The Heart of the Matter
June 27, 2008
Sweeping the Path


As a middle class American male with a healthy dose of resistance to household chores, the broom has never been one of my favorite tools. While I've certainly appreciated its timeless design and universal appeal, the act of sweeping has always felt like somebody else's job.

This belief radically changed for me one fine Spring day in 1980. That was the day I got word that my teacher, Maharaji, was coming to visit the house I was living in -- a funky old dwelling on Detroit Street in mile high Denver, Colorado.

Clearly, my housemates and I weren't ready. The kitchen was dirty. The bathrooms were a wreck. The lawn needed mowing. Mucho stuff needed to be done.

My task? To sweep.

Grabbing a broom like some kind of over-caffeinated Clint Eastwood on steroids, I pushed open the front door, surveyed the scene, and got busy.

The porch was a piece of cake. A few flicks of the wrist, a few energetic downward strokes in both directions and I was done -- leaves, twigs, and dust sailing over the edge onto the waiting lawn below.

Now it was time for the front walkway.

A sweep to the left. A sweep to the right. A sweep to the left again -- me a human metronome in tune with something beyond time. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

I paused to view my handiwork. "Not bad, not bad at all," I thought to myself.

But though the porch and walk were much cleaner than before, my increasingly perceptive sweeper's vision was seeing things it hadn't noticed just ten minutes ago: a pebble stuck between cracks, a rusty bottlecap, a flattened piece of wax.

Whoosh to the left. Whoosh to the right. Whoosh to the left again.

It felt good getting ready, good preparing the way for the man who, nine years ago, had shown me -- in a heartbeat -- what life was really all about.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

Ta da! The porch was clean! The path was clear! All was right with the world! But wait! The sidewalk, in front of the house, was a complete mess. Bits of paper were everywhere. Plastic spoons. Shards of glass. And dirt, dirt, dirt.

Obviously, I had more work to do.

Whoosh to the left. Whoosh to the right. Whoosh to the left again.

I closed my eyes. I took a breath. I opened my eyes again. But wait! The road in front of the house was a wreck -- the very same road Maharaji would need to cross if he parked his car on the north side of the street. Cigarette butts, oil spots, and leaves were everywhere. My hands began to twitch. My mind began to race. Wherever I looked, nothing was ready to receive him. Nothing was good enough. The world, it seemed to me, was one gigantic mess.

I wondered how far onto Detroit Street I needed to sweep -- how far I needed to go to prepare the way. At this rate, I might never come back.

And then, like one of those moments I used to read about in Zen Buddhism books, it hit me.

It wasn't the front porch that needed sweeping. It wasn't the path... the sidewalk... or the street. It was me. I was the one that needed to be swept -- swept of my clutter, swept of my assumptions, swept of whatever junk stood in the way of being able to receive my teacher in a way that was clean.

I didn't need to sweep the porch. I didn't need to sweep the street. I didn't need to shine my shoes... or cut the grass... or buy a suit... or lose five pounds... or iron my shirt... or paint the house... or wash the car... or buy a dozen roses. I could, of course, if I wanted to. I could if these things really needed to be done. But something else -- much more central to my life -- was going on. And that something was me getting ready for Maharaji -- the one whose gift of Knowledge had, long ago, opened my eyes and my heart.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at June 27, 2008 06:09 AM


thanks for letting me be a part of this blog

Thank you,


Posted by: Lor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 29, 2008 03:21 PM

The same thing happened to me this past Tuesday. I was expecting a visit from Charan Anand, the man who accompanied Maharaji to the west some 37 years ago. Naturally I had to sweep up, get out a bucket and fill it with Murphy's Oil and wash around the door frame where spider webs had accumulated, and I had those same feelings that Mitch describes. It's uncanny! It's as though, you don't seem to notice the buildup of dirt and debris until the Master or his representative is about to pay a visit.

Posted by: Jiya [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 28, 2008 12:02 AM

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