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Overcoming the negative

Source:, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Source:, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Raise your hand if you feel awash in uncertainty and negativity like I do so far this winter.

For some of us, the mid- or late-winter blahs have been compounded by a clutch of bad news from both near and far.

For me, there is the near demise of a close friend who seems unwilling to face his demons. Illnesses threatening people we love. Then a specter of distant wars uprooting hundred of thousands of innocents.

Regardless of how far we look, it can be pretty bleak. And as my wife reminds me, before we know it, we can also get sucked into that hole.

Yesterday’s full moon is widely called the “snow moon,” once a signature of hunger and other scarcity. From varied Native American traditions, we learn that February’s moon connoted an especially stark stretch. Hunting was often restricted by heavy snowfall and tribes huddled for warmth.

In a season of uncertainty, beware of a scarcity of heart

The Cherokee call it “bone moon,” since traditionally there was so little food that people ate bone marrow soup. Lakota call it “moon when the trees crack because of the cold,” while the Passamaquoddy note a time “when the spruce tips fall.”

Perhaps to quench their spiritual hunger, the Hopi, at least, consider it a moon of purification and renewal.

Another sense of purification, in the Arapaho understanding of this moon, is “frost sparkling in the sun.”

What can we glean from this? Even when the seasonal cycle is harshest or most dormant, we’re reminded that new growth is poised to stir if we’re prepared to take certain steps. To overcome a scarcity of heart.

While it may appear almost illogical to suggest this in the face of family crises, or intractable events from Flint to Damascus, we have to keep reminding ourselves. Where I live, the pussy willow outside our house is budding as usual, and crocuses have already poked out in the sunnier spots.

“Repetition is a sign that you need to change.” — Deepak Chopra

Another way to look at this is offered by the author Deepak Chopra. In an essay on overcoming negativity, he suggests that much of the problem is our tendency to repeat negative thoughts, our anxieties and fears. To overcome them, he suggests we must step back and create “viable strategies.”

“Repetition is a sign that you need to change,” Chopra wrote. ”A part of you is calling out to get your attention.”

(I wonder about applying this truism to the repeated, battering egos of presidential wannabees in this consumptive, absurdly long election spin cycle. But that is an overlaying negative for others to comment on. Resisting the temptation of being sucked into this vortex is tough.)

I won’t try to relate all of Chopra’s wisdow, which is available in this article. A few salient points include:

* Forming an action plan. “Write down the possible steps you can take that will be positive, achievable actions,” he suggests.

* Use mindfulness or self-awareness to forge “new grooves,” and step out of the old ones.

* Aim for lasting, higher satisfactions by “developing a vision of what your life is about.”

* Reinforce your successes. Chopra says negativity “acquires its power through repetition, being unconscious, judging yourself and focusing on setbacks.”

Alternately, positivity “gains its power by celebrating our successes, associating with people who are good role models, learning to be emotionally resilient, being objective about your situation and, above all else, acquiring self-awareness.”

Heady stuff for a doldrums’ day.

A stark reminder of what's wrong with the world -- and questioning why we would 'build more walls.' Syrian children rescued in the Aegean Sea off Turkey while trying to get to Greece in 2015. Photo: UGUR YILDIRIM/SABAH

A stark reminder of what’s wrong with the world — and questioning why we would ‘build more walls.’ Syrian children rescued in the Aegean Sea off Turkey while trying to get to Greece in 2015.

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