11/09/2014 07:10 BST | Updated 10/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Guarding Our Life Against Negativity

Have you ever worked in a business that looked professional and successful on the outside, but turned out to be dysfunctional on the inside? Maybe there was a destructive culture of office politics and complaining. Maybe the company simply didn't care about its people, or it was a chaotic, high-stress workplace, with low morale and high burn out.

Most of us don't want to build a career at a firm like that. We look for a better workplace - one that is nurturing and supportive.

But there's one "workplace" we don't assess in the same way. Our standards for it are far more lenient, if we have any at all. That place is our own mind - our primary work station, the one we take with us wherever we go.

Just as a workplace can be supportive or toxic, our minds can help or harm us. Often we ignore our state of mind in a relentless effort to get things done. We are continually making choices; but our choices are only ever as good as our state of being when we make them. If we are confused, the choices we make will be confused. If we are inspired, our choices will be inspired. Optimal choices require an optimal state of being.

The Dharma Principle of Purity

Thousands of years ago, the sages of ancient India formulated the Dharma Code, a system for making enlightened choices in everyday life. It was originally designed for kings and queens, to make wise decisions in ruling kingdoms. Expressed in its simplest form, the Dharma Code is four timeless principles for living more consciously: Truth, Purity, Non-violence and Discipline.

There are qualities that nurture life, like gratitude, humility and light-heartedness. There are also qualities that inhibit life, like anger, resentment and discontent. Purity, the second Dharma principle, is about differentiating between what sustains life and what inhibits life. It's about choosing what we allow into any given territory, or "kingdom". The territory in question can be a business, a project or a relationship - but most significant of all, our own mind.

The mystics of India explain that we are like a clear quartz crystal or a diamond. A crystal will reflect the colour of whatever we place it against. If we put it against a red cloth, it will shine red; if we place it on a blue cloth, it will shine blue. Similarly, our consciousness absorbs the qualities of its environment. When the mind focuses on something, it magnifies it. Conversely, whatever the mind lets go of diminishes in significance.

Practising Purity in Our Life

When I was younger, I lived as a monk in temples and monasteries in India for ten years, studying the ancient Dharma texts. One day, my teacher, an elderly master practitioner in the Bhakti tradition, explained the principle of Purity to me in a way that I could easily understand and apply. If we want to fill a jug with water, he said, it would be extremely difficult - and also needless - to try to empty it of air first. By filling it with water, we automatically eliminate all the air. In the same way, the best way to protect our world is to fill it with the positive, flowing currents of love and kindness.

If we fill our world with love and kindness, we leave no room for hatred and unkindness. If we fill our world with gratitude, we leave no room for want. One of the best ways to do this is to keep the company of those who embody these qualities and who light our path.

Some people try very hard to empty their world of negativity. But emptiness is an artificial state. It's impossible for us, while we are alive, to have no thoughts or emotions at all; and if we focus continuously on removing toxic qualities, we may simply end up enlarging them. Therefore, the way to guard ourselves from unhelpful thoughts and emotions is to focus on creating vibrant, helpful ones.

I am struck by the truth of this every time I think about everything in my life I am deeply thankful for. This generates immense positive energy and abundance. When we focus on the things we are truly grateful for, we find that what we are grateful for keeps increasing in our life.

Gratitude, love, kindness, humility: these are extraordinary qualities. Fear, anger, jealousy, egotism: these are ordinary. We recognise them in ourselves and see them all about us - in the affronted ego, the need to be right, the thirst for compliments. When we are controlled by such conditioned reactions, our world is ordinary. But when we cultivate extraordinary qualities by practising Purity in our life, we begin to inhabit an extraordinary world.

Simon Haas is the author ofThe Book of Dharma: Making Enlightened Choices. He lived for ten years in temple monasteries in India, studying the teachings of Dharma, and apprenticed for 16 years with an elderly master practitioner in the Bhakti tradition.