How Does Your Environment Affect You?

by Nalinda Karunaratna on November 15, 2012

Elephant and the Monk

I recently listened to a talk given by venerable Ajahn Brahm, a famous Buddhist monk. In this talk there was an ancient Buddhist story. The story goes like this. Long time ago in India, there was a king and he had an elephant. This elephant was well behaved and was quite obedient.

After a few years, the elephant started behaving very strangely. He refused to obey anyone and  became a big problem for the king. The King decided to get rid of the elephant. But one of his wise minister stood up and said, that this sudden change of behavior is very strange and he would like to investigate the problem. King agreed and allowed him to investigate the problem for a few days.

Wise minister camped out next to the elephant’s hut and started observing the elephant. It was very late at night, when he heard a noise next to the elephant’s hut. He realized that it was a meeting place for a bunch of thieves. Every night they got together in this place to plan the robberies and to share the loot. Naturally, their language, discussions and the energy were quite harsh and negative. The wise minister realized that this affected the elephant and changed his behavior. Even though the elephant could not understand the human language he was affected by the vibe of this negative surrounding.

Following day the minister went to the king and told the story. Upon hearing this, the king invited the Buddhist monks to his palace and asked them to meditate and chant every evening next to the elephant’s hut. After a few weeks of this practice, the elephant’s behavior changed and he started behaving normally and started obeying orders again.

The essence of the story is that our environment plays a massive role in forming our character and behaviour. The problem we face is that most of the time we live unconsciously. This makes us no different than the elephant in the story. Our mind is wide open to any negative vibe or message to get in to our subconscious mind and alters our behaviour. Unlike the elephant, we have the power to choose – weather to let the outside world affect us or not. We can only use such a choice if we are conscious of our environment.

How could you be aware of these negative surroundings and free yourself from such environments?

– Pay close attention to what you read, newspapers, gossip articles, news sites etc. If you can, stop reading them, or be mindful of what you read. Do you really want to know about the murder took place in some city somewhere? Think about it. You can be selective of what you want to read rather than reading a newspaper from top to bottom.

– Stop watching so called reality TV programs. If you observe your mind  carefully while you watch these programs, you will understand how these shows affect your subconsciousness. If you can, stop watching TV completely. It may be a challenge for you initially, but it will be well worth the effort.

– Have a daily routine for meditation. Meditation calms your mind and gives you a space to be conscious during the day. If something negative tries to get in to your head, it can help you to catch it, rather than becoming a victim of an unconscious attack.

– Observe your mind. Whenever you remember ask the question from yourself, what am I thinking right now? How do I feel right now? Do I feel negative or positive? If you feel negative, try to change it with something positive. If you continue to practice these simple techniques, your life will change miraculously for the better.

What other things we can do it get rid of negative surroundings? Share your ideas in the comments section below

Image courtesy – h.koppdelaney

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