According to holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing… to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” To be depressed or disheartened by the political or economic climate doesn’t serve anyone in creating a better future. We can only use our imagination to conceive what is possible, and if that imagination is shrouded in negativity, we are not going to become enlightened with the possibilities that are available to us. Life happens and the way we experience it is our choice.
The famous ancient Indian discourse that was chronicled as the Bhagavad Gita, between the warrior prince, Arjuna, and his guide and charioteer, Lord Krsna, puts this into perspective. Just before the start of the climatic battle, the prince becomes filled with doubt on the battlefield realizing that his enemies are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers. Krsna counsels Arjuna beginning with the tenet that the soul is both eternal and immortal. He said that true enlightenment comes from growing beyond identifying as a vulnerable person waging war against the wrongs of this world. To be beyond it is to see the play of life objectively. When you see your actions and reactions responding as the interplay of opposites, you realise that ultimately nothing is true because everything keeps changing. This is when you are in the world but not of the world.
To regain our choice of attitude takes us to realize that the human experience is largely shaped within ourselves, and is expressed through our emotions. When we tune into the frenetic opinions of others we expose ourselves to their energy and belief systems. By nature we absorb energy from each other and as a consequence can become inundated with opposing opinions that feed inner turmoil. We may feel drawn to lively debates but feel exhausted from the cycles of negativity it perpetuates.
Just like a mother protects her young child from exposure to violent movies and offensive language, its good to practice an objective discernment of what we expose our precious mental states to. It is healthy to draw the line of self-discipline to say no to things that drain our energy. To limit media exposure is known to work wonders for mental health. Friends report the peace of mind and clarity that prevails from weeks away on a technology detox. To step out of the media rousing and opinion pull gives us breathing space to reassess what is important to us, and our families. To realign in our values, by getting back in touch with ourselves rather than be washed away on a current of unrest. Then we become more discerning about what we give our attention to and channel our energy more effectively. And from this place of quiet certitude we have the power to change the world.
Whether it be the best of times or the worst of times, still individual human beings can live with a sense of harmony within themselves. To choose one’s attitude takes awareness of the ways we identify as the ego self that rides the rise of emotions. Only when we are conscious to the way we perceive can we be free to choose the positive possibilities that are open to us.