A little bit of positivity can go a long way. Here are four ways to stay positive in a negative world.
4 Ways to Stay Positive in a Negative World
A friend asked me: “How do you stay optimistic when the world seems to be going so badly?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself. How can I continue to believe in goodness, when there is so much evil in the world? How can I be happy when my friends are suffering? For two years I worked in Afghanistan, witnessing a seemingly endless parade of human suffering an injustice. One day I asked an Afghan colleague how he could keep believing things would improve, when the signs seemed so bad.
“What choice do I have?” he replied. “I don’t know what the future holds. So why not believe it will get better? It motivates me to keep working and makes my life bearable.” After the 9/11 attacks a young boy asked his grandfather what would happen to the world. The grandfather said there were two wolves fighting inside his heart. One was vengeful and full of anger, ready to strike out against the ‘enemy’. The other wolf was filled with love and belief in the basic goodness of all, ready to seek peace. The grandson asked, “Which wolf will win the fight?” His grandfather answered, “The one I choose to feed.”
In Afghanistan I was very aware of the two wolves in my heart. One was angry and defeated by endless suffering and violence, ready to give up. I didn’t want that wolf to win. But how do we feed the right wolf? Here are four ways to stay positive in a negative world.
Choose Where You Place Your Attention
One of the first things many of us do when we feel overwhelmed by bad news is to turn it off and there’s wisdom in this impulse. Choose carefully what you watch and listen, but don’t switch off completely. Find a news source you trust and stay aware. The world needs you to be aware.
Cultivate a Compassionate Heart
Allowing ourselves to be aware of suffering in the world, our community and ourselves is essential for cultivating compassion. By feeling the pain of others we grow in compassion and increase our capacity to feed the right wolf. One meditation practice designed to help open our hearts is simply to wish ourselves well and then extend that wish to others around us.
Train a Steady Mind
An open heart can leave us feeling unstable. We balance this by cultivating a steady mind. Meditation trains our mind to hold steady under the onslaught of disturbing images, thoughts and feelings, helping us maintain a sense of center when the world spins out of control. Meditation helps me keep my attention on what is happening now – a powerful tool when fears about the future threaten to overwhelm us.
Taking action to promote peace and justice is one of the best ways to respond to a world of pain. If you don’t know what to do, find someone already taking action and ask how you can help. And remember: cultivating compassion, peace and faith in our own hearts and minds is also an action.
Marianne Elliott is an acclaimed author, human rights advocate and yoga teacher who writes and teaches on creating, developing and sustaining real change in personal life, work and the world. She is the creator of the popular 30 Days of Yoga courses and author of Zen Under Fire, a memoir about doing good and being well in war-torn Afghanistan.(beliefnet.net)