April 5, 2016

How to Look Past Negativity and See the Light in Others

When you live in a big metropolitan city like San Francisco with so much to do, it’s hard to whittle down a favorite pastime. One of my favorite activities is “Yoga on the Labyrinth” at Grace Cathedral on Tuesday nights.

Besides the yoga, led by witty teacher Darren Main, many other aspects delight the senses: the live music, the stunning gothic architecture and the energy from the community of more than 500 people who pack alongside the pews to get in a little “Namaste” during their busy week.


It’s a sanctuary for my soul.

Classes start with a little meet-and-greet with someone you don’t know. Then, there’s time to pause and reflect through a weekly message. One recent message was centered on creating peace around you – super appropriate for a wild, wacky and way out-of-control presidential contest our country is experiencing – I promise not to get all political on you.

Brother Jude Harmon gave a quick forward that resonated with me deeply. He asked us to be “instruments of peace,” to see the light in others.

“When I got here early, I saw some of you running up the hill to save your spot,” he said. “I saw the excitement and light in you.”

I couldn’t help but think about how children – often our greatest spiritual teachers – embody this light more than many adults. With wonderment, awe and sparkle in their eyes, they find joy in the simplest of things.

Last week, I witnessed two kids at different tables say hello to each other. They introduced themselves and started playing together – unabashed, no preconceived notions, no judgments. They were just being themselves in the present moment and having fun.

I wondered why more adults aren’t like this. When did so many of us lose this natural state of being?

I admit, it’s hard sometimes to see the light in those who are not pleasant. Some folks are downright negative and rude. I believe everyone is our teacher, here to share different experiences with us. Yes, that means good and bad experiences, too. I’ve been trying to practice this compassion and see the light in others this past year.


So how do we actually practice peace and be instruments that create harmony and community unity?

1. Shift your perspective: Recently, I was driving to a friend’s house when I encountered a very negative lady. I was about to make a left turn when a woman driving on the opposite direction sped up to make a right. It was my turn to go, but I saw that she was in a hurry. So I waved at her to go first. Red in the face, she started yelling expletives even though I had the right of way. Instead of letting her negativity ruin my day and raise my blood pressure, I shifted my perspective and thought, “Wow, something bad must’ve happened to her today or at some point in her life to be so angry.” I sent her love with a smile and wished her the best from my heart. My hope was that the light in her when she was younger would somehow find its way back.

2. It’s not about you: Most times someone who’s angry has had someone else do them wrong and they take on this negative attitude. Or they could be having a bad day. Try not to take it personally.

3. Acts of kindness: Everybody has the power to make someone else’s day. But what I realized is ultimately the giver is the recipient of the biggest gift: that tingly, good feeling of generosity. It also tends to have a domino effect. No matter who you are or how much you have in your bank account, you can change the energy of another person simply by being kind. Smile at someone randomly. Do something thoughtful for someone.

People say I have the gift of lifting people’s spirits and shifting their perspectives through communication/storytelling. Here’s one example of how I was able to help some friends in grief. I’d love to hear how you helped make someone’s day – Tweet/FB/Instagram me….

Two of my friends’ fathers passed away within the past couple of weeks. People who know me know I love telling stories and connecting with people, so I used my gift of communication and storytelling to spread kindness. I sent them this video I produced about dealing with grief. I interviewed a dear friend, Marianna Cacciatore, a grief expert who believes grief leads to generosity and love. There’s no better gift than the gift of your time and talents.

What can you do?

Onward and upward,
Toan

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