There are very few people who enjoy being sad. There are many less who will welcome its arrival. There are even fewer who will marvel at its perfection. Yet, with all those opposed to sadness, there is a great wealth to be found in learning to love the “negative”. And as today is the anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, there is no better teacher than the powerful and compassionate Mahatma Gandhi.
We tend to undervalue the role negativity plays in our lives. Negative experiences are truly only as negative as we make them. In fact, all emotions are only the product of the assigned value we attach to them. It is in our minds that we create the perception of good or bad.
We perceive what feels good and what feels bad by our decision to adhere to these declarations. This does not mean that a punch to the face feels any different from what it actually feels like. Instead, it reveals that the mind’s reaction to that feeling is what creates our judgment, our perception. Experience is placed on a human-emotional narrative; where judgment is made, creating a system of likes and dislikes.
And although the punch always feels like a punch, it does not need to invoke a negative response. Imagine getting punched in the face and feeling nothing but compassion for your assailant. Without doubt, the amount of emotional pain needed to make one person punch another is quite unbearable. This understanding paves a path to feeling an overwhelming sense of love in the midst of conflict. From this perspective, we can see how there is always a choice.
It is this concept that has driven the peaceful protests of millions across the world. Gandhi’s famous satyagraha, loosely translated as truth force, is based on the principle that universal truth rather than passive resistance will conquer opposition. In this regard, we can relate the idea of satyagraha to our personal lives. It is an inward pressure that accepts “negative” emotion and reacts with love. And although Gandhi’s movement had a very obvious and directed purpose, his philosophy of the force of the soul was that the opponent must not be attacked or ignored, but showered with compassion and patience.
Are we not all opposed to ourselves? A battle of the mind contra the heart. The positive versus the negative. There is a constant inner battle in each of us that assigns biased judgments, which labels emotions and feelings as something more than what they truly are. In applying this definition of satyagraha to our personal battle we use compassion and patience in dealing with all emotions. It is here that the secret nature of emotions is revealed.
All emotions serve but one purpose, and that is to experience. Life is one great, unfathomable experience, constantly unfolding and evolving. Our minds are our vehicles for transmitting and decoding experience. We choose to create a world of good and bad, but in the same breath with the same amount of energy, we can choose to see every experience as an expansion of our universal awareness. Be it ecstatic or terrible, enlightening or ignorant, every possible occurrence that takes place is solely manifested to show us the extent of our creative possibility.
Life is an ocean. When we choose to experience life sailing on the waves, out boat sails smoothly and also rocks violently. When we choose to experience life from the bottom of the ocean floor, the waves cannot leave their impression. Instead, in the calmness we are able to watch our boat rock without attachment. We are able to ascertain, experience, and enjoy everything without judgment. Action is revealed as experience—not better or worse than any other emotion.
And in this stripping of judgment and value, one can truly experience the beauty of all aspects of life.
We are here for our enjoyment.