Over the winter I developed a routine of going to the sauna at the YMCA once a week. I really loved it and felt it helped keep my mood even over the winter months. I would sit and sometimes do loving-kindness meditation, generally directed at the loud-talkers in the hot tub and my fellow sauna-takers. Sometimes there were conversations going, sometimes you could hear the tinny music from someone’s headphones, sometimes everyone shut up and lived in their own bubbles.
But one day there was lifeguard training or something going on. Over the course of a couple of minutes, a bunch of young girls opened the sauna door about 5.3 million times to place their towels near the heat so they could retrieve them later and be warm and cozy. It didn’t phase me at all. Until one guy in the sauna with me started complaining about how every time the door opened it cooled down the sauna and weren’t those girls so RUDE?? Well, now that I think about it, yes those girls are so RUDE. Don’t they KNOW that they are lowering the sauna temp for us REAL sauna people? How selfish! And then I started getting annoyed by other people who would cycle in and out of the sauna and not realize that they were OPENING THE DOOR.
It didn’t take me long to realize that that one person’s negativity had infected me. But while I noticed this pretty quickly, it took MUCH LONGER for the negativity I felt about “rude sauna folks” to go away. There was no more loving-kindness toward the agitated, the loud-talkers, the tinny music folks. Awareness clearly doesn’t equal change.
The point is that every day we make choices about what we say. There is a saying that I try to remember:
You are either affecting people with positivity or infecting people with negativity.
Sauna Complainer chose to infect with negativity and that infection takes a long time to heal. Think about that when you complain, bitch, or talk badly about someone. Do you really want to infect a loved one with negativity and bias them toward someone else? Think about what you spray out to the world on social media. You have the power to affect or infect hundreds or thousands of people in one shot. Use that power wisely. Challenge yourself to hold your tongue rather than infect. The bigger challenge? Actively affecting people with positivity. It’s a goal worth striving for.