Almost anyone looking at what is reported in the news, I believe, would find much of it to be negative. After the barrage of political campaigns in the United States, the crises and wars going on in the Middle East, the tens of thousands of children starving and dying in Africa, the widespread economical recessions, drug and human trafficking, and much more, I think many of our world’s citizens wonder if we’ll ever regain our sanity let alone a sense of peace. The universal principle of “what you focus on tends to expand” appears to be forced toward the negative by the world’s political, religious, and business leaders, most of whom are male. Retaining or returning to our senses while affected by world matters, begs the question, “What do we focus on: the positive, the negative, or the reality?
Of course, concentrating on the positive aspects of life in daily living is skillful and beneficial. If we’re working on something difficult, keeping an upbeat result in mind gives us the extra energy we need to keep going. If we’re contemplating on creating a peaceful solution that involves people, optimism lets us see more deeply into the situation, opens the door of compassion, and draws others to us. Moreover, it awakens the basic goodness in us and inspires the cooperation of the people we work for, our colleagues and employees, as well as our friends and family. Awakening with a positive frame of mind in the morning, our day has the potential to be joyful. If we find that we need an extra push to get going, then just as Norman Cousins has said, “Laughter is a powerful way to tap positive emotions”. Just smiling at the dance in daily living changes one's emotions to the affirmative almost immediately. If one practices awakening with a smile, it may just change their life and their world that day. And one final note on the positive is that it presents the possibility of a clear state of mind that avoids ignoring what is harmful.
On the other hand, it’s no secret that directing our energy from a negative viewpoint in daily affairs is unskillful and destructive. Negativity unerringly picks a fight with whom or whatever is near, it destroys morale, and it polarizes working groups. Just look at the congress of the United States. Whatever rapport has been established in a team can easily be obliterated by cynical and pessimistic attitudes, breaking its will to be the best it can be. If there was a flow of initiative, it soon diminishes. For example, I once worked for a military commander who sucked the exceptional ability and will to work out of his subordinates. Everyone wanted to leave his employ but couldn’t. It was truly difficult to work there. The commander exemplified the statement by Lewis F. Korns, Thoughts, “One always looking for flaws leaves too little time for construction.” Truly, a negative state of mind not only harms others, it ignores the positive to the detriment of our inner being.
Other than focusing on the positive or the negative, we can choose to observe the reality in our everyday lives which is not only skillful and valuable but also all inclusive. Making such a choice involves looking at our thoughts and emotions as well as what’s going on around us in the here and now. According to Siddhartha Gautama, we can best use our minds not only for knowledge and remembrance but also to monitor what’s going on in the present without grasping to anything; thus, we don’t lose ourselves in the positive, the negative or the neutral, we stay alert and equanimous, two very powerful states of mind and exactly what we need to tend to daily affairs at all levels of society.
Moreover, being based in the reality of the here and now while cognizant of the past and future has a number of positive outcomes. Its quality of equanimity strengthens with practice. We find ourselves more capable of forging the depths of our inner resources, seeing deeply into complicated issues while showing wisdom and good common sense in our decision-making. More often than not we begin to take leadership roles, maintain our balance while looking at the negative, and employ people with both positive and negative views as a valuable resource in following our objectives to a positive outcome. And we find our ability to be patient with ourselves and others continuing to increase.
Examining the question of our focus not only permits a strong look at ourselves but also gives us a way to objectively scrutinize our world and its leaders. When we know the pros and cons of the ways of concentrating, making a decision on how we focus our energy lets us see the intended results from the basis of non-harming. Through this kind of work, we often see the inner behavioral patterns that sway us toward what we tend to focus on most in life—noticing that we frequently pick these directions unconsciously and reactively, and end up feeling as though our control has been ripped out of our hands. We feel groundless and often confused. According to Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart, if we practice mindfulness, we will learn generosity, compassion, and liberation from what hinders us in life. In conclusion, which way of focusing our minds do we and our leaders choose to guide our actions and decisions toward interior and exterior peace: the positive, the negative, or the reality? The answer is obvious, is it not?