"Innocence of attitude is high on my list of qualities that make up a meaningful spiritual life. By this I mean the opposite of sarcasm, mockery, and cynicism. So much of our popular culture is grounded in ostensibly playful but nonetheless hurtful put-downs of other people. We are a culture of stand-up comics, or wannabe comics, often taking aim at the easy target to try to be funny. Surf the TV channels tonight and you will see what I am talking about. Sit-coms, with their biting edge of sarcasm and disrespect, are the worst. But this curious mind-set of contempt shows up in many other places, most blatantly in commercials, where parents are made to look like fools by their more perceptive children and men are reduced to ineffectual dunderheads by women. The romp of ridicule extends out from our entertainment into 'mainstream' (if you will) culture via such vehicles as hate talk radio, vicious political and religious 'debates,' and the shouting headlines of the tabloid press.
"This mean-spirited manner of discourse spills easily into our personal daily lives, becoming the way we relate to each other in our home, our workplace, and our community. I am not suggesting that you need to stop being cheerful in your exchange with others. Far from it, I am pointing to subtle threads of insolence and cruel cleverness that can weave their way in and around how you regard others and yourself and tangle into a knot that impedes your spiritual progress. Innocence is more temperate, but not less joyful. It asks us to be aware of the learned, automatic response that insults and denigrates people and situations in order to build ourselves up. . . .
"The best thought-stopper I have found is using a short, plain phrase I made up. Sometimes we refer to it as an affirmation; the Eastern religions might call it a mantra. 'My life is sacred' or 'All life is beautiful' or some other phrase you create for yourself can be both a thought-stopper and a reminder of, in this case, the sacredness and beauty of all life. If you undertake such a practice, you will find that your mantra comes up automatically when you are about to get aboard that unstoppable train of negative thoughts. When you come back to your true center, you are standing again in innocence.”