A while ago I was using my ShopVac to vacuum the patio and patio furniture. Usually, the suction is quite impressive, but I noticed it was weak and barely pulling the dirt out of the cushions. I shut off the vacuum and opened the lid to see what the problem might be. Then I saw the filter. It was so full of dirt, leaves, hair, sawdust, and other debris, that I marveled the vacuum had worked at all! I pulled out the filter and blew out all the clogging material, put it back in place, and began vacuuming again. Amazing! The suction was once again powerful, pulling in everything in its path.
Later, I started thinking about the incident, and I realized it was a poignant metaphor for life. How often do I allow my mind to get clogged with all my negative ego thoughts? “What if. . ?” thoughts that generate anxiety about the future. “If only. . .” thoughts that energize feelings of regret and loss. Other ego thoughts will fuel resentment, jealousy, envy, prejudice, and a whole array of negative emotions until I am in a really bad mood and can see nothing with clarity, charity, or gratitude. That is the time when I need to clean my filter. But what is my filter? My filter is self-awareness.
Cleaning Your Filter
Self-awareness is the key to living life consciously rather than unconsciously. As far as I know, humans are the only species on earth that have the capacity for self-awareness, which is the ability to step back and observe oneself. Self-awareness is what allows you to notice your state of mind and from there to make conscious decisions. In a previous article (See “What Do You Control?“), I wrote about the difference between thinking and attention, and this is relevant here because paying attention to your state of being is practicing self-awareness. To illustrate this process, remember the last time you experienced a low or angry mood. What did you do? Take something to get rid of it? Carry it around with you most of the day? Act from it by withdrawing, isolating, or laying it on someone else?
None of these responses are effective in the long run, and if you keep doing them, your filter gets more and more clogged. Rather than ignore, fight with, or react to negativity, you need to notice it and use it as your signaling system to change course. It is like opening up the vacuum cleaner and clearing all the dirt, dust, and debris from the filter. Here are some ways to clean your filter and get back to that state of clarity, charity, and gratitude.
- Become curious. There are other species that demonstrate curiosity, but none that show curiosity toward themselves. Curiosity is nonjudgmental, open-minded and a portal to self-knowledge. (See “Did Curiosity Really Kill the Cat?”) Perhaps, becoming curious about your clogged state of mind will lead you to discover some invalid ego belief energizing the negative thoughts and emotions you are experiencing.
- Meditate. There are many simple, straightforward ways to meditate. (See Meditation.) Meditation is a very effective way to clear your mind of clutter as well as a vehicle for accessing your inner strength and wisdom.
- Pray. Prayer directed to a Higher Power is a way to draw upon a Source deeper, wiser, stronger, and more loving than yourself.
- Talk to someone. Most everyone knows someone they trust and admire, and who seems to be a calming, supportive, and intelligent presence. That might just be the person who will help you clean your filter.
- Look for the humor. Yes, almost every situation involving your ego has a humorous component. (See “The Razor.”) The ego always takes itself very seriously, and when you step back and look at it, it is often quite laughable with its antics and manipulations to always get its way. Amusement or a hearty laugh at your ego can do wonders for your state of mind.
A Better Way
Next time your vacuum cleaner loses its suction power, be sure and check the filter. However, there is another option. Why wait until you are miserable before you check your filter? Why not clean your filter regularly so it does not get clogged? Any of the above suggestions can become a daily or weekly practice. Regular maintenance of your state of mind may save you from having those nasty times when you lose your clarity, charity, and gratitude.