“The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore”
so said the great Sufi poet Rumi.
Ever since I read this quote it has been playing on my mind. It is a simple phrase and yet, as is often the case with great poets, it contains a world of knowledge in it as well as the secret to a happier and more peaceful life.
We all live in and are surrounded by an enormous sea of thoughts: our own and those of others around us. We are constantly exposed to viewpoints, opinions in the form of what we read, hear, watch, feel and think. It has been said that in one day, a human being thinks as many as 60,000 thoughts and under stressful situations, this number can go up many fold. Each of these thoughts is energy and has the potential to affect our physical and emotional well-being. Think, for example, of your favorite food or dish- can you not almost instantly feel the taste in your mouth? That’s the power of a simple thought and if we have so many thoughts bombarding our conscious and subconscious mind, our state must be in a constant state of flux in response to all of those and the reactions they generate. If there is a way of sifting out the thoughts that are “good” for our state, we would actually be able to live better- and as they say, one thing leads to another- this too would cause a chain reaction and a massive change in our over-all being.
Just as it is necessary to be able to see what is pertinent to our lives, it is equally important to be able to recognize all that which is simply unnecessary clutter. This unnecessary clutter occupies space that does not allow what is truly needed to come in- or perhaps it just hides it away in the background, making it tougher for us to reach it when we need to. When we are able to filter out information that is not needed by our mind, we can de-clutter and thereby focus more on what is relevant. So, how does one know what to ignore?
As a child I heard a story of the triple filter test-attributed to Chanakya, the Indian philosopher and sometimes to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. It speaks of a man who met the great philosopher on the road one day. The man wanted to tell the philosopher something pertaining to his friend. The philosopher stopped the man before he could speak, requesting him to put what he was about to relate through three filters- first: whether what he was going to say was true or based on mere hear-say; second: whether it was something good about this friend; and the third whether it would be useful to the philosopher or help in any way knowing what the man had to say. Since the man failed all the three filters, the philosopher bid the man not to tell him anything at all and continued with his work.
Irrespective of who actually wrote it, it sends out an important message: before we accept what is told to us by others, as also before we say something about others, we need to pass our words through the same three filters. Anything that is not a validated fact, is not constructive or useful in making us or the other person better has to be avoided completely.
By habit over the past years, I tend to relate any teachings and learning to what Master Choa Kok Sui, my spiritual guru, and the founder of Modern Pranic healing and Arhatic Yoga, has taught us. There are several ways by which one can cultivate the art of filtering what to keep and what to ignore. Daily practice of the Meditation on Twin Hearts as taught by Master Choa helps by cleansing our auras, increasing intuition, developing awareness and mindfulness. In addition to meditation, Master Choa emphasizes the importance of character building. He gives this even greater importance than practicing meditation- he states that if there were a choice between meditating and practicing the virtues, one should practice the virtues. He has elaborated on five virtues and the first three help develop accurate perception, discernment and correct expression. Let us look at these three virtues briefly:
Loving kindness and non-injury : in thoughts, words and deeds
Generosity and non-stealing: giving and sharing in every sphere of life and abstaining from taking that which does not rightfully belong to us.
Honesty and non-lying: being honest, avoiding half-truths, malicious truths and facts spoken for pure personal gain. This virtue has to be balanced with the virtue of loving kindness.
The above virtues have to be practiced both with respect to others and towards oneself. They are explained in detail in Master Choa’s books and taught in all his workshops. In fact, right from the Basic Pranic Healing workshop and all workshops thereafter, Master prepares us to develop these virtues using simple techniques which he explains in even greater detail in the Arhatic yoga preparatory workshop.
Character building is a constant process, as life itself is a constant flow and presents new experiences and learning at every step. The practice of virtues has to become a part of our daily life. As we progress, starting with our thoughts and spoken words, our actions follow suit. The mind becomes clear and instantly knows what is worth paying attention to and what must be ignored. In fact, the art of “knowing” becomes a natural outcome of practicing these virtues.