Making the bed might seem like a trivial activity in the broad scope of life but what if we supposed that the smallest actions can create profound effects on the state of the mind?
Let’s explore this idea through the unmade bed. The unmade bed is dishevelled. The sheets are tangled. The pillows are wayward. We leave our bed this way in the morning, to come back to sleep in at night. As the mornings and nights pass by, the unmade bed becomes more dishevelled. The sheets are now turned sideways. The mattress is exposed. A pillow seems to have permanently made it to the floor. The task of making the bed now seems so labour-intensive that we give up on it all together. Perhaps we have not even noticed the state of our bed. Perhaps we don’t care.
If we were to stop for a moment and compare the unmade bed to the state of our mind, could we find parallels? Is the mind cluttered with worries or concerns or problems to solve? Do we typically feel disorganised? Do we find ourselves habitually feeling confused or overwhelmed by all the things we need to do in our days (dishevelled)? Do we view life as chaotic and largely beyond control? Or have we broken our connection with ourselves and the world around us? Do we find ourselves making lots of mistakes, being forgetful or absent-minded? Do we fail to be PRESENT? Or are we in a state of apathy, where few things seem worth the effort? Do we have a ‘why bother’ attitude to life?
In yoga, maintaing tidiness and order in our external environments facilitates tidiness and order in our minds. When the external environment is cluttered, the senses are overloaded and the mind absorbs the clutter. A cluttered mind struggles to think clearly; it reacts to problems impulsively; it fosters negativity. When the effort of the mind is on sifting through all the clutter, it is unable to connect with a deeper experience of peace, intuition, and wisdom. Like the sheets of the unmade bed, the mind becomes tangled in itself.
When we make our bed, we are creating order in our environment. We are cleaning and clearing our physical space. By doing this, we give the mental space a chance to follow. When the mind is uncluttered, we find ourselves approaching life and all its challenges with a sense of calmness and clarity. Our attitude becomes positive and light; all the things that typically bother us cease to seem so serious. Our attitude towards people becomes open and friendly. We feel greater control over our lives. We’ve cleansed the inner turmoil.
Making the bed might not solve ALL of life’s problems. But it can be used in daily life as a metaphor for clearing the mind.
It might be worth a mention that making the bed does not mean making the perfect, wrinkle-free bed with professionally-ironed sheets and hospital corners (that kind of need too reflects a conflicted mind – more on that another time!!). It just means getting up in the morning (or whenever) and creating an intention to clear your space – to start your day with a clean slate. Maybe try it and see what you notice.
For the sake of experiment – what does your bed look like right at this minute and how would you describe your state of mind?
© The Yoga Experiment, 2012