A Little Rant about “Positive Thinking”

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A song that loosely relates to this- feeling strong without feeling positive. – http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/before-the-flower

 

There have recently been a whole slew of “positive thinking” things in my Facebook feed. I’ll admit it. They irritate me. Here’s why.

Controlling Thoughts

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in meditation practice knows that thoughts arise whether or not we really have a conscious say in them. They come up. When we watch them, we realize that they sometimes have patterns and some level of predictability, but other times they don’t.

Some of us have really powerful imaginations. My own imagination seems to have moods of its own.

One day I’m imagining great things for songs, stories, posts and pictures. Another day, I’m imagining terrible things about my own demise or other disasters. Is that my fault? Am I not “positive” enough?

Value of Intention

I think that there’s a great value of intentionally thinking about some things. Like how it would feel to have a successful book, or how it would feel to not be afraid of singing in front of someone. Sometimes intentionally having these thoughts can make it easier to take steps of action towards those goals, or to loosen the grip of habitual self-depreciating thoughts.

But there are limitations, and also, I believe, dangers to clinging to this too strongly.

Limits of Intention & Effort

To keep propagating the idea that we can control our thinking to any large extent is just a little obscene to me. There is so much more to our experience than just thinking, and the thinking itself is one of the hardest things to control. Plus, if you try to force your brain into a certain pattern that is just not taking, maybe it’s the relationship to the thoughts that can be worked with.

I know for me, when I try to run away from my anxiety or negative thoughts, they sometimes get much worse and more powerful. When I see them and breathe into them, letting them be, they tend to have more of a chance to dissipate, or at least to not ruin my day with anxiety. But if I try to change them into “positive” thoughts, it feels rather like trying to wear jeans that are a size too small just because I want them to fit.

Find me one person who has successfully jumped on the “positive thinking” train and never looked back. But if you do find them, please just take a picture for proof but don’t bring them anywhere near me, because they would probably be rather irritating.

The Dangers of This Expectation

To me, the danger of this movement is similar to the danger that the media creates when it portrays people looking happy, healthy, young, and flawless all over the television. People start to assume that they are damaged for not being like that. They start counting calories and judging themselves harshly for not having the illusive “just got out of bed” look when they really just got out of bed.

The idea that “thoughts create reality” makes some sense, but on the other hand, what I tend to see is a lot of rather privileged people saying this as if their own blessed lives were of their own making. Sometimes, they were. But sometimes tragedy happens, regardless of how positive the person was during their lives. Other times, life turns out perfectly for those with lots of “negative” thoughts.

The Temptation to Think Thoughts Control Things

It’s fun to think that thinking controls our reality, but it also feels that such a belief is giving the holder an illusion of control over their fate that they really don’t have, while also creating an onslaught of shallow positivity that clings to itself for fear of waking up to the messy reality that sometimes shit happens no matter how much we didn’t think about it.

I think my point is this. If you are similarly bombarded with these “positive thinking” pictures with curvy handwriting and bright colors, and you find yourself feeling bad for your continued indulgence in the occasional negative thought, please don’t beat yourself up anymore than you would for not having Pantene-commercial hair even after using the same shampoo.

Controlling thoughts and feelings is very hard, if not impossible. Cultivating acceptance and actions that bring us where we want to go is a little more doable, at least for me. I just don’t want people to move from feeling bad that they aren’t perfect like people on TV to feeling like they are being too negative and inviting disaster into their lives because of it when really, disaster comes sometimes. Relating to the moment in a friendly way cuts to the chase and helps those negative thoughts have less power over our experience, without trying to fight them off for the sake of being positive.

There’s my rant. Thanks for reading.

I’d love to hear your experience. Maybe I’m seeing the whole “positive thinking” thing in a skewed way, and projecting my own negativity onto it. Maybe you can share how it’s worked for you, or how you think I’m wrong about what I think of it.

Feel free to rant below! :)

 

 

 

Running Toilet: The Rorschach of Household Problems

The other day, the toilet at my part-time house was running for too long. I had to turn the water off, and figure out what was wrong. I gave my dad a play-by-play of the situation over the phone as I turned the water on, flushed, and watched what happened in the back part. It was fun, connecty, and educational.

And it got me thinking. What if this was a metaphor of something?

In some schools of thought, you can view your house as a reflection of your self. If you always have trash piled up before taking it out, maybe you have a problem with letting things go. If you have too much food and can never fit it all in the cupboards, maybe you can use a better system for taking inventory of your day before adding more things to your schedule. It’s rather endless and fun, and I don’t really do it.

But this running toilet was interesting. I didn’t realize that you could just turn the water off to make it stop running, turn it back on, use the toilet, and then turn it off again. It was like empowering magic.

Do I have something that’s constantly running in my mind, something that ends up doing more than it should and causing problems because of it? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. It’s called fear about the future. It’s always running, overflowing, doing more than it needs to.

A small amount of that fear can be fine in some situations. It helps me to be careful, to be safe, to take account of what’s happening and choose my actions accordingly.

But too much of that fear constantly running is just a waste of energy and creates an annoying noise in the background.

So I started applying what I learned about the toilet’s water system to my own fear. Turn it off. Twist the knob, make it stop. I can turn it on when I need it, but there’s no need for it to be running constantly.

I did that, specifically in relation to some dog issues that have been arising in this house, since it’s a ranch and there are many dogs and my dog’s a little nuts. I am constantly afraid that he’s going to get super hurt, but I also want us to be able to play by the river and have fun and get exercise.

I shut the fear off temporarily. I went to the river, I felt the ground under my feet and the sunshine and all the things that were not fear. It went fine. The fear came back, but then I went to the river again the next day. The fear didn’t come back that time.

And now, the toilet doesn’t keep running. Maybe it will again, but for now it’s working great. At the same time, I try to learn about the water pipe of my fear. Where’s the knob, how far to the right do I have to turn it before it stops? Can I find it in the dark if I need to? And can I notice the times when it actually doesn’t run for too long and appreciate them?

Just some thoughts.

Are there household problems that you feel could relate to your own mind?

Do you ever see your house as a reflection of yourself or is that just new-age hippie crap?

If you had to pick one random thing, like dishes in the sink or dust on the shelves, and relate it to your mind, do you get some ideas of things that pop up?

Hope you all are well :)

In the link under the picture is a song by Tom Waits called “Yesterday is Here” that I covered with a distant friend. Actually trying to “sing” was new for me, and I’m rather proud of how it turned out! Shuttin’ off the fear is fun!

Mini-Post: 32 Flavors of Judgement

I was a bit proud of a post on my blog’s Facebook page a few days ago. It went a little like this:

If I judge myself based on the eyes of society, I fail because there are too many opinions.
If I judge myself based on my own criteria, I still fail because my mind changes moment to moment.
But if I learn to identify and recognize the particularly sour flavor of ‘judgement’ as it arises, I can spit it out and take a sip of water, savoring the complicated colorful glorious mess of perfection that takes judgement’s place. And then maybe I can do something from the heart.

If we learn to smell judgement, no matter how cozy it looks, we can put the cup down!

If we learn to smell judgement, no matter how cozy it looks, we can put the cup down!

This idea was rolling around in my head for a few sleepless hours during the night, and I was excited to wake up and explore it. It was inspired by the most recent blog post in some ways.

 

The Lose-Lose Situation of Judging Yourself Lovingly

I feel like a lot of times in self-helpy circles or new-age ones, there’s this idea of “The only person’s whose judgement matters about you is your own.” But see, that doesn’t work for me.

Because if I judge myself, I’m still judging, and judging is kind of a lose-lose situation. I’m either better-than or worse-than something or someone else, and neither of those feels good. When I feel worse-than, it seems like I should feel “happy” once I’m better-than, but if such a thing does happen through some quantifiable event, it still doesn’t feel good, because then something or someone is in the worse-than slot.

Maybe I’m a hippie and December 21st 2012 is coming, but I really am feeling like duality is falling away from me like an old skin. It’s still always going to be there, but there seems to be a light beyond it. There seems to be a choice now.

There is a line in a song I recently made that says “Duality only goes so far, and it always seems to stop just shy of right where you are.” That pretty much sums it up. We are never in an either/or better/than situation, so those words and judgements are never going to fully feel real and present. Reality just isn’t that way. Or as Greg Brown says, “This life is a thump-ripe melon. So sweet and such a mess.”

But What if I’m Only Thinking Happy Judgy Thoughts?

If we want to see ourselves as lovable and worthy, that’s great. I don’t think that’s the same as “judgement” if we are really feeling that sense of love, because feelings are not felt in words. Does that make sense? Thinking “I must be lovable!” creates a natural void where “not-lovable” lives, and we can fall into it at any moment as long as Judgement is our shaky wildly unpredictable ground.

But feeling lovable, even for a moment, is not creating an opposite, it just is. Maybe making the choice to feel the things we want (or try to) is better than thinking them with our all-positive-yet-forced judgement.

Those are the thoughts for this mini-post!

Your Turn!

Do you have feelings about judgement? Do you think that you are your own best critic, as they say, or do you think that something else is?

Do you like feeling “better than” other stuff, even if it’s just your previous selves that you are “better than”?

Do you think it’s possible to live outside of duality for more than a few seconds at a time? Do you think those seconds are valuable anyway?

Does the whole concept of duality just confuse you and make you want to go find a cozy blanket and watch the Alien anthology?

Six Morning Intentions to Reduce Bad Moods & Increase Mindfulness

Learn from the dogs.

 

Ever since I stopped smoking I have been in a much better mood upon awakening. Even still, I like to have a few intentions that I make before I get out of bed. They help me to feel grounded and to remember that living a mindful existence is much more nourishing than constantly escaping the present moment. I would like to share some of them with you guys, in case you can benefit as well.

~Today I will look at my face for at least 3 seconds in the mirror without any judgement whatsoever. I will try to do this at least 3 times during the day.

~Today I will let a few voids exist without filling them with technology. I will try to pet the dog instead of checking Facebook at least a few times today.

~Today when I drink my first cup of water, I will take my time and acknowledge as I take each sip the fact that I am mostly made of it. I will ponder this until it temporarily freaks me out, and then I will know that I pondered it deeply enough.

~Today I will remember that things can happen one at a time, and they can even happen with a little space in between in which to appreciate the bigness of it all. I do not have to rush.

~Today as I eat meals and snacks, I will take at least a full minute beforehand. I will look at the food I am about to eat, and think about what it would take for me to make this food on my own. I will imagine growing the vegetables in the sun, I will imagine growing the wheat and pounding it into flower, I will imagine until I know that I cannot possibly fully imagine what goes into the food I eat, and then I will allow myself to feel gratitude for the thousands of pairs of hands and thousands of spirits that have contributed to the food I am eating, directly and indirectly. I will feel this gratitude and sense of connection as I chew, at least sometimes, today.

~Today if my computer freezes for a few minutes or my phone acts funny, I will pause before getting upset and realize that these are technological masterpieces, and a few extra minutes of waiting is nothing compared to the immense convenience that these things are offering me each and every day.

Now, I don’t fully verbalize all of these before getting out of bed, honestly. I sorta just think, “water, food, mirror, computer, rushing, dog-not-facebook.” I tend to make up new ones, but these are six keepers. The food one is particularly intense. I find that I do it each time I eat wasabi peas. I am still not sure how those are made, and wow, it would be intense to make them on my own. Having a sense of awe and appreciation for the things that we take for granted can be really nourishing. It can help us to stay awake and aware, and to help others to do the same.

I would love to know other little things that people do when they wake up to try and have a good day!