The Object of Your Concentration

Living in the Airstream, these last seven months, has meant spending a lot of time cleaning. Unlike a house, an Airstream often has direct access to dirt and mud simply because its intention is to not be surrounded by concrete. Likewise, being on the road has done some major damage to the cleanliness of the truck. I spent an hour or so yesterday, deep cleaning the exact same areas I had cleaned a week ago. They looked like years of soda, soil, and dog hair had been piling up. I’m sure you can all all imagine how a road-tripped car floor looks.

But I enjoy it. Cleaning something makes me more grateful over it. It’s a unique time to take an account of things. A time to look at what you own, care for it, summarize its value in your life, and try to return it to the state in which you bought it. Usually by the end of the experience I’m filled with a kind of profound gratitude for that thing which has been so filling to serve me and my needs.

To know something is to clean it.

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about life, why we are here, and what God expects of us. I’ve come to more firmly believe that God wants us to experience life, make mistakes, and expect His forgiveness and Love through the example I’ve explained above.

“All things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.”

— Moses 1:35

God’s ability to know all of his Children, and to number them, is connected with the time he has spent cleaning them and caring for them.

A Disciple once came to a teacher to learn to meditate on God. The teacher gave him instructions, but the disciple soon returned and said that he could not carry them out; every time he tried to meditate, he found himself thinking about his pet buffalo. “Well then,” said the teacher, “you meditate on that buffalo you’re so fond of.” The disciple shut himself up in a room and began to concentrate on the buffalo. After some days, the teacher knocked at his door and the disciple answered: “sir, I am sorry I can’t come out to greet you. This door is too small. My horns will be in the way.” Then the teacher smiled and said,: “Splendid! You have become identified with the object of your concentration.”

— How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

I have thought often of this passage in the context of modern Christianity, and what it truly means to become the object of your concentration. As Christ is the teacher, in the passage above, I concede that he intends on us becoming as he is through this very same act of meticulous meditation. Not that we live perfect lives, on the contrary, but that we begin to know who Christ is by doing as he does. Perfection, or to be perfect, is not a verb nor an act. When Christ says, “that which ye have seen me do, that must ye also do,” he is talking about the acts of a Christ, of a Savior. And one significant act that we often overlook, as we emulate the savior, is the act of cleaning.

A great teacher was once asked to explain one of the most seemingly mysterious actions recorded in the Gospels, Christ’s cursing of the barren fig tree. “Become a Christ,” he replied smilingly, “and then you will know why he did that.”

— How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

God’s plan was marvelously crafted so that we would be inclined to park our trailers near mud, because he knew the significant gratitude and love we would learn to have in the process of cleaning them. Only by regularly meditating on Christ would we come to know Him and to be known of Him.

I believe we spend too much time mourning for our mistakes, and not enough time emulating Christ through cleaning up our mistakes. The process of having Faith, and seeking repentance through Christ, is the Christlike act of cleaning. In that moment we are able to become the object of our concentration and see ourselves through his eyes.

I have always seen repentance as an act of humility, not as a pursuit of value and knowledge. It’s more clear to me now why God would have us perform this act quite regularly rather than a single proclamation of Faith and a desire to be clean from that moment forward.

In each of these repentant moments we gain esteem and gratitude for our imperfections, and fondness and love for our weaknesses. To know something, is to clean it.