11 Bringing Ourselves to Order, Inside and Out

It’s a miracle what an orderly place the universe is, every particle always in its right place. It runs like an immense wheel with infinitesimally meshing cogs interacting and complementing each other. We can barely conceive of the grandeur of this creation that couldn’t exist without the principle of order underpinning it all; the mathematical precision of it escapes our vision.

In our fragmented view of things, we see things out of context, perceiving chaos and disorder instead of the greater order. What we see is in fact real—it’s a consequence of our distortions. Chaos is even reflected in nature on our planet, with apparently destructive, cataclysmic events occurring as natural phenomena. Yet even in the colossal mess of a natural disaster, a larger order prevails.

Orderliness is directly connected with divine harmony and, like so many things, there is both an inner version and an outer version; there’s also a divine version—order—and a corresponding distortion—disorder. Let’s make some sense of how it all fits together.

In the grand scheme of things, inner order is what we experience when we are fully conscious and there is no more unconscious material left in our soul. Since that can be said of exactly zero human beings, order is something we’re familiar with only in degrees. This is no different from how we experience other spiritual qualities like love, truth, wisdom, peace, bliss and reality.

So just when we get it all together and totally organized, we’ll no longer be born as humans in this material plane of existence. Then we’ll have tied up all our loose ends, putting everything into order. Conversely, any lack of awareness is an indication of disorder somewhere in our soul. When we’re not aware, we’re not in truth; things slip away into our unconscious and we become confused. As we grope in the dark, confusion interacts with disorder so that we struggle to patch together the fragments of half-truth at our disposal. We’ll use anything to plaster up the holes and gaps of the chaos caused by our spotty awareness.

If we pay attention, most of us can see how this struggle goes on in ourselves. The disorderly mind will become frantic trying to impose a false order, but this only heightens our level of discomfort and disorderliness. It’s like shoving garbage under our furniture so no one will see it, but the whole place reeks of the hidden waste.

In our psyches, waste is made up of false opinions and obsolete patterns of behavior; such things should be properly disposed of. If they stick around, all of our actions, decisions and perceptions will end up polluted by half-truths or out-and-out errors. The result: chaos and disappointment. Until we start making order of things through careful examination of our feelings and reactions, attitudes and beliefs, we’ll continue to patch and repair until everything comes apart at the seams. False structures always fall apart. The most radical collapse happens when we die, which gives us the opportunity to start again with a clean slate.

Our day-to-day world is not a symbol of our inner life, it is an expression of it. So anyone who hangs onto useless material, never cleaning out their closets or drawers, is of the belief they can create a functional order over a false order. We live in such an illusion at great expense.

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So order and awareness are directly linked. Whenever we have disorder in our lives, there is something we are avoiding. Through our escape, we create the darkness of disorderliness. By avoiding something, we fail to create order in that area. So then here’s another link: avoidance and lack of awareness. This is exactly what happens when we’re not dealing with old emotional and mental baggage. It piles up and keeps new valid thoughts and feelings from finding a place to land. Self-awareness is what’s needed if we hope to get things flowing smoothly in the proper channels.

On the material level, we clean our house. We might focus on our possessions or on our financial affairs or on our use of time. We may need to face and overcome a habit of procrastinating, which is a pattern of putting things off instead of dealing with them as they arise. Our object should always be to remove clutter.

The principle of orderliness works the same in our inner lives as in the outer. We must make a decision to devote time and effort to the smooth operation of our life. If we’ve accumulated a lot of garbage, we’ll have to expend more effort to establish order. This is a great chance to form some new habits, learning to deal instantly with what was previously avoided. We focus our attention on whatever needs it most right now.

Then a new inner peace will set up shop. But peace will always elude us—no matter how much we pray and meditate and devote ourselves to spiritual or artistic endeavors—if we let inner and outer disorder clutter up our lives.

When we’re busy avoiding something, we’re escaping from what is. We don’t know what’s going on, inside or out, try as we might to hide our confusion and disorganization from ourselves. Every time we take the risk to face what we’ve evaded, it brings new light and order into our lives. We can literally feel an inner order and cleanliness that we previously lacked. But when we stay in not knowing, we remain mired in darkness and dwelling in discomfort.

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When we live in disorder, we run from reality. We delude ourselves into believing that it won’t impact our lives if we avoid dealing with what needs sorting. Silly rabbit. It’s total illusion that our creativity is not impacted by sticking our head in the sand. Nothing we do or don’t do, commit or omit, is without consequences. Not doing something creates conditions the same as doing something, and it all affects our level of comfort, peace and orderliness, or lack thereof.

Lack of awareness, avoidance and illusion are never going to add up to something good. They create disorder, which leads to more of the same—lack of awareness, avoidance and illusion. We can stay in this loop until the mind and the will wake up and decide to do something about it. They need to commit to sustaining order.

To be in awareness is to deal with the matter at hand, whatever it is, with laser-like focus. To be in reality is to be completely present with the effects of how we live our life. Awareness of reality creates the terms needed for order and harmony. Order, in turn, creates more ability to focus on our unfolding life and it allows more room for reality. This is a ring worth grabbing onto.

When we suspend ourselves in the illusion that any problem will go away by itself, we breed disorder. And that’s what causes us to suffer. Sometimes, we’ll lose ourselves in our disorder as a way to escape our suffering, but we’re then up to our eyeballs in avoidance and simply not aware of our suffering. We then ascribe all our ills—our tensions and anxieties, pressures and discomfort, bad conscience and nagging discontent—to other causes. But this doesn’t change the facts: we are the ones responsible for so much of our self-created disorder.

This applies as equally to the big stuff as to the little everyday occurrences. Neglecting even the tiniest thing can cause unrest in the soul, whether we’re talking about a minor emotional skirmish or leaving things out of place in our home. The outer is always related to the inner in some way; it’s good to pay attention to our habits and outer life while bearing this in mind. We can look around and get a good gauge on what’s happening in our interior, noting how much disorder can divert our energy and scuttle up our inner landscape.

Orderliness isn’t just a good idea, it’s a spiritual principle. Its lack belies something about where we stand, inwardly. So someone who has their act pulled together is going to be an orderly person in their outer habits. They will be clean, not just in their body, but in their handling of daily life. Tasks won’t pile up due to procrastination and following the path of least resistance. No, chores will be knocked off as they come up, even if that makes for a momentary difficulty, because the peace that follows makes it worthwhile.

The creation of order always asks for an investment of effort from us. A spiritually mature person gets this. We don’t live in the illusion that comfort and peace of mind come for free. We’ve done the math and can see that the gains outweigh the investment, so we apply this formula to all areas of our lives. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. We’re willing to pay the price to live in a state of order. In return for our investment, we get to live in reality.

When we live in a disorderly way—in our personal affairs, our money matters, our approach to completing our tasks—a very insidious thing starts to happen. We become preoccupied with the disorder we have created. It does not occur to us that there could be another way, and we think that creating order would require energy that’s beyond us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Disorder is an energy sucker, wasting our energy by dissipating it and using it up. Order, by contrast, is a natural state, so the moment we summon energy for it—although there may be some activation energy required to make it up the first hill—energy will be released. Then more energy will become available. This is the energy that was previously being used to keep ourselves in the dark by avoiding reality and dimming our consciousness.

Making messes then comes from our unconscious negative intention—our will to stay stuck. This may be a whole new vantage point from which to view disorder. It exists for the sole purpose of resisting harmony and health, truth and wholeness. It creates tension and keeps us preoccupied, consuming valuable resources that could otherwise be dedicated to the task of finding God within ourselves.

Bold this: disorder makes us anxious, whether we’re aware of this or not. Ignore what needs tending to and our life will slip away before our eyes, waiting to be lived another day. Fulfillment then gets put off for a future that never arrives.

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If we get our work done in a timely way, we have control over our life; it’s not hard to connect these dots. When we’re in control, we don’t avoid, procrastinate, let waste pile up or tell ourselves it doesn’t matter. This is healthy self-control and these are necessary functions that the ego should be performing. To lack control is to create disharmony and imbalance. Then an opposite split-off condition of false control comes into play.

When we’re over-controlling, we hang on too tight, holding ourselves together. But if we were holding ourselves together in the right way, using healthy control, we would be able to relinquish control when it is right to do so, and give in to involuntary processes such as our feelings. People who live with the right kind of ego control are able to surrender themselves in ways that people living in chaos cannot. Chaos makes it virtually impossible to let go of control because in doing so—without the self-discipline that comes with ego strength—we would drown in our own chaos.

This points up the need for self-discipline as an unavoidable prerequisite for finding spiritual fulfillment; it’s what makes it safe to surrender to sexuality, deep feelings and the process of self-discovery. We are safe when we’re standing in reality with a fully functioning ego that creates order and can therefore trust the process of letting go.

Order requires discipline. Always. Immature people tend to refuse any form of discipline, associating it with authority from a parent against whom a war is still being waged. This very behavior is part of the junk heap of waste material that needs our attention. The more we look for a parent-like authority figure to run our life, the more we rebel and the less we adopt attitudes that could lead to peace. We think that self-discipline is going to mean self-deprivation. On this, we are so very wrong.

Here’s the real skinny on this: the more we refuse self-discipline, the more we deprive ourselves of all the rewards that come from a peaceful and comfortable existence. We keep ourselves from knowing the bliss and deep pleasure that are part and parcel of the involuntary life stream, and which can only flow through us when our ego stands on the firm ground of self-discipline.

Learning self-discipline then is the doorway through which we establish order. It all comes down to how we arrange our time, money, possessions, surroundings and personal appearance. We need to learn to take care of tasks as they come, orchestrating the details of our day so they will run smoothly.

We can devote some of our time and effort to creating new order, cleaning up old disorder and then sustaining it. If we run into a wall of resistance, we can sit with this in meditation, praying to know more of what it’s about. We need to find the place inside us that says No—that doesn’t want to give to life. What’s that about?

If we can overcome our resistance and establish a new way of being in the world, we will notice a big difference. Burdens will drop away like icicles in the sun. We will have the clarity needed to resolve our problems and surrender to our deeper selves. When we put our control where it’s needed, we can give up control where it’s not.

So while it is true that outer disorder always reflects the state of the inner soul, which must be in illusion and out of order, outer order may not necessarily be a sign of having reached inner harmony. Often it reveals the exact opposite. Then orderliness is not a reflection of an inner clarity, but a compensation for inner disarray.

When we are compulsive in our orderliness, becoming anxious and afraid without our routines, that’s a sign of inner disorderliness. If we feel burdened and obsessed about being orderly, needing it at the expense of feeling relaxed, expanded and free, the innermost being is sending up a flare to the outermost layers of our being: “Get yourself organized!” But the message gets garbled up in our resistance to communicating clearly inside ourselves. In all the clutter and debris, we’re not deciphering our messages correctly.

Our resistance can be surprisingly strong. When we kick over to compulsive orderliness, we create as much trouble and hardship as if we were surrounding ourselves in filth. Sometimes this shows up to a minor degree, and for others, it can be very strong, manifesting for example as a compulsion to wash. The test for which condition prevails is to look carefully at the climate of one’s life. If the atmosphere is easy and relaxed, and the orderliness creates more ease than strife, it’s an expression of the divine principle of orderliness.

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The first step in becoming aware of this connection between orderliness and our inner landscape is to tune into how much we are disturbed by disorder; feel the tension and anxiety it creates. Notice the resistance to self-discipline and consider what problems are difficult to make order out of. This new awareness may create motivation to begin tackling an issue from the outside, rearranging outer aspects in a new way. This inner understanding may now make it possible to choose this option voluntarily, not as an act of obedience. The latter wouldn’t be very meaningful and more apt to generate resentment and more resistance. It could also create a false sense of guilt that serves no useful purpose whatsoever. We need to be mindful of all these aspects along the way.

Interestingly, the part of us that resists is well aware that freeing ourselves of the burden of disorder will make our inner work much easier. And that’s exactly what the resistance wants to avoid. Think about it. The disorganized person can’t concentrate; same for the compulsively orderly one. Being scattered makes it impossible to be focused. The mind wanders and gets preoccupied with all that’s left undone. It often wanders far away from the disturbance. But if we follow its meandering, we’ll start to realize all the little things we don’t want to tackle.

People who consider themselves creative or spiritual often feel that personal order isn’t important. And yet, the great questions in life always rest on the little ones. This is why it is said that when we sweep the corners, the middle will sweep itself. Attend to the littlest attitudes and when they fall into place, as creation does in even the tiniest detail, creative expression will be less be hampered.

Don’t make light of the power of this topic. And don’t try to use outer orderliness as a cover for inner work that must be done. As always, we want to gently probe into our own behavior. Where do I create order that leads to ease and relaxation? How do I resist doing so? In what ways do I suffer from disorder? Can I feel the anxiety I cause myself? What are my actions or inactions that contribute to this? How do I lose myself in the wrong way, preventing me from losing myself in the right way?

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Let’s circle back to avoidance, which exists across the board. We try to overlook seeing how we are dishonest, wanting to cheat life even if we don’t actually do it. We want to gloss over our destructiveness and avoid seeing our negativity. These secret, invisible thoughts seem so harmless, we delude ourselves into thinking we’re not hurting anyone. We hope to avoid all feelings that are inconvenient.

There is a price to pay for all of this: it’s insanity. But if we are willing to confront ourselves, looking straight at the golden point in the center, truth and reality will suddenly appear. Arising right through the middle of the dreaded area will be the golden point of God, the unifying light of truth and purification. Because everything we avoid has, at its center, a golden point of light.

Go directly towards the golden center of any woe and it will dissolve. Go away from it, and suffering increases, along with confusion and darkness. We think some areas—such as our terror and our cruelty—are too terrible to contain such a point of light. Not so.

But if we avoid facing our terror and our evil, they live like phantoms inside us. These phantoms are creators of chaos and disaster. We need to turn around and face our inner demons, going into them, no matter how bad this feels at first. For each of us, this dark area is whatever we dread the most. But if we can summon the courage and honesty to turn toward the darkness, we’ll come face-to-face with the golden point of light in our being, which is at its center.

This is worth repeating: the golden point of brilliant light is at the center of every horror, every death, every darkness. So every evil contains a golden point of light. This isn’t a theory, it is a truth. And knowing this will help us to go through every tunnel of darkness, so we can arrive into the golden area of light.

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