Growing through Gratitude
We must have a positive state of mind when dealing with problems. Think: Is there anything positive about this situation I am in?
Being positive does not mean we neglect the negative. We must constructively deal with negative situations whilst simultaneously focusing on the positive.
Just like our tongue can be obsessed with something stuck in our teeth, our mind has a default setting to be obsessed about the negative.
Gratitude is a state of being that allows us to see the positive. It comes from realizing that there is good in the world, that some of that good is with us and that those good things are coming from an external reality. That state of consciousness imbibes us with positivity.
Even in times of difficulty and sorrow, we can feel inner strength, when we are grateful for the support of caring friends and family.
We must learn how to press pause and reflect on what we are grateful for. It is not good enough to say that we are too busy to be grateful.
If we do not press pause, how many beautiful moments of our life are we missing?
The ways to start practising gratitude are: to recognise the good that has been done unto us and say ‘thank you’; to remember the good and mean it; and to reciprocate through actions of giving back and live by the same values.
Gratitude is not merely an emotion; it is a way of life which can be learnt and practised. We must prioritize the time to practise gratitude, and one of the many ways to do it is by writing a gratitude log daily.
Some things in life are beyond our control. When we are in that situation, we feel overwhelmed as we try everything in our power to control it. But that is useless!
The founders of WhatsApp did not get jobs at Twitter and Facebook when they applied, which worked out in their favour in the future. Hence, what we see as bad at one point in time can turn out to be the best thing to happen to us.
Think: Is this in my control? If yes, you can do something about it. If no, then you cannot do anything about it. Therefore, in both circumstances, why worry?
We are not human beings having spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having human experiences. We are not this body; we are a spiritual being.
We need to understand the hierarchy of connections. Ultimately, we must connect to something above ourselves such as God. This can give us the power to spread happiness and joy around the world.
There are many ways to connect to God. We may have our own, which is great, and we should go deeper into it. One of the most effective methods that has worked really well is mantra meditation.
We must be sensitive with our words and actions. Being sensitive means to think about how the other person may feel before we say or do something.
How do we practise being sensitive? We must treat even inanimate objects with consideration and respect. If we do not, then the mentality of insensitivity may become a part of our general attitude.
One’s instinct or general attitude does not discriminate between things and people. Treating things badly can affect our attitude negatively, which may percolate into our relationships.
A Virtuous Vision
Seeing the best in people can be challenging at times, especially when we are in constant proximity to them.
We can perceive people in the following five ways:
- See only bad and magnify it.
- See good and bad, neglect the good and focus on the bad.
- See good and bad, and be neutral to both.
- See good and bad, choose to focus on the good and neglect the bad.
- See the good and magnify it.
The ideal state is the fourth stage, in which one’s relationships flourish.
Reaching the fourth stage takes consistent hard work and practice.
Saying things in anger damages our relationships. Hence, we should try to avoid doing so.
If we need to give corrective feedback, we should invest tonnes of praise and trust into a person before doing so.
Corrective feedback is an art. It has four principles. Ask yourself:
Am I the right person to give corrective feedback?
Do I have the right motive to give corrective feedback?
Do I know the right way to give corrective feedback?
Is it the right time?
The smooth implementation of these four principles takes time because giving corrective feedback insensitively has become an addictive habit for many.
Forgiveness is a deep and often obscure value to understand.
The principles we should know about forgiveness are:
- Look beyond the situation: If we are hurt by someone’s words, try to understand why they spoke them. When people act harshly towards us, most of the time they are suffering too. This is empathy.
- Separate the episode from the person: Rather than being affected by the emotion of guilt by saying, ‘I am wrong,’ or anger by saying, ‘You are wrong,’ we should separate the I or the You and deal with the wrong.
- Higher purpose: Can we forgive based on a higher principle?
- If chosen, this approach takes support and time and is not something that happens overnight.
- Justice: On a personal level, we can forgive the person who may have wronged us, but on a societal level, there should be strict justice to create an orderly society. No one should be able to break the law and get away with it in the name of forgiveness.
Our association is powerful: it can uplift us or bring us down.
General interactions are dealings meant to do the needful and are simply neutral.
Intimate dealings are built through the exchange of things, food, thoughts, values and belief systems. Our lifestyle is affected more by another person’s value systems than their habits.
There are two causes of unhealthy competition, being envious of someone or uncontrolled ambition.
We compete with people who have the same skills or outlook in life as us. When another person’s skills have no bearing on our life, we rarely feel threatened.
Competition is found in all spheres of life. Some examples include sports, business, politics and the workplace.
Healthy competition is about competing with ourselves rather than others to become a better version of ourselves.
There will always be workplace politics but we should learn how to manage it in a clean way
We should understand ourselves to know what is meaningful to us, and what we want to devote our time to. This can be done by understanding our purpose, which takes dedication and patience.
Discovering our purpose is exciting, just as opening a gift gives the feeling of anticipation and joy. Reaching our purpose in life is a journey, not an event.
The Japanese have a model called ikigai or a ‘reason to live’, which is composed of four traits we need to understand: What do we love? What are we good at? What does the world need? What can we be paid for?
If we are older and have not yet figured out our purpose, we can follow the principle: love what we have to do and do what we love to do.
Integrity and Character
Good character has the ability to change lives. It has to do with our actions, not our words.
The principles of developing character are:
- Vichaar: The life philosophy we follow. We must learn from it.
- Aachaar: The action based on that philosophy. We must do it.
- Prachaar: The good conduct that is displayed to the world through those actions. We must practise it.
What great men do, common men follow.
The philosophy of an ice cream is: Enjoy it before it melts.
The philosophy of a candle is: Give light to others before it melts.
In order to be happy, we should shift our attitude from being an ice cream to a candle, from being selfish to selfless. This is shown through service.
We must be wary of compassion fatigue. This means we must have all our wheels balanced as we try to help others. This is the principle of being selfishly selfless
On one level, we practise selflessness in helping our family. Our day-to-day sacrifices to maintain our family relations are acts of selflessness.
Our circle of selflessness should not end with our family. We should help those outside of our immediate care and affection too.
The Nation Narrative
When we expand the circle of selflessness, we can effectively serve our community and nation. This is shown by the heroic efforts of the soldiers who keep us safe, and the civil servants who help run our nations.
Service Brings Joy
In Sanskrit, service is called seva. Adding a spiritual element to our seva can make it more fulfilling. Based on our connection to God, we utilize our skills and potential to serve others.
From spiritual practice comes seva: ‘The true symptom of someone who is experiencing genuine love for God is that they experience compassion and pain for the suffering that people go through in this world.’
We have to do the right action, with the right intention and in the right mood for it to be classed as spiritual.