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How to Deal with Disturbing News – A Message for Our Times from Deepak Chopra

How to Deal with Disturbing News Deepak Chopra

“When we turn a tragedy into an opportunity to contribute something positive to the world, we begin to offset the pain and start the healing process.”

Almost every day we are exposed to disturbing headlines. Many of the stories are gratuitous in nature – more gossip than “news.”

But in our post 9-11 world there are truly disturbing current events that can deeply impact our sense of inner peace and well-being.

I happened to see Dr. Deepak Chopra today on MSNBC addressing the terrible shooting in Tucson that resulted in a catastrophic injury to Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of several people including an innocent child.

I’d like to give you a link to the video of Dr. Chopra’s remarks but there doesn’t seem to be one available.  Instead I’ll summarize what I remember and add my own thoughts:

1. Become a neutral observer of your feelings…

Dr. Chopra says the highest level of human consciousness is the ability to witness oneself. Observe your fear, anger, or sadness.  Simply notice what you are feeling without trying to change it. This ability to take a step back in one’s own consciousness and observing your own feelings is the key to experiencing what Eckhart Tolle calls “the pain body” as separate from your core identity.  Yes, you have painful feelings, but your feelings are not who you are.  You are the field within which the feelings are arising. It also helps to “breathe through” the feelings.

2.  Remember a time you felt better…

Once you have allowed your negative feelings to just be there, gently turn your mind to a time when you felt a strong feeling of peace and well-being. It doesn’t have to be an important memory.  It could be as simple as thinking about how much you like the beach, or that certain Beatles song, or ice cream. Focus on feeling that good feeling as you connect to the memory.

Chopra says this human ability to remember and choose to connect to a different feeling is the second highest level of human consciousness. In my experience this is the most difficult part of the equation, but it is possible. The point isn’t to repress your bad feelings. It’s about allowing them to flow so that a better feeling can arise in the present moment. Small children are great at this – able to giggle after scraping a knee, even while their cheeks are damp with tears shed a moment before.  If you can manage to lift your own spirits, even for a moment,  you will create a cascade of brain chemicals that will not only make you feel better, it will create a state in which you will be able to think in much more constructive ways.

3. Try to find something positive in the negative situation…

Once you have calmed your mind and body by re-experiencing a more positive state, try to find something positive you can learn from the negative situation, no matter how small. Can you reframe the bad news as an example of “what-not-to-do?” Perhaps you can identify an opportunity for deeper understanding or forgiveness. Sometimes finding something positive within a tragedy is challenging, but do your best. At the very least, tragic news can help us remember to appreciate what’s really important in life.

4. Take positive action…

If the bad news is personal, positive action may involve making changes in your daily life or relationships. In the case of a community or national tragedy, you may feel called to serve in some way. When we turn a tragedy into an opportunity to contribute something positive to the world, we begin to offset the pain and start the healing process.

What are your thoughts?

After going through these four points Dr. Chopra pointed out that they are fundamentally about Being, Feeling, Thinking and Acting  – and in that order. Dr. Chopra also suggested filling cyberspace with peace by tweeting and posting messages of peace on Facebook as one kind of positive action. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but hearing him say that in his Indian accent made me want to roll my eyes. It seemed like frivolous New Age babble, especially in the shadow of people dying needlessly. Then I remembered my mission.

Even though I’m a strong advocate for the power of thought, like many people I’m easily seduced by the idea that negativity is more “realistic” than a positive thought about peace. But what if that’s the biggest lie of all?

What if Deepak Chopra’s invitation isn’t silly? What if you focusing your mind on peace – especially during stressful times – might be a powerful antidote to all the negative media messages you are exposed to everyday?

Behind every action, every feeling, and every word, there is a thought. What if millions of people focused their thoughts and words on peace, if only for a few minutes?  How powerful might that be?

Related Posts:

For Our World – A Poem Written on 9-11 by Mattie Stepanek
Memorial Day 2010 – Some Random Notes on Memory
How Can I Feel Good When So Much Around Me Is Bad?

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • I think this is fantastic. I live less than 2 hours from Tuscon having moved here 3 years ago from Michigan.

    Here’s what I think of the incident.
    If we really believe that peace begins with me and within us lies all answers, then it’s time to look within for the solutions.
    The external world is a microcosm of our internal world. When we can all have more inner peace we will also have external peace.

    How could this terrible thing happen in Tuscon?
    Mother Teresa says we all have a mini Hitler in us. Daily we murder people with our thoughts, words and actions. So within…without.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Mother Teresa’s words may be hard for many to understand. It’s far easier to project our “inner Hitler” on those weaker individuals in our world who end up carrying out the hateful thoughts that most people harbor, if they were honest about it. That’s why it’s so important to separate our feelings from our identity. Then we have a chance to shift and release them.

  • Linda,
    This is beautiful “first aid” for the trouble times we live in. I like this approach. For #2, thinking thoughts of love and compassion can help us go beyond be eternally attached to our own self and our own well being.
    Thanks for sharing these helpful remedies.
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..Free Yourself with Free Writing =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for stopping by Sandra!

  • PS–hope my comment doesn’t sound cold or unfeeling. The stuff *is* terrible, no doubt about it, and I feel it–I generally take news from any source in small doses, as tolerated 🙂
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Declutter Your Mind- 3 Tips For More Peace =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for your input Leah. I think it’s tough to tell if the response “sh*t happens” is buddhist equanimity or a self-defensive mind-numbing response to headline overwhelm. On the other hand it can be a tonic to realize that we can’t save the world. That’s why I like Deepak’s advice. If there are more peaceful people then guess what? A more peaceful world. Simple.

  • Hi Linda, This is great advice. I really should pay attention to him more often.

    I agree about filling the virtual world with messages of peace. I mean, people are there (and I’m right here 🙂 reading and we’re all connected in a wonderful way, so to me it’s a great idea. I haven’t done much, though I posted a video on FB earlier about how, historically, we are getting more and more peaceful, despite the terrible thing that happened in Tuscon or anywhere else right now.

    My response is generally something like “shit happens.” At the same time, I might say a prayer, send some positive energy or whatever for a victim and family, and really think healing thoughts for them, and get on with things.

    Definitely get what you mentioned in #1 and all of this–great stuff.
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Declutter Your Mind- 3 Tips For More Peace =-.

  • Hi Linda.
    I agree with you that it sounds like ‘new age psychobabble’ to think that concentrating our thoughts on peace could actually affect what’s going on in the world…and yet, and yet…how often do we seem to pluck information out of thin air, as if by osmosis. I know I do! And then there’s the way we can pick up a ‘vibe’ when we walk into a room and know that there is something going on. There is so much that we don’t know about our brains, our consciousness and our communication systems….there’s so much that science can’t explain. So yes…I think your idea is a great one and you can count me in on the peace train. Thanks for a beautiful post Linda. This is my first visit to your blog…how did I miss it?! But I’ll be back. ;D
    .-= Rosemary´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Your Authentic Self =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      “There is so much that we don’t know about our brains, our consciousness…” I completely agree Rosemary. And while I am a fascinated student of neuroscience, I also know that consciousness can’t be explained by understanding structure. So much of consciousness is “holographic” and non-local. It’s strange that our “brains” have trouble remembering that!

      Thanks for your kind words about my blog. Glad to have you aboard.

  • Dom

    Thanks for sharing this…

    With all the “disturbing” news out there we need to learn how to process negative information properly. If not, watching the news will become an emotional roller-coaster ride.

    This post offers some good advise!

    Thanks again


    • Linda Gabriel

      Glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for stopping by Dom!

  • Hi Linda,
    This was an excellent summation of what Chopra said. It’s remarkable as you say, that children “can giggle after scraping a knee,” and other upsetting events. It’s hard at times, but possible for us “grown-ups” to do the same.

    I think we are exactly as Chopra describes: we are energy fields from which emotions arise. If we can learn to witness thoughts and emotions instead of allowing them to control us we will remain centered and calm even in the midst of experiencing difficulties.

    That’s the challenge of being human, and the mark of our evolution – to be able to be compassionate and empathetic toward the plight of others, and gentle with ourselves too, while not becoming mired in the turbulence of our emotions.

    I’m not there yet – but each day I vow to “try” again!
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..How a Psychic Detective “Sees Without Seeing” =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Hi Angela,
      Yes, very few of us humans are “there yet” but like the title of a book I really like, “The Name of the Key is Willingness” to keep intending for the highest good.

  • Thank you for this post. I agree totally and find comfort in the ideas expressed by Deepak Chopra.

    Such acts and the general condition of our society and world are outward manifestations of the inner states of the people. The collective state of our culture reflects the state of our individual minds. The healing and change must begin there with each and every person.
    .-= Debbie Hampton´s last blog ..Bad News Travels Fast =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for your insight. I’m not sure most people are aware of the connection between the individual and the collective state of mind but I agree completely. I also hope people check out your article on the neurological reasons why “Bad News Travels Fast.” It’s a subject I’ll be speaking too here at Thought Medicine in the near future.

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