March 22, 2017

What an Elephant taught me about Negativity.

There are many reasons why I am drawn toward elephant journal.

One reason in particular is the fact that the Editor-in-Chief based its mission on Buddhism.

As an Indian, this intrigued me, as Guatama Buddha was born in India, but his teachings spread worldwide.

The day after my article “Behind every Feminist, there is a Chauvinist” was published on elephant journal, I was having my morning tea with biscuits while watching the morning news. In India, there is always a section where motivational stories are told.

On this day, the story  was “Gautama Buddha and an Elephant.” It brought a smile to my face, and I was reminded of elephant journal.

The story teaches how to deal with difficult people and surroundings:

Once, Gautama Buddha visited a new city with his students. The students wanted to leave the city as soon as they arrived there. They came running to their master complaining that the residents of the place were not polite, so they wanted to drop the idea of living there and move to a new place where they would be respected.

Smilingly, Gautama Buddha asked ,”Whom do you consider to be a noble person? Even if we leave our current ground there is no assurance that we would find better people in a new place. As saints it’s our duty to be noble.”

Student: “What is a noble person like?”

Buddha: A noble person is like an elephant.”

Student: “An elephant?”

Buddha: “In a battlefield, an elephant continuously moves forward disregarding the harmful arrows being shot at it. In the same way, we humans should also ignore the toxic people and their negative comments. A noble person is the one who can master the art of moving past the negativities of life.”

The students decided not to leave the place, and eventually settled down. Later, what they experienced was harmony and peace.

We all have been caught in difficult situations and have been surrounded by negative people and their mean comments.

Like the students of Gautama Buddha, the first thought that comes to our mind is to run away from negative surrounding in quest to find a better place. But, as rightly said: Negative people are present everywhere.

We encounter them on daily basis:

1) The energy drainers.

We always feel lethargic in their presence. They are the energy vampires—they feed on our positive energy. After draining out the positivity from our systems and the environment, they leave us feeling exhausted.

2) The jealous ones.

They never acknowledge our achievements. We feel uneasy around them. We feel better as soon as they leave the room. They have a volatile aura that screams, “I do not like you!”

3) The needy souls.

Their aura shouts “Help me, don’t leave me alone!” It is great to help ones in need, but we do not have to help the same people every time they need our assistance. To them, we are like a sponge they wish to hold and squeeze tight. In return, we soak up all of their insecurities and issues. We are expected to resolve them. If we fail, we feel guilty.

4) The tantrums throwers.

They have learnt over time and experience that if they need something to be done their way, they can throw a tantrum and others will succumb to their demand. Like a stubborn kid who does not get up from the floor until they get their favorite toy in the supermarket, they know the trick works, so they repeat it over and over again—even as grownups.

If we stick to two simple but strong approaches, we can keep the negativity at bay:

Act Rigid.

Negative people tend to be rigid. They expect us to give in to their tantrums and emotional blackmail. But, if we choose not to, they will stop. If we become more rigid, they will eventually will realize that their old patterns are not working. They will either look for another person for help, or will change their pattern. They will not waste their time and energy over something that is not working for them.

Say “no:”

This one little word does more wonders than we could ever hope for. It is mandatory to draw boundaries from the energy vampires. Usually, we don’t say “no” because we do not want to appear rude or uncaring. However, it’s not the big deal that we have made it into our minds. We our not doing ourselves or anyone else any good by continuing to say “yes.”

Drawing boundaries allows us to keep the negative energy away,  despite being surrounded by it.

More often than not, the typical advice given is to stay away from negative people. But practically, as Gautama Buddha says, we can not avoid them—they are present everywhere. Changing cities, finding a new workplace, or making a new social circle will not resolve it.

Choose to be the elephant, who in a battlefield of negativity, marches forward unaffected by the poisonous swords thrown in its direction.


Author: Preeti Singh

Image: Flickr/Sigi K ॐ

Editor: Deb Jarrett


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