We have all heard the slogans. “Think Positive!”, “Expect only the best outcomes!”, “Strive to be happy”, “Avoid negativity!”, “Put more effort in your intentions!” “Find happiness in what you have” or “Be careful with your thoughts, think negative and you’ll attract negativity. Think positive and…” you know the drill.
Positive thinking has become quite popular amongst spiritual communities and even in the business world. It is a concept that pairs up the truth of our creator essence, and the desire to attract riches, success, happiness, the ideal partner, or even spiritual enlightenment. Some believe that in order to get rid of what we don’t want while attracting what we do want, we must pretend that our desired reality is already in play while ignoring the current challenges. Even when it comes to global change, I often hear people say that we must avoid looking at what doesn’t work in our world because it will perpetuate negativity, or that we must even “believe” or “pretend” that all challenges have already been overcome.
But let’s tune into the underlined key words that are often paired with this concept. Think, expect, strive, effort, happiness, positive, negative, avoid, want, have, success, believe, pretend, ideal, riches… PHEW!! Sounds like quite the mental workout. But what about… not getting what we want? Who are we then? Did we fail? Are we now afraid to face a version of ourselves that does not match our expectations? Must we push even harder to try and stay positive? Or will we be pulled down into negativity and be forever lost?
Notice how agitated and demanding these thoughts and concepts feel in the body. Instead of allowing you to be as you are, they push you to act in a certain way, to force/avoid thoughts, to chase an “ideal”, to fear the “worst” case scenario… But thoughts create reality, right? You think what you want, you get what you want, is that it?
Sure, we can try to avoid or shape this moment all we want and believe that this is how you create your ‘ideal’ reality. But if we want to know what truly creates our reality, we must ask ourselves the right questions. What can’t we accept about this moment? What is the story behind our ideals? Must we constantly be in an effortful chase mode, want mode, pretend mode or faith mode to feel good about ourselves? Why can’t we feel at peace right here and right now?
The truth is, there can be a belief system or a suppressed emotional baggage behind our thoughts and desires. And THAT is what creates our experience. That is what ‘the secret’ won’t tell you. That is where we must inquire further.
- Why should we put so much effort in creating happiness? Is this our natural state? Or is it because we are we unhappy with ourselves when dropping all effort or with the idea of not getting to where we ‘want’ to be?
- Why should we hold on to so many expectations? Is this our natural state? Or is it because we would we be devastated when facing an outcome that would not match our expectations?
- Why must we find happiness in what we HAVE? Is this our natural state? Or is it because we cannot just be happy and at peace with what we ARE?
- Why should we attach ourselves to the ‘positive’ polarity? Is this our natural state? Or is this because we are holding judgment towards the opposite polarity and are afraid of facing hidden negative charges within us?
Notice how our minds have been programmed to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Many people will reach out for television, alcohol, partying, food or credit cards to avoid facing them. Positive thinking goes right in the list. It is just another way to focus ‘out there’ and not have to look at the feeling.
“An uncomfortable feeling is like a compassionate alarm clock that says, “You’re in the dream.” It’s time to inquire, that’s all. But if we don’t honor the alarm clock, then we try to alter and manipulate the feeling by reaching into an apparent external world.” – Byron Katie
Self-policing our way to “happiness” is no different than walking on eggshells. If we don’t get to reach our “happy happy” goal or emotional state, we then see ourselves as a failure and jump into an opposite polarity (e.g. sadness, dissapointment, frustration, depression). But does it really feel natural to live your life on such a fine line between highs and lows, between contentment and discontentment?
So let’s drop our ideas of polarity, of one being better than the other, and of the two being the only states that exist. How about peace? Not the “happy” or “satisfied” feeling of the ego having accomplished a goal or met an expectation, but the peace that holds no condition. The peace that underlies all of the mind’s illusory fears, identities, roles and belief systems. The peace that is who you already are.
Positive thinking, negative thinking, expectations, needs… all of these are simply effortful mind stories that pull us away from experiencing the only thing that is real: the totality and beauty of the present moment AS IT IS. As the tibetan saying goes, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path”. When we create such a strict path for ourselves and fill our minds with conditions, rules and expectations, we greatly narrow our possibilities to grow and experience the totality of what this moment has to offer. We strive towards a goal that we often set up only to avoid what could be our best teachers, the very personal challenges that we need to face for our own evolution.
And guess what happens when we try to avoid what challenges us? It keeps happening. The teachers keep coming, the button pushers keep poking, and the fire keeps burning until we get rid of our own gasoline.
The whole idea of positive thinking actually programs us to miss out on the beautiful lessons, healing and expansion that occurs when we allow ourselves to face the darkness and negative charges within us. It perpetuates the belief that the “negative” is to avoid and the “positive” is to praise, when in reality, both are equal experiences that the soul has been using to play, learn and finally discover that it is not defined by either. It is once we let go of our attachment to polarity, that we transmute them both back into peace.
“Staying positive is just as effortful and draining as staying negative. Both require maintenance. True inner-peace, however, needs no story or concept to maintain itself. Peace is who and what you already are.”
Observe the image above. Who looks more free, limitless and at peace? The one who allows himself to experience the full spectrum of his environment, or the one who restricts himself to only a fine line? That right there should be enough to debunk the myth of “positive thinking”.
Breathe… let go… and just BE!
“I went through that stage where I forced myself to be happy all the time. But when I actually gave up on it, that is when I found peace.” – Anonymous