By Caroline Myss
Several years ago, I met a most exceptional man named Willie Smith. What sets Willie apart from so many others is the particular set of life circumstances that came together to make him the man he is today—a superb physical trainer with a huge clientèle. He is also a minister and a man with rare and rich wisdom, the type that takes your breath away. Several years ago, for example, Willie and I were out to breakfast and the subject turned to politics. More to the point, I changed the subject to politics and began carrying on and on about my very negative sentiments about the now former president. Willie said nothing as I tossed out one fact after another as if I was an attorney presenting a closing argument to a jury on a life or death case. Finally exasperated, I asked, “How can you be so passive about this president?”
Willie’s response was simple, clear, and profound: “I’ve never prayed for the man, therefore I have no right to judge him.”
I was knocked silent by Willie’s response. Because he had never prayed for the man, he had no right to say a negative thing about him. I realized I had never prayed for him either, and in that moment, I shifted. I thought about my tendency to judge others in general instead of first offering a prayer, and not just for them but for me, asking for assistance in healing the knee-jerk response to judge another person. Willie’s wisdom had opened a passageway for me deep into my soul. But this gift for wisdom did not come without pain. In his prior life, so to speak, Willie was a drug dealer, an occupation he fantasized about from the time he was a young boy. He told me that in his youth he had spotted a dealer holding a handful of money, wearing lots of gold jewelry and looking like a big shot. That dealer made such an impression that Willie began to imagine himself in that role, exchanging the gifts of $5 and $10 bills he would receive from his elders for single dollars so that he could experience the sensation of having a wad of cash in his hand. Soon, a handful of years passed and Willie was the drug dealer he had envisioned himself becoming. He told me that while he was a drug dealer, he experienced one of those rare moments in which he realized, as he held a wad of money in his hand, that he had fulfilled his fantasized image of himself. At the height of his drug life, Willie was consuming $3,000 worth of cocaine and heroine a day and dressing the part of the successful drug dealer. He still keeps photographs of himself draped in a fur coat and gold jewelry as proof of his previous self.
So how did Willie go from being in the entrails of the drug culture to a loved minister and successful body trainer? Willie had what’s known as a “conversion” experience.
A conversion experience refers to an immediate and complete mystical transformation of a core part of one’s nature, always resulting in an illuminated understanding of God, love or any of the graces that enhance humanity. It might be said that Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol has a conversion experience during which he shifts almost instantly from a selfish, nasty man to a fully and completely loving and generous soul. Conversion experiences are rare, but they happen, and one indeed happened to Willie Smith on December 19, 1989.
I wrote at length about Willie in my book Anatomy of the Spirit, but in brief, he was “on his way to work” one day—meaning he was heading out to threaten someone unless he came through with the money owed—when, according to Willie, “I heard Jesus talking to me.” Willie told me that he heard Jesus coming through the radio station he was listening to in his car, so he changed the channel, only to hear the same message on that channel, as well as the next channel and the next. Willie became frozen with fear, so frozen that he drove to a fleabag hotel where he took refuge for the next three days. He told me he spent the time on his knees praying for forgiveness, and at the end of those three days, he emerged feeling forgiven and born anew. He never looked back.
I met Willie when I decided that I needed a personal trainer. While I could never quite stick to a routine through the 15 years that I’ve known him, we’ve managed to stick to a friendship. Everyone who knows Willie wants to stick close to him as a friend. I ran into Willie the other day at the gym, as once again I am trying to organize a workout routine into my schedule. We found time to meet at the snack bar, and as I walked over to the counter to get a cup of coffee, I asked Willie if he wanted one and he said, “No, thanks.” “Water?” Again he replied, “No, thanks.”
I said, “Are you on a fast for Lent or something like that?” I was half-teasing him when Willie-the-Sage said: “I am on a fast, but I’m on a 21-day negativity fast. I’ve given up all negative thinking for 21 days.”
As I sat down, now feeling guilty about having bought coffee instead of water, Willie continued, “You know what I have discovered? The brain prefers love. That’s why we love to be in love—because it feels so good. We love love. So why not just feed yourself love? You know, I haven’t felt stress in years.” I can attest to that—especially after trying to get Willie to see my political point of view a few years ago. Few people can handle me when I’m engaged on the political battlefield.
The obvious simplicity of Willie’s message was hardly one that I could argue with other than to ask: “What’s your method? How do you manage to stay positive?”
Willie told me that when a negative thought or fear comes into him, he immediately meditates or he reminds himself of a passage from the scripture. As a minister, he finds that particularly comforting. And he dwells on love. As he spoke about love and his ministry, I could see why he’s now becoming a public speaker. People are drawn to the “real thing,” as they say, and Willie is just that. He is a man who believes people can come back from the depths of addiction hell, that the power of grace and God can make a human being whole and that love conquers all negative thoughts. And, beyond that, exercise and proper nutrition caps off Willie’s wise advise.
At the end of 21 days, Willie says his spirit is completely renewed, as it would be for anyone else who tries the fast. That is, your life not only would “look” different, it would be different. While a 21-day negativity fast may not make problems evaporate, no longer adding negative thoughts to stressful situations allows you to see routes of resolution that pessimism blocks from view, for example. Relationship difficulties can also come to healing breakthroughs. Consider the healing possibilities in any relationship if you “fed your brain love,” as Willie would say. Not only do you physically and emotionally feel better, but the quality of your relationships would improve enormously. And since all of our body, mind and spirit systems work as an integrated team, the absence of negativity or even a reduction in negative thinking (which is probably a more realistic goal) would no doubt create a greater field effect throughout the creative and social arenas of our lives.
As a minister, Willie has his method of counteracting negative thinking carefully charted: meditation, referencing scripture and prayer. Not everyone is a minister, obviously, so for those of you interested in conducting a 21-day negativity fast, here are some suggestions as to how to maintain that fast when confronted with ordinary and extraordinary inner and exterior negativity:
• Don’t strive for perfection and don’t think in terms of 21 days. It’s one day at a time.
• Keep your fast to yourself. Don’t talk about it to others.
• Keep five favorite inspirational pieces at the ready that genuinely shift you into an altered inner state. These may be prayers, poems, a lovely selection from literature, lyrics from a song, a particularly meaningful letter, even words written to yourself—or a combination of the above. Refer to one (or more) when you feel yourself slipping into a negative place.
• Use breathing techniques for centering.
• Walk away from stressful situations or conversations that are unnecessary to your life. Do not expose yourself to any unessential stress.
• Do mini-meditations and mantras to regroup.
• Do not share with others what is troubling you, as you are feeding the negative beast within. Instead, practice detachment. More often than not, what troubles others in your world has nothing to do with you. It’s your own insecurities that make you think that the bad or sad moods of others are somehow connected to you. Remind yourself of that fact. Stay detached and do not interfere with the difficulties of others. Do not invite negativity into your life.
• Consciously look for what is good, beautiful, positive and loving in your life. Remind yourself to choose love, if only in the form of seeing the positive in something or someone.
• Practice gratitude for big and small things, for friends and family, for home and food—for the blessing of your life.
• Have no expectations of any outcomes or rewards for your efforts. If you are going to do this fast, do it because it just makes so much sense.
Finally, remind yourself that on Day 22, if your life shows no signs of improvement from being loving and positive, you can always go back to being negative. Good luck.
Caroline Myss has been in the field of energy medicine and human consciousness for 20 years. Since 1982, she has worked as a medical intuitive, providing individuals with an evaluation of the health of their energetic anatomy system. She specializes in assisting people in understanding the emotional, psychological and physical reasons their bodies have developed an illness. Myss is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Anatomy of the Spirit, Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, Sacred Contracts and Entering the Castle. Myss’ latest book, Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason, was published by Hay House in October 2009. Visit her website at Myss.com.