Recently, I've noticed a pattern in those around me. I encounter situations where people assume the worst. About what? Anything and everything. BUT WHY? Is it conditioning? The good ole nature versus nurture argument. Is this a trait with which we are born OR are we taught to behave this way? Maybe a more important question is, how do we change this pattern of negative thinking?
We've all been burned one way or another and we all have insecurities that cause us to draft stories and scenarios in our heads, but does that mean every person we interact with has the intent to burn us? I believe 9.99999 times out of 10, people have GOOD intentions; however, let's take into consideration the standard deviation (for the sake of those who like to argue). This teeny tiny percentage will fall outside the good intention realm. My guess is the overwhelming majority of the time, people have good intentions that are either poorly executed or just misunderstood. How do I know that? Simple. I'm a human, and 9.99999 times out of 10 I have the BEST intentions; however, my good intentions are not always interpreted as good. So what can I do about it?
The inspiration for this blog came from Sutra 1.2 YOGAS CITTA VRTTI NIRODHAH (pages 3-6 in Sri Swami Satchidananda's translation, my description is adapted from his example - read it, it's great!). This Sutra describes the goal of yoga. This is really the only Sutra you need to practice yoga and I'll explain why. Chittam is the total of what's going on in your mind. There are different levels within chittam, the ego gives rise to the intellect, which you use to draw on your experiences in life, which leads to manas (which you may recognize from our Monday Manas Facebook posts) or the desiring part of the mind.
Satchidananda (pages 3-6) goes on to describe an example of these at play while he is sitting quietly in peace and a smell comes from the kitchen. The manas part of the brain notices the smell and the intellect attempts to discern the smell (it's cheese), the ego then attaches the smell to a memory of when he last enjoyed the cheese and ultimately, the memory causes him to leave his state of peace to enjoy cheese. The mind is unable to go back to peace and quiet until the desire for cheese is satiated. He offers other relevant and relatable examples that I recommend you read. This is the natural condition of the mind.
Let's consider another example. You go to the doctor for an annual physical and you have blood work done. A week later, you receive a message from your doctor's office asking you to call for the results. You play phone tag with the doctor for a week and each day that passes you begin to feel dread and worry. You believe something is wrong. You sit in the dark corners of your mind and start to contemplate the possibilities of what could be wrong. Each time you call and don't get the doctor, you feel a little more panicked. You tell your spouse, who might try to set you at ease, but you are unable to rest, or even sleep, because you have a 'feeling' that something is wrong. Then FINALLY after a week of this mental TORTURE you talk to the doctor. Her news? "Your cholesterol is so LOW. I wanted to call you personally and tell you what a good job you are doing with your diet!" Now, several reactions to the news come flooding in...whew, that's great, or perhaps you become MORE upset because you don't understand why a nurse didn't tell you that, why did it have to be the doctor?! Your ego exclaims, "THEY caused my STRESS and sleepless nights and nothing was even wrong?!" Is it THEIR fault that you were stressed out....or is it YOURS? I think you see where this is going...
Why do we assume the worst? The only person that can cause you to suffer is...YOU. Meditate on that for a moment. What if you always assumed the BEST possible outcome? How would that change your view of the world or other people? What would life look like if you assumed the phone call from the doctor was something positive? I know what all of you nay sayers are thinking...what happens when the news on the other end of the phone is bad? Well, my friends...it's going to happen (remember that standard deviation?). You will, at some point, get seemingly bad news and then what? If you are able to recognize this thought pattern by simply becoming aware, then do your best to avoid playing the worst possible scenarios in your head, you might just be a happier person. Even if you get bad news, you can still maintain a positive outlook.
What would the world look like if our first instinct was to assume the BEST? How many of you read this and thought I was directing this post at YOU? See what I mean? Take a step back, without over analyzing, and just assume the other person has GOOD intentions, and is TRYING to look out for you the only way they know how. Don't let your ego use past experiences to jade your view of the world, believe in humanity, and know that people love you and have your best interest at heart.
The practice of yoga is about creating awareness. YOGAS CITTA VRTTI NIRODHAH, the restraint of the modifications of the mind. This awareness will bleed over into many aspects of your life and bring you more peace, quiet, and love. Trust your heart, instead of your head. Give it a try!