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Yoga in Practice: Helping Negative People

by Paul Jerard

Do you know someone with a perennial dark cloud over his or her head? You're thinking: �I want to avoid negative people, not waste my time helping them out.� What if this person is a family member, or loved one, who has turned bitter for some reason? You care deeply for this person and want to help.

Helping people is an example of selfless service, without seeking a reward of any kind. We also know this as Karma Yoga. Mahatma Gandhi is a classic example of a Karma Yoga practitioner.

However, how many of us can be as kind, or as enlightened, as Mahatma Gandhi? You really don't have to; all you have to do is your personal best. Isn't this what Yoga, or �Unity,� is all about? We accept that we have limits in our Yoga practice, but we are persistent in our efforts to do better next time.

Some of the most negative people I have met - have everything, but they don't see the �field of diamonds� in their own backyard. Everything is always better somewhere else. No matter how much love they get, or how many possessions they acquire, they are never happy. Some of these people create their own environment and cannot see it. Through observation, you will notice that �money cannot buy happiness.� The saddest people on this earth are the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy. This is not a rule, and there are exceptions. Some of the extremely wealthy people practice Karma Yoga, by helping, and giving, to the less fortunate.

Jesus once said, �It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Why is this philosophy so close to Karma Yoga? There is a simple answer: We are obligated to help the less fortunate because it is morally right. This is a universal principle in every religion.

Helping the poor, and giving to the poor, will make the wealthy person sleep better at night. If you follow any religion, you will notice that there is a price to be paid in the next life, or in the after life, for gluttony. However, the price is being paid now, in this life, and on this earth.

How can I say this? The only people of great wealth who are happy are the givers. Those who do public service and help others have found a way to put their status and money to work for the common good.

As Andrew Carnegie once said, �Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.�

Selfishness, hoarding, and gluttony are hard to sleep with. Greed drives us insane, and over consumption causes grief. Helping others does not require money. Selfless service will help those in need just fine. Sometimes an encouraging word, a thank you, or a compliment, is worth more than money. This is because you showed recognition and gave a feeling that becomes self worth.

How many times do people hold back on giving thanks, praise, and mutual respect to others? No wonder the divorce rates are so high in some cultures. It is because no one wants to give, forgive, or try to understand anyone including their wife, husband, or family members.

No one wants to accept the blame for anything. Everything is the fault of some �wrong doer.' We are living in the new age of blame. How often do you hear about teachers and parents blamed for trying to do their job?

When you see someone change his or her attitude around for the best, it does restore your faith in humanity. If we cannot forgive, we become negative and hostile, too. Below is a formula for helping negative people, and you may learn a little more about Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga, (the path of devotion), in the process.

Smiling is contagious and puts the unhappy person �off guard.� Remember that negativity is also contagious, but smiling is an �equalizer.� It is very hard to get mad at a happy person. Think pleasant thoughts and do not let yourself come under the spell of gloom. It is easier for most of us to smile than to frown all the time.

Listen emphatically, but do not take problems that are not yours to heart. I know a person whose favorite saying is, �It's not my problem.� Always remember that you do not have to take on the problems of the world, on your shoulders, to be a good listener.

If you feel this person is dragging you down, give yourself a break. Just because you want to help - that doesn't mean you have to write a suicide pack with him or her. You have to know your own tolerance level for being around pessimism. Too much pessimism and negativity can have an adverse effect on anyone.

Look at �wartime behavior' as a prime example. People are scarred for life by atrocities, brutality, poverty, starvation, battle fatigue, constant fear, and imprisonment. This is a haven for negativity to flourish in. This is much like the mind-set of a pessimist.

You do not have to lecture, or criticize, to cause a change within a person, but you would be wise to teach him or her by your own example. This is truly stronger than any words. Some people refer to it as, �Walking the talk.� This is because talk is not enough.

Remember the saying, �Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.� You can always give away material, but what is more valuable than knowledge and acquired skills?

Education is the key to building positive attitudes. It allows us to learn Yoga, better our lives, and help others. You cannot help people by simply throwing money at them, and you cannot buy your way into heaven either.

Do not allow yourself to be compromised by negativity. Gently encourage him or her to attend a church, temple, mosque, ashram, or shrine for spiritual support. Praying, chanting, Japa, music, and singing, lift the spirits and make us all feel better. It does not matter which religion you are; the concept is universal.

Forgive offenses, but make it clear when there is an infringement on your rights. You do not have to be a �human pin cushion� in order to help another person. When you elect to help someone, at a time of need, you deserve mutual respect, at the very least. Never �play the fool� because this will not stop negativity.

Negative energy loves fools and wants to make fools of all of us. Sometimes you will have to make a firm stand and draw a line of acceptable behavior. If you always allow yourself to be abused by a negative person, you are feeding a �spoiled child.�

Become a loyal and trusted associate by keeping your integrity intact. When conversations turn negative, �spin them around,� and point out the �silver lining in every dark cloud.� Every �bad situation� can be a valuable lesson, if we choose to learn from it.

Lastly, remember the saying, �You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.� You cannot help someone who refuses to be helped. Also, know that negative energy is like the ocean; you can possibly save another from drowning, but you cannot afford to drown yourself in the process. If you drown in negative energy, all of the selfless help you could give will be for nothing.

Paul Jerard is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center, in North Providence, RI. He has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995. He is a master instructor of martial arts, with multiple Black Belts, four martial arts teaching credentials, and was recently inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He teaches Yoga, martial arts, and fitness to children, adults, and seniors in the greater Providence area. Recently he wrote: Is Running a Yoga Business Right for You? For Yoga students, who may be considering a new career as a Yoga teacher.