E-mail Print PDFThis is the time of the year when we in India celebrate the festival of lights called Diwali. It is one of the biggest Indian festivals and is traditionally celebrated with activities like, lighting rows of candles and diyas (earthen lamps) around individual homes, holding dazzling fireworks display and igniting colorful sparklers. 

The festival of lights gives a very strong message from age old Indian wisdom: you can't remove darkness from this world as it does not have its true identity. In fact, darkness is the absence of light which is the absolute.

Here is my personal experience with this philosophy:

Through the years, I have tried to manage my work and time effectively in order to keep my things organized. Much of my work involves viewing online Laughter yoga photos and videos that has resulted in an enormous collection of images that need to be routinely sorted.

A journalist friend once gave me a CD of 350 photographs that needed to be sorted through with my favorites selected. I began plodding through the photos, eliminating those that were of no use to me. It felt good to eliminate, to throw away things that would not serve my purpose; however, I found that after sorting for 30 minutes, only 50 photographs had been deleted and I felt as though I had been sorting forever. The task was becoming so time-consuming, it was stressing me out.

Suddenly, I had an idea – why not reverse the process? I would quickly run through the photos, pick out the good ones, and copy them into a folder. I whizzed through the remaining 300 photos in 15 minutes, then realized how inefficient and unwise it would have been had I continued to slowly delete photos. Hours of my life would have been lost, hours that could have been spent on more productive endeavors.

This experience inspired me to reflect on other parts of life. So much time is spent on trying to eliminate rubbish – a misleading process which may feel productive and good, when in fact, it is possible to get so involved in the cleaning process there is very little time left to recognize the many positive elements of life. The freedom, which could be enjoyed by focusing on the best things in life and its successes, is denied. Martin Seligman, in his book, “Authentic Happiness,” emphasizes that focusing on the problem and how to fix it should not be our priority. Rather, time should be spent enhancing the positive parts of ourselves.

In the early days of Laughter Clubs, I found myself criticizing laughter leaders for finding faults in their laughter exercises.  As a result, many laughter leaders got angry. When common sense kicked in, and I realized that the method was ineffective, just like deleting my photographs, I reversed the process. Instead of focusing on what was wrong with various laughter exercises and teaching styles, I started to look for what was good about the sessions I was observing and began appreciating those things profusely. It worked wonders and made everyone, myself included, happy.

This is the process I have now developed in life. For example, if I recognize that I am feeling jealous of someone, I find the reverse emotion - appreciation. When appreciation is cultivated, jealousy simply disappears! Focusing on the negative is time-consuming and produces ineffectual positive feedback; whereas, spending time cultivating the positive actually saves time and keeps spirits high.

An age-old wisdom from India reads, “you can never remove darkness from this world; the only way to remove the darkness is to light a lamp.”

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