Yesterday, we all woke up to the terrible news that someone had opened fire with an assault rifle in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 and injuring 53. It was a cold and windy day here and I was already inclined towards wrapping myself in a blanket and spending the day on the couch watching tv while nursing hot tea and high-carb snacks. I hadn’t intended to stay tuned into CNN and other news channels for the entire day, but that’s what I did. I watched and cried with the nation; both nations-Canada and the US; and probably most of the news-watching world.
And then when I came to my blog this morning, intending to look for old posts related to my book, The Seven Day Mental Diet, because I’m in the process of revising for the second edition, I came across this old post:
“Did you hear the news this morning? A gunman opened fire near the Empire State Building. Two people, including the shooter, were killed and eight were injured. And did you hear that Hurricane Isaac is bashing the Dominican Republic and heading for Florida? And did you hear about the murder and dismemberment case in Toronto this week?”
I went on to say:
“We are inundated with horror and bloodshed. It’s like we are living in a 3D horror movie. Full color (mainly blood-red) and screaming and sirens in Surround Sound. Is that where you want to live? Not me!”
I am on the Seven Day Mental Diet, which means that I cannot harbor negative thoughts for a full seven days. Negative thoughts come to me, but if I harbor them, allow them to stick around, I just start the seven days over again. Today, because I not only harbored negative thoughts yesterday, I wallowed in them, I am starting over.
Our world and our reality is composed of what we see and allow into our awareness. Unfortunately, with the 24/7 negativity we are being force-fed by the media and by the Internet, our reality can become one of unrelenting horror and negativity. It’s like we are seeing the world through a funhouse mirror—distorted. We can easily start to believe that killing and fraud and hate and cheating and stealing are the norm rather than the exception. Is that what you believe? If it is, then it will become your reality. That’s the nature of the universe and perception.
We don’t have to accept that. We can turn our attention to the good things that are happening. We can think about the over 600 people who lined up for hours to donate blood for the victims needing surgery. We can think of the brave people who rush toward the chaos to help, rather than running away. We hear of brave people like that every day but it’s hard sometimes to find those stories in the middle of the cesspool of negative news.
There are two important reasons to be more selective about what we focus on:
First of all, from the point of view of our own mental health, how can it be healthy to wallow in evil and violence? It’s like going down to a pond in the woods on a hot day. One pond is clear and clean and spring fed. One is an algae filled swamp that receives water from the nearby sewage plant. Which would you choose to swim in? Why do you choose to swim in the mental and emotional equivalent of that swamp every day?
Secondly, we must remember that our thoughts are energy and through that energy we are connected to every other thing in the universe. We have the power to send energy and affect the well-being of our fellow travellers in this life. It’s an awesome power and an awesome responsibility. At this time more than ever we need to be aware of that power and use it for good.
I am not suggesting that you clap your hands over your ears and start going ‘lalalalala’ to drown out any sound of negativity. We can’t cover ourselves in tin foil to reflect back the negative energy. The reality is that there are bad things happening. We just don’t have to allow them to take up residence in our minds.
It is impossible to eradicate a thought from your mind unless you fill the space with something else. If you say to yourself, “I won’t think about how awful it must have been to be in the nightclub when that man started shooting.” You are going to continue to think about that until you replace that thought with something else.
That is called the ‘Law of Substitution’. Your conscious mind can only focus on one thought at a time and you can make a deliberate decision to substitute one thought for another. The Law of Substitution allows you to crowd out negative thoughts by replacing them with a more positive thought.
So you can make a choice to think about the fact that most people are good and are rising up to oppose the bigots, racists and terrorists. That good can overcome evil. That the light can push away the darkness just as it does every morning when the sun rises.