Why do you feel weighed down and miserable when you hold negative thoughts?
And why do positive thoughts make you feel happy and light?
All thoughts are essentially energy, but negative thoughts feel dense and heavy, whereas positive thoughts feel weightless.
Here’s an example to explain why: If you were to wear a hat all day long, you would be relieved when you finally take it off. But you wear your head on your neck your entire life, yet you never feel tired of wearing it.
This is because your head is a part of you; it never becomes a burden to you. On the other hand, the hat is separate from you. It’s a strain to keep it on and it eventually feels like a burden.
Using the same logic, happy, positive thoughts are in synch with who you really are—the blissful, limitless soul. Happiness is your essential nature and it never becomes a burden to you. Read: True Happiness is inside–Really?
On the other hand, sorrow and negative thoughts are foreign to your true nature. And so, they are burdensome and depressing. When you get rid of them, you feel like a weight has been lifted off you.
Negative thoughts creep into your mind in spite of yourself. How can you gain mastery over this nasty recurring pattern?
Advice from the Yoga Sutras
The countermeasure is pointed out in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is an ancient yogic text containing about two hundred aphorisms (concise and powerful phrases) called sutras on the science of the mind and its control.
Patanjali, a great yogic master considered to be the “Father of Yoga,” delved deeply into the mysteries of the mind. He systematized and complied the findings of the ancient masters into these aphorisms.
Here is Patanjali’s remedy: When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of. (2.33)
In other words, to prevent our thoughts from going down the same negative channels, we should substitute them with opposing positive thoughts. This subdues the old tendencies and creates new channels of thought.
For instance, if there are thoughts of self-criticism or judgment, we can bring in thoughts of self-love and acceptance.
If there are thoughts of hatred towards someone, we can purposefully send them blessings and wish them well.
Singer and songwriter Willie Nelson says, Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you will start having positive results.
There really are no shortcuts to eliminate negative thoughts. They have to be diligently overcome with positive thoughts.
Supporting positive habits
Although the antidote is simple, it’s hard to implement. It requires constant vigilance, deep commitment and strong determination.
We can carve out positive channels with some supporting habits:
Prayer: Sincere prayer to God for help in overcoming negative thoughts and habits is a most powerful practice. On our own, we struggle to stay positive. But when we surrender in prayer, the divine power completely transforms our habits and eliminates our deeply entrenched negative channels.
Read inspirational or religious literature daily: This habit helps to lift us up and keeps our minds positive when we find ourselves giving in to fear and negativity.
Read about the lives of great people: Reading about how others have overcome the negative forces within and outside themselves gives us the strength and hope that we can do it too.
Be grateful: We can focus on the good in every situation or person. Gratitude attracts positive energy into our lives and instantly drowns out negativity.
Slow down and be mindful: We have a tendency to immediately believe and accept what the mind thinks, not pausing to question the truth or usefulness of our thoughts. Slowing down and being vigilant helps us catch those thoughts when they first creep up. This makes it easier to shift our focus to holding positive thoughts. Read: Devalue your thoughts
Training the mind to stay positive
Learning how to eliminate negative thoughts by substituting the mind with positive thoughts and habits is an important and rewarding practice.
Only we can control our own minds and thereby our own happiness.
After all, as spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle puts it, The primary cause for unhappiness is never your situation but your thoughts about it.
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How true, Manisha. As Swami Chinmayananda says, it is the texture of the mind that determines the suffering, not the incident itself. If we listen to our masters & practise their precepts, we would certainly come to a calm & happy mind. Wouldn’t you say?
Yes, absolutely true!! Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I too believe in the power of prayer and complete surrender to the Lord helps us overcome any kind of difficulty.Also acknowledging and thanking Him all the time.
Yes, Anita. Thanks for affirming the great strength and power of surrendering to God in prayer. I know from my own experience that some patterns of thinking and behaving are deeply embedded in me. If I have been able to sublimate one or two of them, then it has only been due to the power of sincere prayer.