Over a year ago, my partner purchased a Berkey water filter for our home. It is a gravity filter that can eliminate hundreds of contaminants in water. When I first learned about it, I was skeptical, especially considering the steep price. However, after taking the first sip of filtered water, it all made sense to me why it was worth it. That sip was the best tasting water I had ever had. It spoke to me, as if I finally understood what water was meant to taste like and feel like in my body. Now I rarely go anywhere without bringing my own home-filtered water. I’ve even gotten my whole family their own sets of Berkey water filters.
The wonderful taste of water was just the first thing that the Berkey showed me. In the months to come, I would learn a different way of life from the daily practice of using the filter and refilling it.
As I mentioned before, the Berkey works through gravity filtration. This means that you must fill the upper tank with unfiltered water and then wait for it to drip into the lower tank before using it. As such, there is always a slight danger of totally filling the top chamber before the bottom chamber is depleted, and then having water spill everywhere across the counters. Trust me, I’ve done this too many times. The opposite has also happened, where I am unaware that the bottom chamber is dried up and then am met with a sad drip the next time I come get a sip of water.
Using the water filter has pushed me to develop a more continuous awareness of my levels of filtered water: if it’s empty and needs filling or if there’s still some left, in which case I should be wary of filling the top chamber to the brim. Each of us has our own internal water filter. When we are at peace, balanced, and joyful, then our lower chambers are full, and we have more than enough life-giving, delicious water to nourish ourselves and others.
In contrast, when our water levels are low, we have little left to give. What we end up giving is unfiltered water that feels corrosive, unpleasant. I know my water filter is low when I can’t give my loved ones the attention they need, when I can’t listen to a sentence without inserting my own opinions, when I don’t find joy from petting my cat. It is natural for us to get low on filtered water. After all, it must be given in each transaction of life. Water is the source of life and is meant to be shared.
If it is the case that our filtered water is meant to be used, then how do we refill it? There are two ways. The first is simple: refill the upper tank and then wait for it to filter through to the bottom chamber for dispensing. In this case, timing is crucial. We are often told about the importance of rejuvenating and recharging ourselves, but what often gets omitted is the time that this takes. Filtering enough water to fill a teacup may take 2 minutes, but filtering an entire chamber will take at least one hour. Think about it: How much time do you need to recharge after a stressful phone call? After a stressful day? After years of working a demanding job that has left you feeling burned out?
The trick with this method, therefore, is to be able to gauge how much water you have depleted, and then set aside time to replace that water, ideally with some regularity. Otherwise you may find yourself with an empty chamber when you, and possibly those in your life, are feeling very thirsty.
A second, and perhaps more involved way, to refill the tank is to improve the filtration system. In doing so, you can make the filtration rate faster, and so it takes less time to replenish your water. It is natural for the filters to accumulate some impurities over time, and they can be cleaned by scrubbing their surface with an abrasive pad. Our internal filters can be cleaned through practices that help make our minds and hearts less sticky. Then, when our minds and hearts are more calm and precise, they will be quicker to sort out the inevitable stickiness of life. This is a bit more involved than scrubbing them with a pad, but it is still worth doing.
One last way to have more filtered water is to simply to have a larger tank. While you can go out and purchase a bigger Berkey, it is harder to do that with your internal chambers. Rather than buying a bigger one, you must work to expand the capacity of your own filter. This will take time, but it is possible.
So how do you open up your heart? How do you live with more compassion? How do you dig your well deeper so that you have more to give? Overfill your tank. That’s right. Our human filters are different than the metal filters because it is not possible for them to overfill. Rather than spilling all over the counters, the chambers will just become deeper to accommodate the reserve. If you consistently have abundance in your heart, then your heart will grow bigger.
In the end, each person has their own practice to dig deeper. For some it might be prayer. For others, yoga, or dance. The path for me is meditation. My challenge to you, reader, as we enter this new year together, is to become more aware of your internal tanks. How full are you right now? How can you know when you are running low? How long does it take you to refill? What is your filter capacity?
My wish for you is that with enough practice and awareness, we can all live more hydrated and healthy lives.