Indology - Nix the Hex
by Roozbeh Gazdar
It was almost prophetic. Here I was, researching an article on 'negativity', when I received a frantic call from home. The vacant flat owned by us, adjoining the one that is home to my family, had been broken into in broad daylight, the furniture thoroughly ransacked in an attempt to find something of value.
Rushing back, I was relieved to know that nothing had been stolen. But, slowly, furtively, a feeling of cold dread began to grow inside me. Today, it was an empty room, tomorrow it could be our home. The thieves, propelled by one failure would return while my mother was alone, the rest of us at work.
This feeling, though not overwhelming, continued to gnaw into me, making me anxious during the day, intruding into my rest at night. I felt vulnerable. Not only had my 'space' been invaded, I felt the incident had left behind a hole that bared open to the world something I had always treasured as private and inviolate. I brooded upon why 'our' house had been targeted by the thieves whom we hadn't harmed in any way, or probably did not even know. Life, I started to believe, wasn't quite fair.
Preoccupation with my worries prevented me from deciding on what to do next. Worse, it triggered off other trifling problems in my life. That is, till I began to see a connection between my evolving article and my life. Applying the advice that the people I spoke to - gurus, spiritual adepts and others - gave me, I examined my fears and shook off the paralysis that had gripped me. I was finally able to implement measures like installing a security grill and superior latches; more importantly, I now accepted what happened as part and parcel of urban living, not something to lose sleep over. What really brought about the change? Well, I managed to shift focus from the problem to the solution.
Just living and functioning in the world, is enough to ensure that we will always be subjected to various negative forces. Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Dayal Mirchandani explains, "Among the various ways in which it can come to us from those around us, is in the form of criticism. Then there are those given to voicing prophecies of doom, cynics who keep projecting disastrous outcomes. Other forms include deceit, passive aggression, backbiting, etc."
How do you deal with all this? Says Bangalore-based founder of Manasa, Krishnanandji, "A single thought or emotion is enough to work as our Achilles' heel, when negative energies invade us. Whenever we come into contact with people or go to places with such energies, we are affected by them. When this happens we have to disown it, reject it mentally. Remain aware, always, that we are pure and wholly positive by nature. This awareness has the strength to repel negativity. Purity has its own shield."
As the story goes, a man approached the Buddha and showered abuse upon him for having inspired his son to leave home and become a monk. The Buddha heard him unflinchingly, until finally, spent of words and anger, the man turned to leave. "Wait a minute," said the Buddha. "Take your gifts along." What gifts?" asked the baffled father. "Your words," said the Buddha. "I don't want them. Take them with you."
Spiritual adept and author of Journey within the Self, Deepa Kodikal, advises guarding against an emotional response. "Watch yourself for signs of rising anger such as stiffness in the body, shallow breathing and rising body temperature. Whenever you feel like reacting, watch this feeling. Simply by witnessing the emotions bubbling within yourself, you will put a space between you and an impending reaction. A duality will now be evident between your emotions and yourself. You will no longer associate with your emotions, which lose their grip on you and are rendered impotent."
Balance is the keyword, explains Hansaji, director of the Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Mumbai. "When faced with an unpleasant situation, resist the temptation of labeling it as negative or positive and blaming yourself or others. This will only color your perceptions and hamper your efficiency in assessing and dealing with the problem. Make a balanced assessment, and then plan a strategy to meet the demands of the situation."
The Buck Stops Here
What rankles, rightly so we think, is that more often than not the fault may not be ours. But is it really so? Says Kodikal, "A little introspection with honesty and depth might show you that the seed of the negativity directed at you, lies within your own self. Somewhere in the past, we ourselves may have given rise to such a present; we have started this."
It's a view integral to Indian spiritual philosophy: of why 'bad things happen to good people'. As astrologer Harsh Khiraiya explains, "The foundations of 'jyotish vidya' or Indian astrology is based on an understanding of the karmic law, that whatever you have done in your past, you repay in the future. Thus, bad times, accidents, calamities, indifferent health, are all because of past karmas."
Says Kodikal, "Introspection, followed by the acknowledgment of our own role in causing it, can help us deal with any situation in a responsible manner and prevent us from further setting off a chain reaction." We know the chain well: The husband, chided at work, relieves his bruised ego by yelling at the wife, who, in turn, thrashes the kid, who then promptly goes on to deliver a well-aimed kick at the family dog… where does it all end?
Explains Kodikal, "If we react to an affront, then the other party reacts and it goes on. But, it's important to know that karma is finite. By accepting onus for any ill will directed at us and choosing not to react, not only is the chain reaction permanently stalled, we also learn to remain calm and in control."
Courage and Creativity
But how does a person caught up in an enervating situation, tackle the odds facing him? Dr. Mirchandani recommends taking a breather. "In a trying situation, one often needs to take some time out. Spending a day away from the scene of the problem helps. If the family environment or work situation is particularly hostile, it makes sense to actively seek out other people who are more positive and spend time with them."
While this would help develop coping capacity, extreme conditions, he says, might require courageous decisions. "If the situation is really bad, it may become necessary for you to move out, quit your job, whatever. But it is important not to react in haste. Consider the situation in a balanced way, then take a decision, and act on it."
The good news is that difficulties often cause creativity to surface in the murky mire of life's problems. "Use all your courage, determination and will power to turn a situation in your favor. Make the process a learning experience. If you are dealing with people who are intent on pulling you down, for instance, you have to be especially creative in your approach," affirms Hansaji.
When Deepa Bhagwat, a college lecturer, reached a stalemate with the utter lack of respect and unruly behavior put up by a new batch of students, she was frustrated, her patience exhausted. On the verge of giving up, she tried one final time to get a grip on the situation. She understood two things: that the students were at an age when overbearing exuberance was natural and that as a teacher, she could turn it in her interest by channelizing their energy towards studies. She hit upon an idea. Abandoning boring lectures which seemed to make them restless, she evolved a more interactive method of teaching her students through practical problem solving, using examples from everyday living and rewarding participation. The method worked wonders as the class not only looked forward to classes, but even grades started improving!
Besides tact and diplomacy, Kodikal acknowledges the judicious use of humor to diffuse potentially explosive situations. "A calm, controlled, natural and sympathetic approach is actually a great strength and gives us the guidance to live life," she asserts.
How many of us have run up against at least some people whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make life difficult for us? "It is important to recognize that it is not you who is at fault, but that there are people who are just like that. It is important to learn the ability to witness objectively," advises Dr Mirchandani.
Krishnanandji advises empathy for one's aggressors. "Compassion and forgiveness have a double impact. They elevate and expand our being, thoughts and emotions. And they also transform the other person. Towards this end we should pro-actively send out positive healing virtues. Projecting love to a person who is directing negativity towards us, can help him positivise and live in peace," he maintains.
Kodikal too believes that wherever possible, we could make friends with the enemy. "When you are calm, not only can you keep your side clear, but it is in fact possible to help the other party. Extend a hand of friendship to the source of your negativity, saying, 'Whatever's happened has happened, now how do I make amends?' without necessarily seeming condescending or over-friendly."
A number of tools exist to support your war against the bothers of the world.
Dr. Mirchandani endorses meditation practices that help develop a witnessing ability, adding that hypnosis and NLP also help. Also, he says, pychotherapy or spiritual practice helps those who have suffered from adversity, to heal.
Astrology too has inbuilt safeguards to lessen the impact of life's stumbling blocks. Khiraiya explains how they work, "We humans are surrounded by vibrations as determined by our karmic destinies. Each person's vibrations react uniquely to the vibrations of other people and the environment around them.
"As the various planets too have vibrations, chanting mantras associated with the planets lessens the impact of the negative implications." Thus if you are going through depression, he suggests chanting to the moon, which is associated with emotional stability. Khiraiya also lists the niyams, fasts, penances, or acts of donation such as giving alms or feeding cows, on specific days to propitiate the planets. Finally he dwells on the nakshatras, which determine the auspicious times to begin or wind up important ventures, cement relationships and such.
Firm in Faith
Universally there is acknowledgement that the only surefire way to remain untouched by the sludge and slime of the world is to fortify one's faith through any desired form of spiritual practice. Krishnanandji upholds the power of meditation. "Meditating brings wisdom and strength, helping you deal with people and situations and heals the effect of any negative onslaught."
Kodikal explains how meditation, by helping you lose awareness of the inanities of life, raises your capacity to love. "The path of love, or bhakti, forms an armor that protects you against any evil. Besides faith - in a deity, a principle, a guru - can help you to overcome any arrows aimed at you," she says. Agrees Khiraiya, "The best guard against negativity is to be strong in your sadhana; any sadhana is good, as long as it confers a peaceful and calm mind."
Black Magic or Possession
Inner strength, Kodikal feels, protects one from the more devious of evil such as black magic or possession. "The moment you are superstitious and connect your hardships to someone else's handiwork, you play into the danger of being affected," she warns, adding that faith in a guru helps at a time like this.
Hansaji agrees that only the weak are taken advantage of. "But even here, the onus is on you. If you choose not to suffer, you won't. If you have faith in God, no black magic can hurt you. The lives of great saints are proof of this," she says.
Krishnanandji says, "As meditators, we can recognize the presence of spirits by our sharpened intuition and sensitivity. By linking us to the divine, meditating protects us by creating a protective shield of energy. My guru, Maharishi Amara, could speak to spirits, and they always respected his words. My guru helped them by guiding them to their next destinations."
Khiraiya says that it's important to determine whether your suffering is really due to a spells or such phenomena. "The best way to deal with it is to visit a Shiva temple on Mondays. Another way is to invoke Kali," he explains, revealing how a Parsi lady, acting upon his advice, took her daughter to the Babhulnath temple, in Mumbai, for five Mondays, and cured her depression. He also advises chanting the ratrisukht and exercising caution during new moon and on Kali Chaudas.
According to Dr Mirchandani, however, ultimately it boils down to one's faith. "Studies conducted seem to give very hollow evidence of such phenomena and suggest high level of culture specificity, affecting only those who are part of the culture holding such beliefs; those outside it were not affected," he explains. Referring to the 'nacebo' effect, he says, belief in a negative outcome is bound to manifest bad, just as faith in a placebo cures. "When people go to tantriks , I tell them instead to pray from their scriptures. Done with faith, it should work just as well," he insists.
Matter of Perception
So there you have it. Life is a complex phenomenon throwing up diverse and complex challenges, orchestrated by various causes and through different sources. It is our perceptions, formed on the basis of individual temperaments and accepted reference points, that determine the effect of negativity in our life.
For we have no way of controlling the events or people that make up the complex tapestry of our lives. Where we can exercise options is in our responses to them. One can take the easy way, giving in to the urge to retaliate or indulging in the paralyzing emotions of panic or self-pity; but it won't solve the problem.
Only by growing beyond our selves to take responsibility for what is our lot, and seeking creative solutions while remaining committed to the good of all, can we counter negative influxes and turn them into positive ones. Then, like the Midas touch, we can turn dross into gold.
When negative energies invade, simply reject them
Creatively turn negative situations in your favor
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