Making Lemons into Lemonade or How to Transform the Negative into Positive
With the increasing commercialism of the holiday season a valuable lesson at this time of year especially is to learn the art of transforming negativity to positivity. It doesn’t take much these days to cause tempers to flare, someone cutting you off in traffic, darting into a parking space just ahead of you even though you arrived first, long line-ups at gift wrapping counters, etc. Yes, as more and more South Asians participate in this wonderful time of the year called Christmas, the more they are learning about the less desireable gift of the season, Christmas stress. One of the most valuable lessons meditation has taught me is the art of transforming the negative into positive. So this week’s article is dedicated to how meditation allows us to change what life often offers us (lemons and sour grapes) into lemonade (happiness and sweetness).
It has been a deeply mind-calming experience realizing that innately I and every one else, at the core of their being is innately peaceful, positive, virtuous and powerful. It saves me so much time wondering about why people do what they do. The wonder of meditating on only that which is positive is that it provides one with the strength to see into the being and transcend the effect of the doing. When I lose my peace of mind, it feels as if all the good pieces of my mind are being lost, spiraling out of my control. The Seed of Anger is Peacelessness. It isn’t what people are doing that is causing you sorrow but it is not having the power of tolerance, letting go of the past, having forgiveness, not being able to see the postive and loss of faith that is allowing your past negative memories, habits, and feelings recorded on the hard drive of the subconscious that allows the actions of others (triggers) from my environment to upset me (push my buttons).
The Heart Game
There is a game I play with the students in my meditation classes which illustrates the power of seeing that which is positive. I ask them to write down some hobby or activity they like to do. E.g. I like to walk into nature and sit down and watch the sun set. I then ask one to share their activity and proceed to ask the rest of the class to begin listing all the virtues and specialties involved in that activity, e.g. love of peace, respect for nature, harmony, appreciation of one’s solitude, optimism and hope, etc (I usually stop the activity when they have reached 15-20 specialities. Invariably after repeating this with 4-5 volunteers they begin to see the pattern and the light bulb turns on that: There is so much of our positive nature merged into everything we do if we only took the time to see and appreciate that which is plainly before our eyes. However, when we become focused only on the doing, only on accomplishing, getting things done, manifesting and doing, then the being of everyone including my own self gets lost. Welcome to the world of Christmas stress. Remember our friend the hamster running around in his hamster wheel, faster and faster, getting nowhere faster and faster. The spirit of Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah and every other festival of lights celebration is about celebrating our common spirit of humanity, the light of peace, good will, love and respect that has been infused in each and every member of creation. As the seed (Creator) so the fruit (creation).
In the next part of the exercise I ask someone who smokes or has smoked to volunteer. I ask them to participate in a free word association experiment. I simply ask some questions and they just answer as quickly as possible without thinking whatever comes in the mind. So it goes something like this:
Q: Why do you smoke?
A: Because I like to.
Q: What is it that you like about smoking?
A: It makes me feel more calm.
Q: What does the feeling of calm allow you to experience?
A: It makes me feel relaxed, accepted, safe.
Q: And how does that make you feel?
A: Happy and peaceful.
In variably it usually takes about 3-4 rounds of questioning before we arrive and the answer in he form of one of our innate qualities (happiness or peace). So then the obvious is stated: I ask them one last question: Which one of you truly believes that by inserting a bunch of rolled up, carcinogenic tobacco leaves into your mouth, lighting it on fire and inhaling the smoke (yes, one has to inhale or there won’t be any sin. Ask Bill Clinton if there is any confusion about this) and this delightful experience is what you call peace and happiness? No wonder we usually imagine alien life as a superior race of beings. It must look quiet amusing from their vantage point to see us performing this ritual called smoking.
So what do we learn about ourselves and others? Conclusion: that underlying every dysfunctional, negative, harmful action is the desire to experience one’s own innate virtue. That behind all the doing is the deep desire to be. To be what? Peaceful and Happy. Why did you awaken this morning? Most of you would answer this by saying: to get to work on time, earn a livelihood, pay the bills, because I have to, to support my family, etc. but ultimately you do all of that to experience happiness. Unfortunately, the goal of happiness gets lost in the running around doing, doing, doing and pretty soon you are looking in the mirror and seeing a hamster staring back at you confused and tired. Never forget, that everything you do is for happiness. So if you really want an outcome of happiness and a life filled with happiness, planet the seed of being happy into every action, because only that which goes in, comes out. Happiness begets happiness.
In a nutshell: put more attention on your being and seeing the pure intentions of others and not their dysfunctional doing and you will return to being a “human being” instead of a “human doing” and you will miraculously see that hamster staring back at you in the mirror begin to smile again. To all of you from all of us please accept season’s greetings of love, good wishes and peace during you’re your holy day celebrations. Remember your mind does matter.