Pulkit Sharma sheds light on our tendency to dwell on the darker side of life and proposes effective ways to overcome this habit
During our lifetime, there are several experiences—both, good and bad—that come our way. But our memory selectively tends to recall the disturbing moments in a more vivid and recurrent manner. As soon as a reminiscence of a disappointment, abandonment, or shame comes up, we lose our calm and sense of well-being. On the other hand, when our spirits are low, dwelling on good memories of success, happiness, and intimacy does not seem to uplift our mood. Normally, we don’t realise that this strong negative bias operates in our mind and makes us see everything in a darker light. However, if we wish to stay happy, we need to understand this tendency and figure out ways of working through it.
Of course, it is not easy to rewire our mind. Eventually, despite making an attempt, the negativity comes back to overpower us. Nonetheless, if we aspire with all our will and effort, change can happen. The starting point is to create an aspiration in our self. The aspiration is not just a mental decision but a call from our true self for a joyful existence. It permeates all layers of our being and seeks a reformation. We can make our aspiration stronger by repeatedly remembering and concentrating on it. Throughout the day and during the night, we must sincerely call on our aspiration to take the central position in our consciousness.
Just as we put multiple reminders in different places if we have an important task to finish, we could use the same technique to remind ourselves of the aspiration. For instance, we can put a screen saver on our laptop, a message in our car, and a small note at visible places in our house, that has our aspiration creatively written on it. By seeing this aspiration multiple times, we are more likely to remember and call upon it. When the aspiration has been reinforced, it stays in our consciousness all the time like a constant flame, resulting in our mind becoming malleable. Consequently, we can use the following methods to train it to let go of negativity and be happier.
Work through the negative
Often, while trying to be positive, people tend to suppress the negative feelings. Although, this may give a brief illusion of progress, the negative waits for an opportunity to strike back with a vengeance. The negative destroys the hard work done over weeks and months in a few seconds. Therefore, we should take care to never conceal our negativity. It should be observed carefully, understood perfectly, and reformed gradually.
The best way to do this is to make our aspiration a constant guide and place before it all our feelings, thoughts, needs, desires, and actions. Under all circumstances, we need to sincerely ask the flame of aspiration to enlighten us whether these mental contents are in line with it or not. If they support our aspiration, we must express and reinforce them, but if they run contrary to it, then we need to reject them consciously. We can also start a dialogue with our negative part and explain that its movements are self-destructive and sabotaging our greater good. We can motivate the undesirable part to transform itself by showing a visualisation of joy that we will feel when the consciousness grows. Another powerful way of transforming the adverse aspects is by candidly offering them to the Divine with a prayer that they should be converted into the positive. As we do this work rigorously, our darker side slowly gives up its resistance and starts surrendering to the higher influence.
Keep a gratitude journal
The next step is to develop a habit of keeping a gratitude journal. One can record everything good, whether big or small, that comes our way in the course of the day. As we write an entry every day, we begin noticing many positive aspects of life in general that we always took for granted.
There are family members and friends who have nurtured us through thick and thin, teachers who helped us evolve into a different being, animals who showered us with tender love, birds that enchanted us with celestial music, Mother Nature that has been nourishing us with all its treats every single day, and the Divine who has always been there for us.
The gratitude journal makes us realise that the world is filled with goodness. Another way of cultivating gratitude is to focus daily on any one thing that we use and imagine the effort that has gone into producing it. As we learn to focus on this eternal goodness that created and continues to sustain the world, the minor deprivations we encounter seem to be inconsequential. Then, the mind is constantly in a state of happiness.
Observe equanimity during loss
Whenever there is a loss in our life, whether big or small, we feel disturbed and crushed. We sink into a deep void and are unable to bounce back. What we do not realise is that loss has no real existence—it is just a psychological experience.
We have endless desires which, on being fulfilled, make us happy. But when any desire is thwarted, there comes intense grief. We are perpetually seeking more and more pleasure and wanting to avoid pain. This tendency makes us weak because we cannot deal with non-fulfilment. This psychological fragility makes us give up easily and sink into depression.
However, if we increase our frustration tolerance, we will be able to cope with loss. Whenever we confront loss, we need to realise that it is inevitable. Whatever comes into existence, is sustained for a while, but then comes a time when it withers away. Loss has an important role in the evolution of consciousness. It makes us realise the illusory nature of the world and its objects, and our obsession with pleasure and pain. It encourages us to seek that which is eternal. Therefore, if we can respond to loss with faith, surrender, and self-reflection, we will make tremendous progress.
Meditate on the Anahata chakra
In the middle of our chest is a centre of consciousness, known as the Anahata or Heart chakra. This is the seat of our emotions and it makes us experience both, positive and negative feelings. When someone’s Anahata chakra functions at a lower level of development, the person is prone to selfishness, rage, depression, and mood swings. But once developed to its optimum potential, the Anahata chakra fills the person with intense kindness, unconditional love, and eternal joy. In order to be happy under all circumstances, we need to develop this centre of consciousness and arrive at its pinnacle.
This can be done by practising a concentrative meditation on the Anahata chakra. In the initial stages, the meditation might prove to be very difficult due to internal blockage or resistance. Therefore, we should initially use a visualisation to open this centre of consciousness. The technique is to first sit in the meditation posture and learning to hold it for 30 minutes. When one is able to sit comfortably for the entire duration, the next step is to visualise a wheel spinning gently at the midpoint of the chest. Imagine that a soft white light is emanating from the centre and filling you with love, compassion, and forgiveness. With repeated practice, the chakra will open up and the wounds will be healed. Consequently, there will be freedom from all negative emotions.
We often search for happiness in the outside world, personal relationships, accomplishments, and possessions but get disillusioned. This happens because our approach is flawed. Happiness is within us all the time but in a dormant state. All that we need to do is to activate it. There is a lasting joy when we change our flawed perception, systematically work on the negative feelings, and develop our consciousness.
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