Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, was once stopped by an acquaintance as he passed through the markets.
“I’ve something important to tell you,” he said. “It’s about your friend.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Socrates said. “But, don’t tell me just yet. I run all information through the Three Filters Test to ascertain if I want to know it.”
The man looked somewhat puzzled as Socrates continued, “First is the filter of truth. Whatever you want to tell me, have you seen or witnessed it first-hand?”
“Umm…I actually heard it from someone,” the man said, “and, it is from a trusted source.”
“Alright. But that does not pass my first test,” Socrates added, “since you don’t know whether it’s true.”
“Second is the filter of goodness. Is that a good statement you want to make about my friend?”
“Not really. That’s the reason I wanted—”
Socrates interjected, “So, you want to tell me something bad about someone but don’t know if it’s true.”
“The last is the filter of utility.” He continued, “Your statement about my friend, is that gonna be useful to me?”
“Not really as such. I just wanted to share”
“Well, if the information is not necessarily true, it is not good, and, it is of no use,” Socrates concluded, “please, I don’t want to know about it.”
Media, social and traditional, corporations, advertisers, marketers, friends, family, co-workers are constantly feeding us information. It perhaps starts with the snoozer in the morning to the time you log out from Facebook or turn the television off, or your last email from your Blackberry. A lot of the information that we process in our everyday lives is of little use to us. Your friend’s having a runny nose like a leaking washroom tap, or that your neighbor washed her clothes yesterday, such status messages have no direct utility for you.
Whenever you are offered any piece of information, you have two options at that moment: accept or reject. Your brain is a massive, almost infinite, storehouse of information. It registers everything. This information further takes on the form of emotions, thoughts or desires in your mind. And such artifacts become the building blocks of your inner world. Ultimately, all habits, actions, reactions, emotions, feelings spring from the mind. The cleaner you are able to keep it, the lighter you feel.
If you exercise mindfulness and only keeping what you want to retain and rejecting whatever gives you grief, whether they are words of criticism, comments, remarks and so forth, you are bound to experience a dawning of inner peace. When this world offers you something that strengthens you, makes you feel good, helps you become a better person, a stronger person, keep it gratefully; everything else, reject it. Yes, it can be done.
Once someone wrote Mahatma Gandhi a two-page letter full of accusations and foul language. Gandhi quietly read the letter, chuckled, took out and kept the pin that held the two pages together, crumpled the letter and threw it in the trash can. A man who was sitting next to him at the time asked him the reason for throwing the letter and keeping the pin.
“This was the only useful thing in the entire letter,” Gandhi said calmly, “I’ve kept what I want to reuse.”
We do not control others’ actions, but we surely have control over our own reactions. If we return violence with violence, anger with anger, hatred with hatred, how can we ever expect to experience anything even remotely close to peace or joy. We are no better than the other. That is not to say that we should not defend ourselves, but an act of road-rage is not self defense, for instance.
Your happiness is in your own hands. It is independent. It is a state of mind. Do not keep what burdens you, reject all that makes you feel low, small, insignificant. You are important. This world is a better place with the stronger you, the brighter you, the happier you.
The golden rule of peace and happiness — Know what to accept versus reject. If you do not keep what you do not want, your inner world will become clutter-free. Peace and happiness sprout naturally in such a world.
Go on! Be happy. Make someone feel happy, you will feel even happier.
Om Swami is a monk living in the Himalayan foothills. An advanced yogin, well versed in the science of mantra, sacred syllables, tantra, esoteric practices, and meditation, you can visit his blog on omswami.com. His recent eBook, I love smoking and I hate cigarettes to quit smoking the yogic way can be had on amazon.com.