“I’ve been challenged to go a whole week without complaint,” said a friend of mine, who also happens to be one of my teachers, a few weeks ago.
An entire week, with no griping, grumbling, pouting, pessimism, moaning, opposing or fretting. No boo-hoo-hooing. All the cheese, none of the whine.
This, I thought, should be easy. Especially for her, because, she’s a yoga teacher, and so smart, and wise and motivating and kind so how could that possibly be hard for her? I mean, c’mon, she’s like, a real life spiritual gangster.
And then I thought about it.
She’s also human. She’s a real person, with real thoughts and emotions and patterns just like you have and do, and just like I have and do.
And, me? Well I’m also a yoga teacher, and sometimes I’m smart and wise and kind, and all that jazz and I’m just as emotionally complex as anyone else is inside; it just shows up uniquely in and for each of us.
We’re all working on our stuff, just at different places and in different spaces.
But the complaining, now that, that is something we all do. We are quite good at it, actually. We have television shows centered around dissatisfaction and millions of viewers who tune in every week to whine with them. Musicians make billions by broadcasting their troubles over the mic. There exist entire websites devoted to complaining and confessional boards to one-up anonymous belly-achers. Social media is flooded with querulous snarky remarks, with some estimates suggesting nearly three-quarters of live feed is some degree of protest.
We have created a culture of complaint; seeking the fault over the good, exposing the inadequacy before highlighting the abundance, making the shortcomings more noticeable than the successes.
This is toxic. It invites illness into our lives, begs the universe for more negative energy and sends out a massive, resounding, collective “nope” to our present and future happiness.
Complaint feeds the wrong wolf.
How to shift it? Replace it with gratitude, one action, thought and habit at a time.
We will never master the art of non complaint fully; it is a practice, and a daily one. At no point are we likely to be so full of light and grace and love that we burst into spontaneous enlightenment; perfection is not the goal, contentment is.
In working to take my own brain out of heat-seeking missile mode and into a softer and quieter headspace, I’m focusing on doing these few things:
- Look for and at solutions, not problems.
- Say five nice things about a person or a situation before saying a single negative thing.
- Give more compliments in a day than criticisms.
- Lead with love; choose to see the person or situation from a place of compassion, not judgement.
- Gratitude Binge before each meal. This means, saying or writing a list of all the things for which I am grateful in that moment.
- When things don’t go right, go left with a smile not a frown.
- Listen for the lesson, because I can’t hear and speak at the same time.
- Share it. Positivity is contagious.
This is the beginning for me, a first step in the effort to permanently turn off the cranky auto-pilot that steers my ship when I’m not paying attention. It’s time to clean up the space between my ears again, because, as another teacher of mine would suggest, the possibility that lies on the other side is freedom and happiness, and who doesn’t want that?
Author: Michelle Sweezey
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Celestine Chua