A couple evenings after launching Should You Date Nate, I stood in my bedroom doing a brief standing meditation. Similar to a practice called zhan zhuang.
After a couple minutes, I sensed a peculiar, pleasant energy flowing to me from all directions. And from many, many different sources. As if I were standing in the middle of a packed stadium, feeling the rumbling crowd resonate through the air to envelope me.
Suddenly, I found myself thinking, “So that’s what he meant.”
An old teacher of mine had said over and over, “Celebrate your critics and naysayers because they give you energy.”
I’m sure virtually everyone who heard that, assumed he meant critics can motivate and inspire you to prove them wrong, and keep you “on your toes” (a funny and mostly dysfunctional position for a grounded response, now that I consider the phrase).
He was pointing to something deeper. I know, because that night I had the visceral experience of what he actually meant.
I was curious to discover what inner healing and empowerment I’d experience. Already, some hate mail from my ad was flowing in. I knew the tsunami was warming up.
The campaign changed my perspective on talking shit about someone. Now, whenever I’m tempted to “know” the story of someone else, I stop to wonder if my assumptions are true. And if the information is true.
Another seed was planted in my mind, when a more recent teacher, Lama Tantrapa, taught me “Yi dao, chi dao.”
Where attention goes, energy flows.
That seed sprouted right before my official “get up” time one morning, a couple weeks ago.
Our society is addicted to talking shit. Most people take perverse pleasure in hurting others, so they can feel the effects of a brain hormone cocktail. However, some criticism is valid and helpful. Both for the object of your critique and, in the case of, say, a politician, a warning to others.
So how to tell the difference?
I came up with a useful rule to gauge.
Here goes. Before you criticize, ask yourself this:
“If writing, or even thinking about this person I want to criticize, gives them positive energy… would I still do it?”
If thinking about what an asshole that guy is, actually sends him a tiny blessing – straight from you – would you still devote your mental energy to it?
If gossiping about someone at work who you think is doing a terrible job, actually enriches her life in some small way – would you still say anything?
Changes your perspective, doesn’t it? And your priorities.
Even if you think the idea of transmitting any kind of energy through communication or thought or emotion is silly, consider this idea’s usefulness as a framework. It gives you a system to objectively measure whether to spend your time and effort to criticize someone.
This question is a polished mirror you can use, to see the value of what you’re doing.
You’ll see how pointless your thoughts are. Or even how they help foster the opposite of what you want.
But sometimes the answer will be different. When you ask: “If writing, or even thinking about this person I want to criticize, gives them positive energy… would I still do it?”
… you might decide yes. Because your criticisms might serve as a fair warning to others. If you’re a commentator with a platform, you can alert people to corrupt politicians, unethical businesses, or even lousy restaurants.
In these cases, the light you’re shining on them, might be worth the chance they receive some positive energy. That’s for your judgement.
However, you can now see – and perhaps experience in a tangible way – how useless and backwards virtually all criticism, gossip, and arguing truly is. Every comment on social media. All mindless chatter at work. Your thoughts about people you can’t stand.
What if you were secretly, and inadvertently, empowering all those people?
What if this triggered you to finally stop? Or at least direct your energies more diligently?
Yi dao, chi dao. Where is your attention going? Your energy?
I know I’m more careful. I’m learning to withstand other people sending me helpful vibes. And being more considerate of where to send mine.