Negativity is like a virus. It infects and spreads, creating more of itself.
If you can’t free your voice, how do you expect to free your soul?
Working to cultivate joy is good for you and it’s good for the world. A natural by-product of cultivating joy is that it tends to spread to those around you. Lorne Lander refers to this as resonant empathy. We have a natural tendency to reflect the emotional energy that others project. If this language is too touchy-feely and woo-woo for you, hang tight while I couch it in different terms. There is empirical evidence at the cellular level that supports this idea. In the 1980s and ‘90s a group of Italian neurophysiologists (Rizzolati, Giacomo , Lacoboni and others) discovered mirror neurons in both non-human and human primates. (Don’t monkeys make everything sound more scientific and cool?) These brain cells respond to observing behavior as if the observer is the one performing the action. In other words, if I watch you make a frowny face my own frowny face neurons fire automatically.
Now, I am the child of Nanook the Barbarian and the Angry Russian, whose battles rage as fierce as their names imply. As you may expect given this lineage, I inherited a volatile temper. I tend to bottle my anger and flee the scene so it won’t explode on anyone in a violent outburst. Sometimes I fail miserably and spew caustic nonsense. Sometimes I keep it contained and the anger turns to resentment. Figuring out what to do with this surplus of negative energy has been an ongoing struggle. It may always be a challenge I have to deal with, but I think it’s worth finding peaceful solutions to the problem.
In yoga boot camp I learned a couple practices to deal with negative emotions. One practice is to replace the negative with its opposite on the emotional spectrum. If greed is a problem, practice generosity. Give more away than you hoard. If you find yourself depressed, work to cultivate joy. Replace the anger you have with peace. Pretty simple idea. Trickier to do.
Two other practices we learned are raja and nada yoga. Raja yoga is meditation and I’ve written about it elsewhere (Be Quiet, Be Still). Nada yoga pertains to the power of sound. I’m a bit obsessed with this topic. I’ve devoted over a decade to studying the production of sound and resonance as it pertains to speech development, production, and disorder from the perspective of American linguists and speech-language pathologists. Nada yoga breathed new life into this discipline. According to this belief system, everything in the cosmos is vibrating at some frequency. Even you. Pause a moment to think on that. It’s an amazing concept. There’s your own inner music, or anahata (can you catch the strains of your own personal tune?) and the vibrations that surrounds you (ahata). You can harness the energy of both through music, mantra, and chanting. If the terms mantra and chanting don’t work for you, then replace them with the metaphor that does. Mantra – what words do you repeat over and over to yourself? Are they protecting your mind from negative energy or creating more of it? Chanting – whose words and tune are you singing? Both will affect your mood. For example, if you’re feeling depressed then singing along to Reba McEntire’s For My Broken Heart may not do much to elevate you out of your funk. Try an inspirational or devotional song and make a joyful noise. I’ve found U-2’s Beautiful Day works wonders for me.
How to radiate joy? First be responsible for the energy you project. Cultivate joy and it will naturally bubble over.