“Man spends his life in reasoning on the past, in complaining of the present, in fearing future.”- Antoine Rivarol
Stop Complaining Start Living
Today I would like to encourage you to try an experiment, that if done sincerely can have a profound effect on your life. The experiment is this, for one whole day, don’t complain. That’s it, just try your best to not complain about anything, no matter how big or small it may be. What this will show you is that complaining is all many of us ever do. It’s extremely difficult, an almost impossible task, trust me, I know, this is something I am always working on.
People complain so much, that most don’t even notice it anymore, it has become an unconscious habit. In time, many people will derive their sense of self from it. I am sure you know someone in your life, that if all of a sudden they quit complaining, you would not recognize them anymore. At a deep level we receive pleasure from complaining about anything. We don’t see nothing wrong with complaining, we think it’s natural. We love complaining, because without out it many of us would have nothing to talk about. So given the choice people would rather complain than keep quite.
You may say that you have a right to complain, that the world is a terrible place, that terrible things have happened to you. One of the problems with complaining is that it keeps you from seeing that ultimately you are the cause to how you feel. Outside circumstances simply provide situations for us to show our true colors. We can either respond in a conscious manner or react unconsciously. Responding you are in control, reacting you are a slave. It’s easy to complain and we do it so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our state of being.
If you really try this experiment, it will help you learn to observe yourself in a proper way. Everyone knows it’s easy to observe others, but it is extremely difficult to observe oneself. When we observe others we are impartial, we can observe their behaviors objectively. To get a more objective look at yourself you will need to understand how your mind works.
Why Can’t We Stop Complaining
For you not to complain, you will have to remain alert to whatever is going on inside you. Before you speak you need to become aware of your thoughts, if you have nothing good or neutral to say, then don’t say it. Just be a witness to your internal world, be like a watcher on the hills, passive yet alert. Whatever thoughts you see, don’t judge them in any way, don’t analyze them, don’t get attached. This will be extremely hard, because that’s all our minds do, they are constantly judging and comparing whatever impressions we receive from the outside world.
If you are able to keep a distance, to just simply observe your thoughts, you will discover how your mind wants to label everything it comes in contact with immediately. If you label something as bad, as something that you don’t like, your mind has already started to complain. You then give into this train of thought and start to imagine a million and one things that end up draining you. You don’t see things as they are, you distort reality.
What this experiment will also show you, is that changing is incredibly hard. You will realize how unconscious you normally are to your thought process, how identified you are too it, that you are a slave to it’s tendencies. By not complaining you will see how much it actually is a part of your life, how you live a life of reaction.
Don’t Take Things Too Seriously
If you usually get irritated at the grocery checkout counter when the person ahead of you is going slow , just observe your usual reactions, don’t get involved, remain aloof. You may see that by remaining inwardly distant your negative emotions that started to take hold of you have now subsided. Negative emotions are immensely draining, positive emotions are uplifting. Next time you and your friends are gossiping try to withhold your criticism, see how difficult it really is. What did you observe by not getting involved?
The problem with complaining is that it wastes all your vital energy. To change your deeply ingrained behaviors you need all the energy you can get. When you learn to complain less, you will then conserve energy, this energy can then be channeled into your transformation, into constructive pursuits. Don’t express nor suppress negativity, just become aware of it, bring it to the light of your consciousness.
Throughout the ages, great teachers such as Jesus have insisted that you must awaken from your slumber. This experiment will help you realize that even while awake, we are still asleep, a majority of our day is spent unconsciously, inattentively. This is a huge realization, because the first step in waking up is realizing your asleep in the first place. Everyone thinks they are already awake, so they will never attempt to become conscious beings.
If you point out that they are asleep, they will be offended, they will not understand what you are talking about. But once you learn to just “see”, without having your mind’s constant chatter interfere with the act of seeing, you will clearly see how most people spend their day’s lost in thought, thus disconnected from reality. Meditation is your key to raising your awareness and becoming a “seer”. If you infuse your life with awareness, it will allow you to see things before they manifest. Remember, if you can “see” it you don’t have to “be” it. If you see yourself becoming identified to thoughts of jealousy, you can consciously decide to not get involved.
If you really try this experiment, you are just learning to be more mindful. This one day experiment should be done daily, because you will see that the first time you try it, you will fail miserably, you will forget. This is ok, we are human, we need to take baby steps. Don’t give up, we need to see something a thousand times before we realize the impact it is having on our lives. Each time you succeed in not complaining, you will be raising your level of awareness, that in time you can develop a permanent attitude that will help you transcend your old tendencies. This will lead to increased clarity of oneself and the world. You will begin to experience many sublime moments of peace and calmness.
I am not saying that there aren’t problems, that we should ignore them, but that we need to learn to see things as they truly are and use our energy to respond to life’s challenges in the most intelligent way possible. Complaining doesn’t solve any of our problems, it only serves to exacerbate them, we fail to take meaningful actions. It keeps us from growing and enjoying life.
If you try this experiment, I would love to hear what your experience is like. Email me or leave a comment below.
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(editors note: Originally posted in July 2011)