Are you the sort of person who lights up a room when you walk in, or when you walk out? ~ Robert Holden
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a tough evening of tennis partly because of the really strong wind. While we were still warming up for the match, one of my teammates arrived and declared immediately, “It’s gonna be a miserable night!” Later, when the match was about to begin, our team captain said, “Let’s have fun. Remember, they [our opposing team] get the same wind also.”
Same conditions, two different attitudes. If you were on our team that evening, who would you rather be around? Who do you think would normally light up the room when she walks in, vs. when she walks out?
In case it isn’t obvious, in talking about lighting up a room here, we aren’t talking about having striking good looks or an infectious smile. Rather, it’s about the energy we project, even if unknowingly. A person who lights up a room walking in is one who projects such good vibes—no matter what’s objectively going on—that others can’t help but are drawn to him/her. Conversely, someone who seems to have a perpetual dark cloud overhead is more likely to light up a room when s/he leaves.
To be someone who lights up a room walking in is neither for the sake of vanity or popularity, nor is it a call to paint a happy face on every situation and be indiscriminantly positive. Rather, in asking ourselves this question posed by Dr. Holden, we allow others’ reaction to us to mirror our consciousness. Are we aware of what’s going on within us to hold our own, regardless of what’s going on outside us? Can we choose not to be automatically sucked into the undercurrent of our brain’s negativity bias?
Be a Light, not Dampener
Having said the above, how do we cultivate our consciousness such that we become a light instead of a dampener? Let’s look at 5 practices.
Practice #1: Begin and end your day with Gratitude. Neuroscience research shows that we can literally rewire our brain’s negativity bias by developing new neural pathways. One way to do this is to be in active gratitude. Before you get swept up in the busyness of your day, make a gratitude list—e.g., 10 things for which you’re grateful. Anything goes; nothing is too small or insignificant. Do a similar practice at night before you go to sleep.
The idea is to infuse into your consciousness the practice of noticing what’s good in your life. This, in time, will shift you away from your natural human tendency to focus automatically on the negative.
Practice #2: Be an inner observer of your attitudes and thoughts. Make a point of pausing at some point each day to pay attention to how you’re reacting to what’s going on. Ask yourself what other perspectives there may be other than the one automatically populating your mind. If it’s less threatening to do so, practice it as a retrospective exercise. For instance, pick a stressful situation that occurred in the past, and ask yourself what other perspective(s) you may be able to bring to seeing this situation.
As you practice being an inner observer more and more, you’ll be able to shift your attitude more easily real time, on demand.
Practice #3: Be mindless. As much as it’s helpful to remember that you can choose your thoughts, it’s equally important to shift your mind to neutral on a regular basis. Adopt some kind of a meditation practice.
By meditation, don’t stress about how to do it “right.” You don’t need to sit on a meditation cushion in a lotus position. To some people, walking silently in nature is the greatest form of meditation. To others, tai chi, qigong, yoga and other forms of practice involving moving energy consciously through the body are great ways to quiet the mind and be present with the energy flow from one moment to the next.
By practicing being mindless, you’re more likely to catch yourself having thoughts that can be shifted.
Practice #4: Connect with Love. If you really think about it, every attitude, every action is rooted in either Love or fear—and/or their respective clans. Love’s family includes compassion, kindness, trust, generosity, graciousness, etc., while fear’s kin includes control, jealousy, indignation, vengeance, defensiveness, etc. It’s human to experience fear and to act from that place now and again. So, this isn’t meant to be an exercise of self-indictment.
However, we can practice consciously remembering and connecting to our core that’s Love—not our defensive personality we’ve adopted to survive. By doing so, we can cultivate an awareness that, at any given moment, regardless of the circumstances, we can choose to be kind, compassionate, accepting, etc.—often to ourselves first, if not to others as well.
When we nurture this awareness, we allow ourselves to be a presence of Love wherever we go. This Love is expressed through our demeanor, attitudes and behavior. With a consciousness of Love, we easily become a light in any room into which we walk.
Practice #5: Intend to be a positive influence. No matter our station in life, each of us has a circle of influence. We touch people’s lives every day in large and small ways. By setting an intention to be a positive influence in our circle, we shape the attitude we adopt at every choice point, along with the corresponding behavior.
Intention is a very powerful precursor to action. Whether or not any of the above 4 practices speaks to you, just by intending to be a positive influence, you become one.
A Call To Action: Be A Light
With all the above said, let me invite you to join me in being a light in this world—wherever you are. All you need to do is to start with the rooms into which you walk—whether all the time (including your family, workplace, community, etc.), sometimes, or only once in your lifetime.
What do you say? Would you also invite your friends and family to join in and be a light in the rooms into which they walk?
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