For the longest time, I don’t remember being plagued by negative thoughts for extended periods. As a child you are generally full of joy and not holding grudges against anyone.
However, come teenage, and I suddenly discovered jealousy. It was an evil feeling of wanting something I didn’t have, and sort of being angry with that person for having it. It was a new emotion and I was surprised that I felt it. There was this girl in my class who was pretty and popular, had liberal parents, and who seemed to have a lot of fun while getting good grades. Fortunately the jealousy lasted only a little while because things were going right in my life too. (Or I like to think of it that way).
During that phase and slightly later in life, I disagreed with my Mom and Dad on number of things but prolonged negativity didn’t exist. I cried and fought with them to get my way, thinking they were too retro etc. I loved them and there was no way I was going to think too many nasty thoughts about them.
Come mid 20s and a number of people who impacted my life negatively, entered. My boss, my PhD guide, and a few others were the target of my mostly peaceful mind till then.
The storm and power of negative thoughts that began at that time were too powerful and very enjoyable. I imagined the evil dying in my mind several times, had several acidic arguments in my head in which I was always the triumphant winner (irrespective of what happened in reality – most of the times I was the loser) and wished terrible things happen to them so that they move out of my life or understand my situation better.
My thoughts were safe in my head, and as long as I was not doing anything to them physically, I was not creating Karma right ? I had heard from someone that in Kali Yuga, God forgives all thoughts, it was only your physical actions that count.
I was kind in word and deed to people, infact I was soft-spoken and gentle and wouldn’t hurt an ant, but in thought, ha ha ha, I was Cruella DeVille.
And then Swamiji’s Book, A Million Thoughts happened. “All karma originate from thoughts. The subtlest and most powerful of the three karma is a mental karma. It leaves behind a longer trail, a form of psychic residue that I call an emotional imprint. It’s the hardest to erase”, said Swamiji. This kind of scared me. I was committing sin on a serious level, but I consoled myself saying, “I just have to still my mind, do kind acts and I am sorted”. Even then negativity continued its rampage. It was a very very hard habit to break, just like a long time smoker would find it extremely difficult to quit cold turkey. When I sat down for meditation, as Swamiji said, negative thoughts still overwhelmed me. Who was I kidding.
One particular time, some close friends and relatives suffered some unfortunate incidents, and my negativity peaked at that time. I asked God angry questions and cried much the same way I did with my parents many years ago. I wanted to stop all negative thoughts, just tired of them.
“When a thought emerges on the canvas of your mind, if you don’t drop it, its pursuit will either take the form of a desire or an emotion, positive or negative.” Another time, “you can’t control the incoming thought, but you can control how much you dwell on it.” “Shift Your Attention”, He said, like in the most recent blog. Those have been the most transformational words of my life.
I tried to identify the people who triggered negative emotions, and of course memories of what they did. Slowly I became aware of people whose very thought was a danger signal. There were many times I got on to the negativity train because the mind would innocently start on my interaction with X today, but quickly moved to what the person did 5 years ago or something. Slowly I realised what I was doing, and I just switched off when I thought of a “bad” person. There was no argument with them mentally like I did before, just no interaction with them. I could not help what I felt about them. They had done all those evil things and I still felt hurt. So Run, Anitha, Run I told myself. What is the need to dwell on them and create Karma. In real life too, when there is a negative conversation – gossip or confrontation – I just hit the escape button.
The good thing is that though I am thinking negative thoughts very less now, my mind still runs amok with other things when I am not watching it, like how I can modify my exercise, or what I will eat for dinner etc 😂. It will take time, but just as I was able to do reduce negative thoughts, I should be able to do something with the others. And that gives me hope for myself and for you too.