How To Be Happy, When The News Is Not

We woke to the news of another senseless mass shooting today. And not just a shooting, but the deadliest shooting in US history. Horrific, unthinkable, unjustifiable tragedy.

From shootings, to hurricanes, to inflammatory politics, we can’t escape negativity these days, and it’s taking a toll on our collective psyche. So many people are hurting, and it’s hard to know how to begin to help. It’s also hard to turn our attention away from the bad news.

Some people can acknowledge and process these tragedies in a healthy manner, but for others this negative cycle can have a significant impact, making us feel stuck, depressed, and hopeless. If the news of the day is overwhelming you, here’s how to break the negativity cycle:

  • Mind your mind. The human mind is like a monkey–always busy, and looking for ways to get us in trouble, rarely focused on the task at hand. Notice how often your thoughts shift to the past or present, and think more about what is happening in the moment, than anything else. Remember that the present is the only thing you can control. When the mind wanders, think “be here now.”
  • Sort your thoughts. Just like you sort laundry, (whites with whites, and colors with colors), you can also sort your thoughts. Which are helping you? Which are not? Make the line between the two more obvious. Notice that all thoughts are either painful (and disempowering), or painless (and empowering). Work on fueling the empowering thoughts, and pushing aside anything that might disempower you.
  • Recognize repetitive patterns, and break them. Our mind repeats the same messages over and over again. In some cases this is good–affirming thoughts foster confidence and hope. However, when negativity rules our thoughts, it can create self-sabotaging habits that are hard to break. Get really honest about your thought habits, and get rid of the ones that drag you down.
  • Don’t believe everything you think. The ego rules the mind and convinces us that we are right, and everyone else is wrong. That our perception of reality is the ONLY reality. And it’s just not true. Nothing in life is that cut and dry, and no one is right 100% of the time. Remind yourself that no matter what it seems, you don’t have all the facts. Give yourself, and others, a lot of grace, by recognizing that not everything you think is founded in truth.
  • Trust the struggles. Challenges are an essential part of life, and trying to fight them only makes us more unhappy. We have a choice in every moment to embrace reality, or deny it all together. When life doesn’t happen on your terms, instead of getting angry or denying it, tell yourself “it is what it is.” And then figure out what you can do to make it better, and go do that.
  • Ask a different question. Instead of asking “Will it ever get better?” ask “What can I you can do to make the world a better place?” And don’t discount your answer. We might not be able to directly change every bad situation in the world, but we can always do something to make a difference in someone’s life. Remember that every small act of kindness adds up like the drops of water in the ocean. The more positive effort you put forth, the better the world will be. No act is too small…so go do something to make the world a better place.
  • Remember that nothing is forever. Everything is always changing, which is good news, when we watch the world struggling. Todays news will be tomorrow’s history. Life will not always be this way, so get to work to do your part. Take it one breath, one moment, at a time. Affect what you can change, and use your talents to help others, one random act of kindness at a time.

Should we keep watching the news? Yes, of course. It’s important to stay informed. But don’t let it consume you. Know your limits and control your thoughts, so you can use your energy for uplifting and inspiring work, helping to make the world a better place, and enjoying the happiness you deserve.

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We Are All Connected

HBO has a new ad running on social media that looks to be a plug for the network, but also feels a bit like a political statement, borrowed from the ancient yogic texts.

The ad reads “It’s What Connects Us.” The video that accompanies the ad portrays a variety of HBO actors and actresses saying “ah”, one at a time, until they all slowly melt together. Together their voices create the familiar tone that accompanies the HBO logo at the start of all of their programs.

It’s an absolutely brilliant use of one of the great teachings of yoga: “we are all connected”. This theme is found throughout ancient yoga texts from Yoga Sutras to Bhagavad Gita. There is so much about this idea in yoga, but the ad specifically reminds me that the sound “om”, or “aum” as it is traditionally written, is believed to be the sound of the universe working together. HBO is missing two of the syllables–it is actually pronounced “ah-oh-m”, in three syllables, but still, the meaning is similar.

When we chant “aum” in community, the result is much like the sound we would hear if flying high above the earth, listening to all beings at work and play. The constant buzz of people milling about their days creates a beautiful and meaningful vibration. It confirms that every life has a unique and important purpose.

It’s interesting to note, also, that the three syllables in “aum” each have a meaning–the A stands for creation, U stands for preservation, and M stands for dissolution. The entire life cycle in one word!

I love how this ad demonstrates the importance of perspective to recognize connection. We all need to take a step back once in a while. right?! Although each individual “ah” in the video is not particularly inspiring, as the faces blur and the voices blend, it makes a joyful noise.

Maybe you have noticed this in your yoga classes? Some classes offer three “aums”, and the first can sound cacophonous, but by the third, the sound is quite beautiful. This phenomenon occurs because we begin our chant alone, but quickly find our connection to each other through shared energy.

It’s a lot like life–so much of what we do each day can feel mundane, disconnected, and less than inspiring, especially if we do it alone. Taking a step back, however, we realize that we each have important work to do, and we begin to see that everything works together for higher purposes. Our responsibility is to stay on our unique path–yogis call this dharma–and trust the struggles, believing that everything that happens holds meaning.

Perhaps most importantly, HBO’s “It’s What Connects Us” ad reminds us that the idea of separation is an illusion. Our minds may tell us that we are alone, but the truth is that we are all connected, even if it sometimes does not seem that way. The high and the low, the good and the bad, the interesting and the boring, the beautiful and the ugly, all support the beautiful harmony of the universe. Just as the artist uses dark and light colors to define his work, the contrasts of life are necessary and beautiful forces for connection. Thank you, HBO, for this reminder.

 

Seek The Truth Relentlessly

MONDAY MANTRA: Seek the truth relentlessly.

We all have stories about who we are, and what we can or can’t do. We repeat the stories so often in our mind, that we start to believe that they are the ultimate truth. I’m not strong enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, and so on and so on. It’s an endless cycle, and the more we repeat the story, the more it sticks to our perception of who we are.

Until we recognize that the stories in our minds are limiting, and self-imposed, we can never realize our full potential. The only way to become who we are intended to be, is to examine the story, and get rid of the parts that don’t serve us.

What are your stories? Which are founded in reality, and which are not? Don’t let the story stand between you and what you might become. Seek the truth relentlessly, and do what must be done to be happy, even if it seems impossible. We are all capable of so much more than we know. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and believe that what you want most is waiting for you, on the other side of the truth. ॐ

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Change The Story

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MONDAY MANTRA: Change the story.

In yoga, one of the highest values is satya (truthfulness). The concept of satya is far-reaching; it teaches us to honest with ourselves, as much as we are honest with others. It also encourages us to seek the truth in every situation, and recognize that sometimes the things that feel like a burden, are actually our greatest opportunities for happiness. What we want most is often waiting for us on the other side of the work we avoid.

Try practicing satya the next time you find yourself resisting the thing you know you need the most. Whether it is your yoga practice, work that is cumbersome, or a relationship that is difficult. Ask yourself if it is truly negative, or could there be a beautiful opportunity for growth in the very thing you are trying to avoid? Surrender to the truth, and make the choice that best supports your long-term happiness.