The Art of Window Cleaning
Charles Hogg presents the methods to see the specialities in the self and others

In every street there is a Mrs. Judgement and a Mrs. Honesty.  One day Mrs. Honesty decided to visit Mrs. Judgement.  As soon as Mrs. Honesty arrived, Mrs. Judgement began to complain about her new neighbours, a family of foreigners.

“She is a terrible housekeeper”, said Mrs. Judgement, “you should see how dirty her children are... and as for her house!  It is almost a disgrace to be living in the same neighbourhood.  Just take a look at the clothes she has hung on the line, see the black streaks on the sheets and towels.

Mrs. Honesty walked up to the window to look, “Actually the clothes are quite clean, my dear.  The streaks are on your window!”

Like Mrs. Judgement, how often am I deceived by my own dirty windows into projecting my own ‘misjudgements’ externally, fully convinced that I am seeing the truth?  The original seed of misjudgement colours everything I see, so each interaction with my neighbours reinforces my attitude.  Until a Mrs. Honesty arrives. Only then do I look closely at my eye-windows.  As I begin the process of cleaning the dirt from the outside of my windows I notice something interesting.  There is also dirt on the inside.  The dirt outside is the product of external influences, atmospheres, opinions and attitudes.  The inside dirt is of past experiences, perceptions and assumptions unconsciously colouring my vision.

Just stop for a minute, and reflect on the feelings of judgement and self-righteousness that arise in you, as in all of us.  We are aware that these feelings leave us more separate, more isolated, more frightened.  And yet within all of us we have the great voice of the critic or the judge.  Everyone is on trial.  Whether we verbalise our judgmental thoughts or keep them for our own private consumption, others do feel their effect.  Reflect again on their opposite.  Remember the feelings of forgiveness or understanding.  Remember how you wish to be treated when you have made a mistake.  Remember how you felt when you let go of someone’s past and offered them a fresh start.  Just imagine the healing in relationships if I have the humility to let go of judgement.

My grandmother died a few years ago at the age of ninety-four. During her life she spent only one day in the hospital—at the age of ninety-two to have a cataract removed.  She had a healthy, happy life and was loved by all.  During one of my last visits, it occurred to me that much of her obvious contentment came from her ability to always tune into the good in others.  They responded to her with the same feelings.  In a natural way it created a life of giving and taking love.  It seems there is a terrible price we pay for the eyes of judgement and criticism.  We lose precious love from other hearts.

How do I feel when I see the specialities of others?  I feel good about myself.  How do I feel when I see my own specialities?  Even better.  But is it easy?  Many times I have taken part in workshops where all participants are asked to make a list of their positive qualities and also a list of weaknesses they would like to change.  The list of weaknesses is easy, but when it comes to strengths, almost all of us find it difficult to write even a few.  Can I say I really know myself?  Often what we write down are talents and skills, what I do or what I have learned, rather than those character traits that are unique to me.

How do I discover my specialities?

Try an experiment.  Close your eyes and gently drift beyond your body.  Now through your mind’s eye look back at yourself.  As an observer of the person sitting below what do you see?  What are your specialities?  Think deeply about your inner motives, how you treat others, the things you value most.  A list of specialities will begin to grow.  Don’t just leave them as one word.  Expand on them so the depth of your specialities is revealed.

An interesting thing can happen as you go through this process.  Perhaps a little guilt or embarrassment enters: “Am I deluding myself?  Has my ego taken over?”  Somehow we have created in-built barriers that do not allow us to enjoy self-appreciation.  Common sense tells me, if I can’t see the specialities in myself it is almost impossible to see them in others.  My in-built barrier emanates from a deep lack of self-worth that tells me that I have no value.  Breaking through this barrier is at the heart of the spiritual process.  As I set myself free from this inner paralysis, my own intrinsic goodness becomes naturally apparent.  Not only do my strengths become apparent, but my vision on my weaknesses is one of compassion.  I am freed from the jail of hopelessness.  I can change!

When I lack love and respect for myself, it manifests externally as arrogant disapproval of others’ weaknesses and mistakes.  My own flagging self-respect is bolstered through dwelling on the weaknesses of others.  A friend of mine worked as a news reporter for one of the main TV networks in Sydney.  He often wondered why we rush home each night to watch the evening news which is a litany of negativity, pain and tragedy.  Research showed that when we watch others suffering from the comfort of our lounge rooms, we don’t feel so bad about our own lot.  It is unconscious, but a very strange way of feeling better about ourselves.

How many new philosophies and technologies appear on the market each year trying to encourage leaders and managers to improve their game?  I feel the most powerful tool of any leader is positive vision towards those he or she is working with.  Here positive vision means an inner attitude of trust and respect, and acknowledging the specialities of colleagues.  If people receive a double message; what they hear being different from what they feel, they will always trust their feelings.  In other words, I can’t hide my inner attitude.  If I carry mental criticism of those I live or work with, no matter how much I verbally encourage them they will never fully trust me.  If I see the specialities of those around me it is a natural form of empowerment.

In learning the art of seeing specialities in others we need to apply the first Law of Spirituality, which says we are responsible for our own experiences; if I see the negative in others I feel unhappy; if I see the positive I feel happy.  It is up to me to decide.  To justify the way we feel we have become highly skilled at the Art of Blame.  It is a skill we have refined over a long time to escape our conscience.  The Media often seems to encourage this skill by glorifying intelligence as the ability to analyse weaknesses in others.  With calculated intent the character of another is pulled apart.  We learn this skill and pass it onto others.  The great irony of the whole process is that I become the target. I am deeply hurt.  We forget another Law of Spirituality, that of cause and effect.  I will reap the fruit of my attitudes.  It makes it even more important to consciously educate myself to see the specialities in the self and others.

It is often hardest to see the specialities in those I am familiar with: my family, friends and work colleagues.  Below are some exercises that have helped me improve the Art of Window Cleaning.

Exercise 1 Virtue Inventory

In my diary I keep one section where I write the names of those closest to me.  During a working day or at home when I notice a speciality or I learn something from someone, I make a note of it in my diary.  It is like an inventory of their good qualities, and it can help me at a later date.  When I become influenced by one of their negative qualities I can then refer to my diary and rectify the balance.  I am reminded of the good in the other and not consumed by their mistake or temporary weakness.

Exercise 2 Acting not Reacting

If there is a person who has certain personality traits that upset or disturb me, I make that person my teacher.  Why?  Because their company will make me change.  They make me aware of my own negative reactions.  They teach me to act and not react.

Exercise 3 Editing my Memory Tape

Before going to bed I replay the day’s activities on the video of my mind.  If I am carrying negative feelings towards someone let me resolve them by forgiving that person from my heart.  I don’t only erase the negative feelings, but edit in something positive, so I consciously remember a speciality of that person, which will remain recorded in my sub-conscious.  I then go to sleep and wake up much lighter.

Exercise 4 Seeing the Intentions

Another method of learning and holding the specialities of others in my mind is to see the intention and not the action.  Sometimes people do make mistakes, or maybe I disapprove of the way they do things.  If I focus on the activity then I will get upset.  However, if I see a sincere motive, I can maintain an attitude of love or acceptance which will enable me to resolve disagreements respectfully.

Is this kind of thinking a bit naive?  Do I see only good and remain blind to the negative?  No, the art of seeing specialities means to see both the positive and the negative but then to let go of the negative.  Why should I add to the negativity?  Let my response to others’ weaknesses be with compassion rather than anger or hatred.

On the path of personal development and spiritual growth, the Art of Window Cleaning is essential.

Charles Hogg is Director of Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centres in Australia.

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