"You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it's just complaining." -- Joni Mitchell
Have you ever known a chronic complainer? They focus on some situation, person, condition, or problem they don't like and it becomes their story; they tell it over and over again to anyone who will listen and, hopefully, get on board to commiserate with them. The danger in being a chronic complainer is that the universe is listening; it takes what we focus our energy on and expands our experience of it. In other words, the more one complains about something the more one will draw to them things to complain about.
Do you ever find yourself complaining about something? A shortcut to inner peace is to be mindful enough when you are complaining to pause for a moment of clarity. The practice is to put what you are complaining about into one of two categories: Either it's an issue you can do something about -- and if so, you have an opportunity to change it -- or it's beyond your control, in which case your only alternative is to change your perspective and accept that it is what it is. As an example, on a recent trip to Italy with my wife, I caught myself redhanded complaining about how unbearably hot it was, which was exacerbated by the massive number of people jamming themselves into the same space I was. I only became aware of how much I was complaining when I heard myself commiserating with complete strangers who didn't even speak the same language as I! I was focusing so much on my misery that I seemed to magnetically attract people who would only support me in my suffering. Funny how the law of attraction works, isn't it?
Then, in a moment of clarity, I got it; the unbearable heat and the countless number of people everywhere were two things I had absolutely no control over and focusing on them only made it worse. As always, it came down to the fact that I was at choice; I could push against the prevailing heat wave and hordes of people, and in the process become increasingly more miserable, or I could choose to change my perspective and see it all through new eyes, which is exactly what I did. I began to focus on how amazingly blessed and fortunate I was to be able to travel abroad under any conditions. Beyond that, I could also choose to cease commiserating with anyone who wanted to talk about how miserable the heat was. I can only say, that one small shift in perspective changed my experience for the balance of the trip.
The reality is that we don't have to travel in the month of August to find something or someone to complain about -- we can find it right here at home! With the presidential race now officially underway, there is an abundance of complaining and fault-finding going on. We need look no further than the morning newspaper or the 6 p.m. news; if we are susceptible to commiserating with others about how bad or wrong someone or something is, the negative vortex will suck us right in. At times it seems as if complainers have us surrounded, which is why remembering that we can make conscious choices is so important; we can choose to be one of them or we can choose to mindfully transcend the gravitational pull of their energy.
The Practice Is to Seek a Moment of Clarity
When we pause for a moment of conscious clarity around that which we are complaining about, it naturally provides the possibility to redirect the energy in a more productive way. Irrespective of the issue, the practice is to be mindful that, with clarity, we can remember to put whatever we are tempted to complain about into one of the two categories I mentioned earlier: Either it's an issue we can do something about, or it's beyond our control. If it's beyond our control, the only alternative (if we wish to have a modicum of inner peace) is to change our perspective about the issue, which then can change our experience. As a rule of thumb, constant complainers are not doers -- they are watchers, hoping someone else will be motivated enough by their complaining to act on their behalf. Perhaps the best call to action is to simply remember that whenever we complain, we are simply granting that which we are complaining about permission to remain unchanged in our experience.
As Joni Mitchell says, the song (story) you are singing may need a moment of clarity. So the next time you catch yourself complaining about anything, pause, breathe, and seek a moment of clarity about the issue at hand, and in the process you just may choose to change your tune. At the end of the day you'll be a much happier camper and so will those around you -- and that's a good thing.
For more by Dennis Merritt Jones, click here.
For more on emotional intelligence, click here.
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