No one likes to be in a negative situation, but we don’t always get along with everyone all the time. Once, when we were with the Dalai Lama, he said to us, If we were together all the time we would quarrel!
However, if someone is being dismissive, fault-finding or disapproving and this is making us feel unworthy, insecure or lacking in self-esteem, then it may be because there’s a hook somewhere in us for that negativity to latch on too, a place where it can land that triggers all these hidden self-doubts.
For instance, imagine your mind is like a beautiful garden. If you let a pig in your garden you will have a hard time getting it out, as pigs really like tasty gardens! In the same way, negativity is like a pig that gets in your garden and causes havoc.
How can we get unhooked? Rather than adding fire to fire by being equally as negative, there is another way. Last week we shared the story of how Helen, who had a critical and negative boss, was able to turn the situation around by focusing on kind and caring thoughts toward both herself and her superior.
When we extend kindness toward ourselves as well as toward the person we are having a challenging time with, then an extraordinary thing begins to happen: the hook within us begins to dissolve. This means there is nowhere for the negativity to take hold or to land. By embracing ourselves with kindness, we are strengthening and reinforcing feelings of self-empowerment, worthiness, and personal value. Sending kindness to our adversary transforms them so they are able to release the conflict. It also acts like a shield so that any remaining negativity does not penetrate. It cannot land. You can learn how to do this in the Loving Kindness meditation, on the next page.
This is like turning compost into roses. Deb experienced this in a very personal way: “Many years ago, I was the administrator for an educational institute in Hawaii, and for some reason one of the teachers really had it in for me. No matter what I did, she disagreed and made me wrong. For administrative purposes, I had to be present at her classes and, quite subtly, she soon turned all the participants against me. I realized she was triggering childhood memories of being ignored or disregarded, as I would shrink into a small, ineffective place when I was around her. It then emerged that I was going to have to go with her and the class to a remote cabin on another island for a one-week wilderness program. Not my idea of fun! The only option I had was to focus on her during my kindness meditation practice, which I did every day for the few weeks before we left by holding her in a loving place within me.
“By the time we got to the cabin, her attitude had begun to subtly change and she was no longer making me the cause of everything that went wrong. Over the first few days, she changed even more, every so often acknowledging me, but by the end of the week she was actually including me along with everyone else, once even asking me for my opinion. The interesting thing was that she didn’t seem to notice that anything was different. The whole of the class changed with her. I was astonished to watch it happen. The only thing I had done differently was kindness meditation, through which the hook inside me that she had been hanging all her judgment on had dissolved. She had nowhere to put her negativity; instead, it sort of fell on the floor between us. Eventually, it just slunk away, unable to find a home.”