As we enter the new year we can think of how we can move through life’s moments with a kinder attitude. For many of us this can be a different and challenging approach to life.
One way to begin is to ask ourselves one of these questions when we are interacting with someone: “What is the kind thing to do (or the kind thing to say)? How can I be kind? How would I want someone to treat me if our positions were reversed?”
My point in writing about this is to demonstrate how in many situations, we can create our own reality. Clearly things happen and have happened that are overwhelming and disastrous and often we have no control. There are people who have experienced tragedy upon tragedy who can barely survive. But for the purpose of this article, the most powerful reality for most of us is the reality we create with our thinking, our interpretations, and where we choose to pay attention. The point is, we have a choice. We can focus on negative interactions and feed that negativity or we can use those interactions as opportunities for insight, self-reflection and hopefully, as a catalyst for change. We cannot change others. We can change ourselves. How? By appreciating that we can change our attitude. That attitude influences the way we interpret others’ behaviors toward us. When we feel angry we can choose whether we stay angry. When we realize that feelings do not have to rule us, we better appreciate effective ways we can move through our emotional experience and find our own balance despite others’ actions.
We can watch our minds slide in a variety of directions as a result of a challenging interaction or an event or a memory. It is helpful to recognize how unnerving it can be to our entire system when we avoid our emotional responses. A friend recently mentioned that she could not understand her sudden overwhelming fatigue. She casually mentioned that her dad, who had been ill (and was quite old), had passed away two weeks earlier. Because she thought she was prepared to lose him, she never linked the way her body was trying to remind her of its need to slow down, to just “be” in the grief of the experience of such a recent loss. We can hold appreciation that someone we loved had a long life and was ready to die along with the sadness of that fact. Our body will guide us through if we listen to the messages it sends and avoid self-critical comments. They are not mutually exclusive. When we behave as if they are, we prevent ourselves from experiencing our full emotional response. And when we lose someone around a holiday, there seems to be even more of an emotional impact.
Each of us have experienced life’s losses and disappointments. Sometimes we focus on those instead of the blessings whether they are health, friendships, comforts. What we learn from spiritual teachers as well as from neuroscience, is that our minds have tremendous power to help us create and sustain equanimity and a sense of contentment and well-being. We can train ourselves to maintain a sense of openness in a world that can be filled with difficulty.
Whether we will be absorbed by the light or the dark is in many cases up to us. We have the ability to create our own peace or chaos. Our negativity is not our own. It contaminates and is often toxic and destructive to those around us. Conversely, our positivity can be curative and beneficial to those around us. The new year is often filled with resolutions about change. Transformation takes effort and focus as well as time. It requires exploration of our internal responses and a different way of looking at and experiencing the world. As we look forward to another year of the “same old same old” we may want to question what will be best for our overall wellbeing. Decide where we need to tweak. We can try kindness, compassion and love for ourselves…and others.