to do some house cleaning, something she doesn’t have time for during the busy week. When my wife cleans she tends to use a method that I call systematic cleaning. I was reminded of this, because when she left the apartment later on I noticed that there was dust and dirt everywhere. I understood this, because systematic cleaning goes into all the corners, lifts up the carpets, moves the furniture, and so dust and dog hair is blown into the rest of the house.
From the time I used to work as a cleaner in Holland, during my student years, I remember the no-nonsense instructions I got when starting on a new job. My boss took me into an office, pointed out where dust and trash was visibly lying around, told me to clean that away and then move to the next office. He called it psychological cleaning. You clean only the dirt that you see. It’s quicker, more efficient and gives visible results. So when I clean at home I use this method, obviously. The systematical cleaning can wait till the day before we get guests.
Before we get to the crunch of this article, namely using this cleaning analogy in spiritual work, let me summarize:
1) psychological cleaning: you only remove the dirt that is visible and disturbing. You can call this cosmetic cleaning. This works beautifully when the purpose is just to have a clean-looking house or office. If it looks clean, it is clean.
2) systematic cleaning: you set out to clean those places where you know it is dirty, even if you can’t see them. This is necessary when you want to create a home that feels clean, rather than just looks clean. This kind of approach flushes out dirt from the most unexpected places. The result, paradoxically, may be a home that looks dirty.
Now to the spiritual house cleaning, the shadow work, the trauma integration, the healing.
I hope that you won’t need much convincing that most spiritual work that goes on is of the psychological cleaning kind. If you have any experience with yoga, meditation groups, church communities, or shamanic circles, you know this. You will also know that this is not a shortcoming of these methods and traditions. People know of course, if honestly reflecting, that there’s dirt under the carpet. That doesn’t mean that they will want to clean that up, or even that it’s a good idea to do that, or simply that they would even know how.
The two methods balance each other. You need both. In fact, to insist on either-or is fundamentalist and destructive.
So this is it, the Psychology of Cleaning. Before you head out into the sun and the fresh air, if you see any dust lying around, just do some quick psychological cleaning and have a wonderful day!
Cleaning workshops, Stockholm 2014: http://youareanotherme.wordpress.com/