Question: I know that in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Pratipaksha Bhavana teaches us to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. I am living in a negative environment that I cannot change for a few months. Until I can move, what can I do to improve the situation and to improve my peace?Edit En

Answer: Don’t let that negative environment get into you. This morning somebody called me and asked that question. “I am living in a house next door to heavy music. This side of the house there is a lot of drumming and too much noise going on.  I don’t know what to do.” I told him, “Go quickly and get  some good earplugs, because you can’t stop them. It’s their house.”  That is their freedom to play.   And where is your freedom? If you don’t want to see something, close your eyes. If you don’t want to hear something, close your ears. The eyes don’t need a plug; you can simply close them, but the ears unfortunately need plugs. That’s what.  Protect yourself.

There are a lot of undesirable things happening around, but you don’t have to let them come in to you. That means you should have sense control. What is the Raja Yoga term for sense control? Pratyahara.  You should control your senses, and at the same time, if you can, put in positive thoughts. It’s as though the house is on fire. What would you want to do? Fire is negative. Water is positive: keep on pouring water. The same way with a negative thought, don’t even take it as negative, ignore it. At the same time, pour in loving thoughts,  positive thoughts. Don’t allow the negative thought to overcome you. The more you think of it, the more it will insist on bothering you. The only way is to ignore it by putting in positive thoughts. That’s where, for example, mantra japa comes in. When the negative thoughts try to penetrate, repeat your mantra loudly. The more it bothers you, the louder should be your repetition. Almost like, GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT. OM SHANTI, OM SHANTI, OM SHANTI. Use your mantra, any mantra, anything that will take you away from the negative thinking and make you comfortable. You have to strengthen your positive thoughts. If negative thoughts have some sort of particular strength, to clean them out you should pour in positive thoughts greater than the strength of the negative thoughts.

To give an example, take a well-polished, smooth surface of a table: you make a scratch. It becomes a negative scratch. If you want to erase the negative scratch what would you do? You shave the entire table below the depth of the scratch so the scratch will go away. To scratch it is simple, easy, but to undo it takes a lot of effort. That’s the power of negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can very quickly damage anything. But to undo them, you have to put in a lot of effort. That’s why in a prayer called Kavacham, you shield yourself. You put a shield around you by your prayer. That way the negative thoughts won’t come and bother you. That needs a lot of work, but you can achieve it if you are strong enough. You have to make yourself strong. So don’t blame the environment for that. You become strong so it doesn’t affect you. Imagine if the wind blows and the candle complains, “Oh it’s going to put me out.” What should we do? Simple: put a chimney around it so that the wind won’t bother it. Without a chimney, even a small wind can blow it out. So you can have that kind of protection, created by yourself.

Swami Satchidananda

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