A few years ago, there was a guy in my life. I won’t go into the boring (and ultimately irrelevant) details of what happened, but suffice to say he was not a good guy. It took me a while to realise that, though, as he had enough charm and wit to get under my skin, and also had the same effect on two close friends. He was quite manipulative and in the end, he had managed to play us all against each other, even resulting in a rift in our friendship. He didn’t care that he was hurting us; on the contrary, he actually seemed to get enjoyment from toying with our lives and emotions. We all worked in the same company so it was a very difficult time, with every day bringing new arguments and feelings of resentment, anger, and hurt. Even after I cut off contact with him, I couldn’t get the situation out of my mind. Every time I saw him in the office, strong feelings of bitterness and hatred would rise up, spoil my mood, and ruin my day.
The details of that story don’t really matter because the general situation is something we have all faced at one time or another. We all struggle with negative people. People who upset you, intentionally or otherwise. People who bring out the worst in you. People who infect your spirit with negative energy and bring you down.
It can be difficult to deal with these negative influences in your life. If someone hurts or annoys you, it can be hard to rise above those feelings of irritation, disappointment, or anger. And when you find yourself buried in those feelings, it can be a tough hill to climb to find your way back to peace and happiness, to remind yourself of all that is warm and positive, to be grateful for everything in your life.
It’s important to realise that no matter how justified your feelings may be, allowing yourself to be consumed by negative emotions has no positive impact. They don’t even affect the person you’re raging about, they only serve to bring YOU down.
By far a much more productive response would be one of compassion, forgiveness, and love. Even towards your worst enemy.
All this drama was happening at around the same time that I first started chanting nam myoho renge kyo and reading more about Buddhism, spirituality, and compassion. The idea of compassion, especially towards those who had wronged you, had been spinning around my head as it seemed so counter-intuitive at the time. But the more I thought about it the more it did kinda start to make some sense.
The next time I saw that guy, instead of allowing my mind to become clouded with red anger, as usual, I took a moment to really look at him. I watched him interacting and laughing with whoever he was with. I thought about how this person got such a kick out of hurting people. I wondered how he ended up that way. What must have happened in his life to result in him treating people like this? I realised that he must be hurting, on some level. Despite his casual attitude and easy laugh, I knew that deep down he must be suffering, and was lashing out at the world to either alleviate his own pain or to get some abstract revenge.
With this insight, I was soon able to look at him from a different perspective. I was able to shift my own feelings from bitterness and hatred to compassion towards him. Compassion for whatever had happened in his life to cause him to get his kicks from hurting people. Any suffering is worthy of a compassionate response, and that compassion I directed towards him also served me in the release of those harsh emotions that had been weighing me down. I was able to forgive him, to beam some loving energy his way, and then to move on with my day and life.
I am even grateful to have suffered this experience with him, as it ultimately led to this profound shift in my thinking.
The good news is that with regular spiritual practice and a bit of mindful attention to your own reactions, this kind of shift can come much more naturally for you too. You can get to a point where it doesn’t take quite so much effort to step back from your familiar feelings of anger and animosity and actively transmit feelings of love and compassion instead, and in doing so, release yourSelf from the weight of negativity.
Five Easy Steps
Chant nam myoho renge kyo – ideally every day, even better at the start and end of every day, but at least as often as you can manage.
Stop: When you notice yourself getting worked up, angry, anxious, upset by a person or even just the thought of them, just stop yourself for a moment. It can help to turn your attention to your breath, even just for 3 slow conscious breaths.
Think: Think about why this person has done what they’ve done. Ask yourself what else might be going on in their life that is causing them to behave this way. Open yourself to the possibility that they too are struggling or suffering in some way.
Shift: Remember that all suffering is worthy of compassion. Try to feel some empathy for whatever they might be going through. Summon a feeling of hope for them that they might overcome their issues and become better for it. Send some loving energy their way.
Release: Move on with your day. Get back to what you’re doing in the moment. Indulge in activities that make you feel light and happy. Smile!
Do you struggle to overcome negative energy in your life? Does this process help you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or join the discussion in the Happy Chanters Around The World Facebook group!