One of my friends is a lawyer in New York. He graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, got his license to practice, worked for a short time and then was laid off due to the failing economy.
I wanted to rescue him because I worried that like many lawyers in New York, he would be unemployed, would not be able to pay off his school loans and would not be able to maintain his apartment.
We worry, we obsess about the same things over and over again, we are anxious about things that never happen, we want more than we have, or something different from what we have, and we have expectations of ourselves and others that may never be met.
The mind is like a wild elephant that needs taming. If you have ever meditated and tried to quiet your mind, you will have experienced your thoughts as continuous and difficult to manage.
When we think negatively about ourselves and others, we do not experience the beauty and joy that can be found within ourselves and others.
A couple months after my friend was laid off, he met a colleague who offered him a job. All of my worrying was energy spent on something that never manifested.
Rather than worrying about my friend being unemployed, I could have thought positively about the situation. I could have thought about my friend’s strengths as a hard working, skilled lawyer.
I could have thought that the situation could actually end up to his benefit – he might find work he enjoys more than the work he was doing before he was laid off (which is what happened).
In meditation I practice working with my mind and I have experienced changing negative thoughts. First I become aware of my negative thoughts.
For example, I may notice that I am anticipating a negative outcome from working with a person with whom this has happened in the past, however, worrying about a situation in the future, when I do not know what the outcome will be, is wasted energy.
Rather than being concerned about working with the colleague, I could consider the positive qualities about the person and empathize with circumstances that might have made our interaction difficult for her.
She might have been experiencing personal or professional difficulties or have health issues or just see things differently.
When I think positively and with compassion, I am successful in clearing my mind of negative thoughts – it just takes awareness, mindfulness, understanding and compassion.