By Venugopal Acharya (Vraja bihari dasa)

A few years ago, I went through a serious crisis. I’d been hearing bad rumours about someone I respected and was disturbed by the news. Moreover, my relationships with people I knew closely had soured. I was distressed and began to feel strong negative emotions engulfing my consciousness. I had a chance to meet my spiritual master, Radhanath Swami, during this time and I told him about my situation. He heard me out patiently and offered a simple solution, ‘Just be positive and you’ll be empowered beyond your ability.’ I contemplated this for a few days and wondered what it meant to be ‘positive’; the whole world talks about being positive and is Radhanath Swami’s formula the same or is it any different? I’d also been disappointed with the positivity formulas that are abundantly available in this world. I hoped as a spiritual leader he’d offer more insights into this. Besides, my services in leadership and management demanded dealing with abounding negativities. I wasn’t satisfied and sought more explanations.

A couple of days later, I had the chance to meet him again and humbly requested him to shed more light on being positive. His answer has changed my life. He said being positive has four ingredients and if we can constantly work towards centring these principles, our lives will change for the better.

Principle 1:

Accept the truth When certain situations take a turn for the worse, we may artificialy psyche ourselves up with false assurances that things are just as fine as ever. This is an immature and foolish response to the inevitable downturns of this world. When things or people change, denial makes the pain acute. We may offer a cosmetic smile and a gung-ho ‘all’s well’ pep talk to ourselves, but the seething pain will corrode us from within.  Accepting the unfortunate turn of events as an inevitable outcome beyond our puny control takes the steam off the potentially stressful situation. However simple it sounds, this is the most challenging of the four steps.

The strength to accept the bitter truths of life comes if we are anchored on the Absolute Truth, the Truth of God, and our sweet and loving relationship with Him. A culture of prayers and chanting of God’s names gives us the strength to accept disturbing events and be peaceful and sober even during the emotionally painful periods of our lives.

However bad the situation is, there’s always a silver lining. We need to look for the possible good outcome of an apparently tragic or negative event. W. Clement said, ‘There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it’s positive or negative.’ If we hope for a better future even in the middle of a hopeless mess, we are placing our tender hearts in the hands of benevolent God. He’ll then work wonders in our lives.

Principle 3:

Gratitude Our life is a constant flow of blessings. If we can simply thank God and other people for all the gifts that we are constantly getting, we’ll remain positive rather than get cynical.

Cynicism drains our vital energy; gratitude keeps our life simple, hearts purer and mind peaceful. As life treats us badly, we can focus on things that life has given us, although we may be undeserving of them. ‘I had no shoes and I complained until I met a man with no feet’ is a wise maxim and a sacred tool of a grateful leader.

Principle 4:

Appreciation Kind words of encouragement and sincere appreciation of others emit positive energy everywhere, especially to those who come in close contact with us. Appreciation creates a virtuous cycle of positivity; you sincerely appreciate others in your team or group. This makes them happy, positive and charged up, and in turn, injects in them the contagious quality of spreading positivity. Overall this builds a positive environment where one can lead a meaningful life centered on spiritual principles and integrity. The world is filled with people who check on others when they commit a mistake, but a spiritual leader focuses on the right things others do. He then fans the spark of goodness in others and sets it ablaze; people who are always encouraged and appreciated feel empowered to affect others’ lives positively. A few years ago I attended a program where friends and students appreciated Radhanath Swami for affecting their lives in a personal and positive way.

Later, when it was Radhanath swami’s turn to speak, he surprised all of us by speaking about each of the members present, recalling the minute details of their wonderful qualities. He vividly recalled incidents and exchanges that took place over twenty-five years ago—he even mentioned those who had cooked dosas and idlis for him. While driving back, I expressed my amazement at his incredible memory.

His answer humbled and inspired me. ‘These special souls have done so many services over the years. And if I don’t remember their love, sacrifice, and affection, my life is condemned,’ he said. It is adherence to these simple but sacred principles that help us connect to ourselves and others. That evening, my guru taught me that connection is easy; just be conscious and grateful to one and all.