Counteracting The Power of Negative Thinking with Prayer and Appreciation
A big part of life is learning to be curious about what its purpose is and how it works. Now scientists might agree with this statement, but they generally only accept a mechanistic, non-spiritual perspective. Those with a spiritual orientation to life study about and try to act on the fact that we are souls having a human experience. This view changes everything, as does our understanding about the dual purpose of the laws of the Universe. These two main purposes illustrate that we are given freedom from our Source (Shri Krishna for us Gaudiya Vaishnavas) to choose what is in our best spiritual interest, or to strive for temporary happiness based on the illusion that we are only physical bodies meant to struggle for existence.
Sounds good, but realization is another thing. Any spiritual process worth its salt will both educate people and help them realize these bare bone spiritual truths and more as well. Most paths in the spiritual market expound the impersonal conception of God or that the highest truth is “beyond personality” and is an impersonal, all-pervading energy or Light. Whereas the path of bhakti has an understanding that although this impersonal energy of God is indeed part of the Truth, it is only partial—there is more to understand. God is in fact the original Supreme Person, though this is not a limitation for him but part of his completeness. Anyway, that is for another discussion. The theme of this blog is not to debate the two sides—though I promote the personal perspective—but to indicate that there are many levels of spiritual understanding and also various truths that can enable us to live more happily and peacefully while we are in the world.
Anyway, for both classes of transcendentalists and people in general it is helpful to understand the workings of Nature from a spiritual perspective. For instance it is common knowledge in all types of spiritual circles that thoughts are things. Though they are subtle they are just as real as concrete, yet even more powerful. Everything that is manifest in physical form was first a thought—whether from primal Lord Vishnu calling for the creation, the mind of the “engineer” of the Universe, Lord Brahma, who puts together the planets, stars and varieties of material bodies, and on down to ourselves who are trying to manipulate the world, or create families and homes full of enjoyable stuff.
Intuitives can pick up on others thoughts and are well acquainted with this mental plane and it laws. On the gross level our thoughts translate into the lines on our face and our demeanor, either happy or sad. They also have the power to affect our life circumstances—they can make us healthy or ill, or cause us to see a situation as good or bad. Good or bad is a relative consideration and a question of perspective. Have you ever known two people doing the same kind of work who experience it very differently? According to our predominating attitude and the labels that we thus give life situation, we will see them accordingly. The same is true of how we see people—whether we like them or not, or mainly see their faults or virtues. We don’t often see objectively, but have our particular subjective perspective.
I have many personal experiences of this, but I will share one. My wife and I used to live near a Temple many years ago. This Temple always struggled with its leadership and the relationship between the Temple devotees and the congregation. I had been involved in the Temple management and found it very discouraging. It was difficult at best to please the congregation since there had been such a history of mismanagement and strained relationships. I experienced first hand being on the receiving end of criticism and I knew it was not healthy for those who criticized or those who were criticizing—a really lose, lose situation. However warranted the criticism, it wasn’t really helpful for anyone, and nothing really changed for the better.
Another way of speaking about this is in terms of negative thoughts (criticism) going to the Temple and then being returned to the community. Different kinds of thoughts carry different energy, either positive and beneficial or negative and harmful. I understood the metaphysical principle that what we focus on expands or increases in power, so I contemplated how to change the type of negative energy or criticism being exchanged.
What I eventually did was to create a devotee prayer group where we would pray for the Temple, its leaders, and for the congregation. Although admittedly the Temple situation didn’t change much (though if more people changed their thinking and focus it would have), our personal lives became enriched and more joyful. We found that by the simple act of praying for one another and the Temple and community, as well as chanting and reading together, we created true community amongst ourselves. We were no longer criticizing, but praying and sending appreciation to others.
Every Temple community should have such prayer groups. We have seen wonderful results come when all the members of individual families pray for the other members—husband and wife and their children—and for other devotees as well. In addition, regular appreciation given to each person for the things they do for the family and who they are as a person can work miracles in the lives of the family members. So often in families we loose sight of the great value our spouse and children have in our life and take them for granted. After all, haven’t we all heard that “familiarity breeds contempt”? To counteract this we have to both pray for one another and also offer them factual, sincere appreciation. Everyone needs this, and marriage, families and communities thrive on it.
Going back to what we spoke of earlier, prayer and appreciation are an example of changing our life by changing our focus or what we give our attention and energy to. Prayer and appreciation elevate one, whereas negative criticism and seeing and looking for the worst degrades one. We all have a choice and can decide we want to give power to. This in turn will determine the course of our life and whether we are happy or miserable or make spiritual progress or stagnate. Our spiritual quest includes understanding the subtle material laws which govern the world. From my experience, we avoid knowing about them at our peril. After all they are Krishna's laws and it is favorable for our spiritual life to take them into consideration! We are spiritual beings, yet we must still act through Krishna's material laws while we take shelter of him and his spiritual energy.