When I was in my young twenties I received a used Nikon with all paraphernalia as a gift. It was love at first sight, I’ve never recovered from the photography bug. There were 5 different lenses and other mysterious gadgets, and a big learning curve. I loved it. I think it weighed about 3 pounds, and went all over the world with me until the light meter died once and for all and I went to a newer model. It had been frozen, wet, dropped, lost and recovered, cooked in the summer heat, and took thousands of entirely unique pictures. That camera did have a life and personality of its own.

I was particularly fascinated with filters. Of course now we have marvelous smart phones that do all of that for us, and I appreciate that greatly. But back in the day there were the little lens-like pieces of glass you could place over the main lens to take a cooler shot, bluer, warmer, less color, so many possibilities. This process came to me as an analogy yesterday as I was considering a post that I had written on Facebook. It went:

A person that I know is on Facebook a lot apparently, and saw this post through a red filter, as a direct jab to this person’s mid-section. They had something to do with that whole upheaval thing, yes, but it was not written with this person much in mind.

The whole post was actually about the filters that we see our lives through. We all do it, it takes an enormous amount of self-awareness, courage, and enlightenment to view life unfiltered. With no judgment and attachment that comes from our accumulated experiences, no instant help from our emotional body that wants to stand up and wave its arms.

Christmas is a potent time to develop filters, with all its potential of unfulfilled expectations, spending lots of time with family, too much food and alcohol, fights and other weird events that seem to have the holidays as their provenance. Car accidents, deaths, sudden illnesses, alienations and financial crises crop up like weeds. That stuff happens all the time of course, but the holidays magnify these events, and create powerful filters that often carry on through life.

I am involved now in a business that combines philanthropic giving and fund-raising with an opportunity to raise funds for ourselves. I believe that it has a great potential for success, and I am working diligently at it. I have, however, been sucked into a fair number of on-line “businesses”, MLM and probably pyramid schemes that paid some people, but which fizzled into the night. That was the filter I brought to this endeavor at first. When I would talk to people, it was almost apologetically, as though I secretly thought it was a shady money making scheme that was doomed to failure. I know in my mind that this is a good solid business model that I have faith in, my filter said otherwise. Damned filter. Once identified though, we can do something about it. Take the filter out and examine it in the light. What is the truth here? Do you believe in your heart that this business is good and will help people? Then say that. Bring THAT filter into conversations. See the end result and decide which filter might best bring that good ending into being.

I have attended a transformative and inspirational program a number of times that is called “The Forum.” It used to be the EST training developed by Werner Erhard, an intensive interactive course of self-examination and casting off of old junk and beliefs. I remember one of the first exercises that the leader led us in. which was called “What happened?” He walked around the stage and in time picked up a chair, held it up, and then dropped it to the floor where it fell with a bang.

He then asked us all,

There was a flurry of opinions, from “You’re trying to scare us”, “You want to break the chair”, “that was loud”, to the good old…”This is not what I signed up for!” and so forth. All looking for some meaning, some motivation for this behavior.

One small voice offered,

“That’s it!” he cried. “That’s it. That’s all that happened.”

Everyone in the room had instantly brought their filters out and looked through them. Pretty funny in retrospect, but telling. We do it with virtually everything.

Other scenarios were brought forth…

Turns out it’s a “Toys for Tots” bike rally meeting.

She was ready to step out into traffic, with a speeding truck bearing down on her. I think there’s actually a commercial on TV with this imagery right now.

What is required here is a zoom lens, a bigger picture. How far back can we get to view a situation calmly and look at everything? Be willing to give up the preconceived notion filter, the “I am right!”, filter, the filters that come from fear and dark memories? Just the mindful realization that we ARE viewing our lives through filters can be helpful in dissipating them. They are not all bad, some rosy filters of past events and people can be comforting and sweet, and help us navigate events and people here and now in a positive way. Beware the toxic ones though, these filters can bankrupt soul journeys and destroy lives.

Kristin Strachan compassionbuddha.net

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