Nothing Quite Like Going at a Soap Dish with a Tooth Brush

The plastic soap dish on my bathroom sink was gunky and driving me nuts. I kept not dealing with it. Every night I would use the little bar of soap on it to wash my face. And there on the dish the soap would sit night after night, dripping dry and engunking its throne.

So this morning, in a belligerent bad mood, I decided to just do what was in front of me that needed doing whether I wanted to or not. (Don't judge. Adults have tantrums too.) I cleaned the bathroom and felt pretty good about it. But as usual I walked away from the job without dealing with the soap dish.

No, I said to myself when I got to the hallway. That sucker's getting dealt with, right now.

I held the dish under warm water and went at it with my tooth brush for a good five minutes (yes I threw the tooth brush away after). The gunk did not want to let go at first. I'm gonna have to throw this thing out, I thought. But eventually the gunk started to wear down and flake away.

Eventually, in fact, the dish started to look pretty nice. Eventually, I could see the brand name SPECTRUM in the center of it and for some reason I found that to be super exciting. Eventually, the dish became one of my new favorite mini things.

I may now truly love this soap dish.

While cleaning, guess what happened. I had an epiphany. It occurred to me that, contrary to the title of this post, there are in fact many things quite like going at a soap dish with a tooth brush.

There are lots of soap dishes in our lives we don't want to deal with -- from health to houses to pets and spouses. Worn and layered with the gunk of time and use, they don't look or feel so great to us anymore.

How we regard or disregard these things when they're in their worst shape is really very important.

Do we avoid them? Throw them out? Get new ones? Restore them with a toothbrush...?

The nature of reality won't let us have anything in its original form (whatever that is) forever (whatever that is). Despite what commercials and products and unreasonable expectations from all directions tell us, there isn't anything -- no body no thing no relationship -- that can unhave or be unmarked by experience.

[It's a good thing we bear the marks of our experience. If we didn't, we would be living in a psychotic universe, which many misled people and institutions aim to create. I may sound a little conspiratorially paranoid, but I'm sadly serious about the dangers of trying to eliminate the effects of time and stress, i.e., the gunk of suffering. Subject for many future posts...]

How I see the soap dish, the ill or tired body, the aging man or mother in front of me -- all marked by their experiences and so, perfectly logical in how they appear to me right now -- determines how I will treat it or him or her. In the important scope of my relationship with what's in front of me, my vision of it makes or breaks it.

Deplore anything or anyone daily and it will abide my view over time, looking and becoming more and more deplorable. But I can liberate it, at least from my superficial and deploring view of it. I can look deeper.

As I search for and appreciate anything's indestructible essence (respecting its worn appearance right now as logical given use and passage of time), I am supporting whatever deep original goodness and beauty it's still capable of manifesting.

Looking at a gunky soap dish, central nervous system or cardiovascular system, or husband or wife with eyes that aim to find extant basic worthiness, goodness, beauty needs to happen for the dish, health, or spouse to move in the direction of -- for those things to "remember" and align with -- their most pure, natural, radiant, sensual state. 

For most of us, looking in this loving kind of way takes great courage which includes fear, huge heart which includes hesitation and resistance, sharp skill which includes the willingness to make mistakes, and real devotion which includes the want to abandon the path. And all those qualities of course take practice to develop.

But imagine being seen and loved this way! And therefore train in this way yourself with as much dedication as you wish someone else would.

In the spirit of that training, I encourage you to do at least one of the following:

Find something disgusting in your house and clean it with your bare hands (and maybe a soft tooth brush). Soap dishes, sink drains, and abused microwaves are good options.

These inert objects are expressing something to you through their smelly or moldy cruddyness that makes sense. What they are expressing is not worthlessness or failure, but rather logical signs of use and the passage of time.  

Stop and see and feel all that -- the usefulness and purpose of the object, as well as the cruddyness resulting from use and neglect of it. Then perhaps you will want to act to restore it. 

These objects and their gunk have been doing good work for you, no doubt overlooked for very many reasons. You are busy and you do have many more important things than sink drains to deal with. But it's profoundly important to realize that when these things are finally noticed, they can and do communicate something appreciable about their experience.

So today, rather than pushing past annoying mess in order to get to more important things or people, notice the expressions and relate to the communications of one of the inert objects in your house for 20 minutes, and see how it responds and reveals itself to you, and how that makes you feel.

When you receive some bad news about your physical or mental health from a doctor via a test result, or from your shortness of breath, aches and pains, anger or sadness, stop and see and feel it...

Notice your fear, resistance, or clumsiness when learning this news, whether it's coming to you from someone else or from your own awareness. Stay with all the information as well as your reactions to it. Notice and suspend any habit of trying to avoid or correct or exaggerate any of it. Let it all be whatever it is right then and there.

Your self is communicating with you all the time, and yet you refuse it or blow through and past it most of the time and call that noble. Now and then, don't do that.

No matter how painful old ugly or difficult you find your body and mind to be when you finally give in and look without the optimistically prioritizing blinders -- and eventually you will have to look without those blinders at what is truly the priority -- please regard them as a sacred vehicle escorting your heart and mind to important places, and treat the only vehicle you will ever have in this life as well as you possibly can.

When you see your pet or partner at the end of a long day, and he does the same annoying dance he always does, and you start to move into position to do your own same dance with him, stop and see and feel what's actually happening first.

Don't say or do anything. Just hold the space and keep not only your speech and (re)actions, but also your thoughts and feelings, your compelling personal agenda, to yourself for a couple minutes.

Notice your feelings about the gunk you perceive. Notice whatever your senses tell you about the condition of the room, the tone of his voice, the look in his eyes, his and your own excitement or tension.

It's not really about throwing opposites at things, but if after a few moments of holding the space you want to say or do what you normally would, maybe don't, and try something different instead.

If you would normally squeeze your partner tightly in love and excitement, try a slow, soft, open hug of him. If your puppy is bored as usual and just ate your favorite houseplant, and you would normally freak out about that, see what happens if you drop the insistence that the grumpiness be gone and plant be uneaten, and just pet him.

Behold the gunk, the unwanted or unsightly appearance of things. 
Behold your reactions to the gunk. 
Behold others' reactions to your reactions to the gunk. 
Behold, if at all possible, what's beneath the gunk.
Then and only then, speak and act accordingly... 

For all intents and purposes, the basic goodness and beauty of a soap dish are not there unless you orient to them. In your glimpsing of those qualities, they stabilize and become more real, and as a result, your relationship with the soap dish naturally benefits and looks and feels better -- not perfect, but workable if not appreciable and good.

Same deal with people you consider layered with badness confusion or baggage, people you love and hate. With or without the toothbrush (that'd be your call) try going at someone this way.

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