How to deal with negative memories from past and anxiety about future – this is a huge topic regarding which I feel slightly incompetent to write, but based on whatever little I have gathered from wise people’s teachings and personal reflection, my suggested steps to do this are below:
- Use this master technique based on a great insight at the exact time when negative feelings start arising: Feel negative feelings (anger,sorrow, frustration, hopelessness, anxiety) without any thinking. One can feel without thinking, because feeling and thinking are two different processes. If you doubt this, just reflect over this – “Do we first feel headache or we first think that I have a headache?” , “Do we first feel hunger or we first think that I am feeling hunger?”. What happens when one feels without thinking - positive feelings (joy, peace, etc.) become stronger in absence of thinking and weaker when combined with thinking (when you feel peaceful or happy, try to continue that state of feelings without any thinking and you will find that your feelings of peace and happiness grow deeper and more intense in absence of any thinking process.); whereas negative feelings (anger,sorrow, frustration, hopelessness, anxiety), become weaker (and eventually vanishes completely) in absence of thinking and grow stronger when combined with corresponding thinking. For example, when one feels angry over something, if one adds corresponding negative thinking, then his/her angry feelings become stronger and stronger – everyone can notice this; the same holds true for all other negative feelings like sorrow, frustration, hopelessness, anxiety. Even when one tries to use positive auto-suggestion, it becomes more like repressing negative feelings particularly, when negative feelings are stronger – thus, this creates psychological problems in long run. But, if one can feel negative feelings without any thinking process in mind, those feelings will grow weaker and eventually will vanish completely (without any repression) within few seconds/minutes. So, now the technique - Whenever any negative feelings arise in the mind, say to yourself 3-4 times ‘Feel this anger/sorrow/frustration/hopelessness/anxiety without any thinking‘ and try to do that by paying attention to just feelings without using thinking process. To help this process of paying attention to just feelings without using thinking process, one may pay attention to the sensations caused by those feelings in the region of head, which are few inches inward from the middle of two eyebrows (Yoga calls this Agya/’Third Eye’ Centre). Keep on doing this till negative feelings vanish completely. When those feelings vanish completely, (say, heartfelt thanks to me :) – just kidding!) move on with your work. Do this whenever negative feelings arise within you. If this technique clicks you, then you will realize that this is the most efficient and fastest technique in yoga to deal with negative feelings. If this technique doesn’t click with you, here are some other techniques for you -
- Additional technique 1 – Focus on your breath, while keeping breath completely natural. Give yourself positive auto-suggestion with positive word chosen carefully as per the type of negative feelings. Some examples are - ”I forgive those who have hurt me.“; “I am very peaceful/happy/relaxed/positive/optimistic.” such that one short-word (a long word should be broken into multiple short-words to suit the time-period of natural incoming and outgoing breath. Like, “peaceful” word may be broken into two short-words “peace” and “ful”) is said with one incoming or outgoing breath (breathing should be 100% natural throughout the process). For example, when you inhale, say “I”, when exhale next say, “am”, when inhale again, say “very”, when exhale again, say “peace”, when inhale again, say “ful”; when exhale again, say “I”, when inhale again, say “am”, and so on. Keep on doing this for 5-10 minutes (or more if the negative feelings are much stronger) till you feel peaceful and positive again. The reason why this technique works is because, the mind’s negative feelings get neutralized through positivity and relaxation produced by positive auto-suggestion given in a manner, which is rhythmically linked with our natural breathing process.
- Additional technique 2 - To make the mind free from corresponding negative thinking, which just adds more fuel to the fire of negative feelings, ask yourself 3-4 times “What will be the next thought/imagination/talk in my mind?“ or “What will I think/imagine/talk next in my mind?“. If this technique clicks with you, your thinking process will stop for some time and you will experience thoughtless awareness. Some other thought might come after some time, in which case you repeat the same method to remove that thought also. The reason why this technique works is because the thinking process stops for some time when the mind encounters an unknown question or experiences something unknown, unexpected or unpredictable. And in absence of thinking, the negative feelings also vanish within few seconds. One common experience of everyone is – feeling the peace of thoughtless awareness, when one sees a new, beautiful painting/”natural scenery” or meets a friend after a long time. This happens due to above mentioned reason.
- Additional technique 3. If one watches/observes one’s thoughts in an emotionless manner (which is same as saying, without feeling positive emotions or negative emotions about them, i.e. without judging them good or bad, joyous or sorrowful, positive or negative.), they vanish, leading one to experience the peace of thoughtless awareness for next few moments. So, the technique is following – Whenever the negative feelings arise, say to yourself 3-4 times “Watch these thoughts emotionlessly.“/”Do emotionless watching/observation of these thoughts.” and try watch the thoughts in mind in a completely emotionless manner. If you do this properly, all thoughts will vanish and the mind will experience the peace of thoughtless awareness for next few seconds. After sometime, some other thoughts will come; in that case, repeat the above technique so that they also vanish. And keep on doing this for around 5-10 minutes (or even longer) till your mind becomes free from negative feelings. The reason why this technique works is – by making the mind thoughtless, the negative feelings also vanish soon, as explained in the beginning.
- Daily do yoga (particularly thoughtless awareness and breathing exercises – kapalbhati, nadi shodhana pranayama and Maha Bandha are most strongly recommended to readers) to store up peace and positivity in mind so that their cumulative effect is able to neutralize and help you in removing negative feelings arising in future. If you are wondering, how peace and positivity can be stored in mind, just think over this – “Can stress and negativity be stored in mind?” – definitely YES. Similarly, peace and positivity can also be stored in mind and yoga is very helpful in doing that, because it makes us experience thoughtless awareness, which is the highest state of peace and relaxation; balances our harmonal system (hormonal imbalances also cause stress and negativity) and helps in giving us a broad and positive outlook by increasing our consciousness level.
- Work very hard, taking care of every minute of your time – focusing on present task with full devotion will surely fulfill you despite negative past. Recognize that life is in present & not in dead past. Recognize that life always comes as present; what you know as past, also came as present to you and what you imagine as future, will also come as present to you. So, live and enjoy life in true sense by living in present.
- Recognize that future is more important than past; that past is in no one’s hand as it is already gone for ever, but future is in our hand. So, leave attachment to the negative past so that you can focus your attention to making future happy and bright.
- Recognize that every relation and every possession is temporary by nature. Everyone has to leave this world one day alone, with neither any relation nor any possession to accompany him/her. If that is the unchangeable reality of life, then why should we not use our life in a positive, joyous and creative way rather than keep on making life negative and sorrowful over loss of ‘by nature impermanent’ relations or possessions. So, please remove all attachment to negative past, so that you can enjoy your life and helps others in doing the same.
- People who hurt you, cannot be transformed by your hate or your hurting them due to reaction. In the worse case, do not interact with them, but never keep on scratching your old wounds by feeding feelings of hate, disgust and revenge. If you cannot forgive them, at least forgive yourself – don’t keep your mind continuously distressed and sorrowful by harboring negative feelings because by doing so, you are punishing yourself for someone else’s mistakes.
- Recognize the importance of a positive attitude. We can suffer from hell even amidst heavenly circumstances, if we have a negative attitude; likewise we can enjoy heaven even amidst hellish circumstances, if we have a positive attitude. The best approach towards past is to learn and move on. This applies to both negative as well as positive past, because by getting stuck to negative past, we loose our peace, happiness and positivity, thus making ourself both emotionally as well mentally crippled; likewise by getting stuck to positive past, we loose our inner drive and motivation for further self-improvement and success. So, learn from the past, both negative as well as positive past, and move on in life. And the best approach towards future is to recognize that future is always unknown for every person. One cannot predict with 100% accuracy even what one will do in next 1 hour. But, despite future being unknown, it is ultimately shaped by our own thinking and action. So, if we keep a negative attitude towards future, future will have more chance to actually become negative; likewise if we keep a positive attitude towards future, future will have more chance to actually become positive. So, always keep a positive attitude towards future, irrespective of past experiences and present circumstances – this is what wise people should do.
- Lead a life of selfless service - selflessly helping others will generate happiness in you and your life will take a new meaning and direction, away from your negative past and towards a fulfilling present and future.You know now, how painful it is being left hopeless and helpless. There are many people in this world, who are hopeless and helpless sometimes due to their own faults and sometimes due to outer circumstances. How nice it would be, if you would focus your attention on helping such people rather than on continuosuly feeling distressed yourself. You are fully needed by this world, as long as you can bring a little joy and peace to even one person for even few moments. Recognize the importance of your life and utilize it in selfless service to your fellow humans (and other beings). As per law of the world, what we give to others, is bound to come back to us. So, by giving others comfort, comfort is bound to come to us; by giving others peace, peace is bound to come to us; by giving others love, love is bound to come to us; by giving others joy, joy is bound to come to us.
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Best wishes & thanks,