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.
How to start your own 21-day negativity fast