Nonetheless we are human beings, and we act too often in circumstances from existing opinions, judgments and core beliefs developed as far back as early childhood. We arrive at almost every situation pre-armed with negativity - with things we know we don't like. We are sure some people are simply wrong - and we are, of course, right. Our opinions and judgments and core beliefs are firmly in place leaving no room for something positive. Is this an immutable condition? Can we change from seeing the negative in life to always seeing a positive life affirming view? I am as afflicted as anyone with knee-jerk negativity, however, I believe there are ways to short circuit it.
Several things are necessary in order to start this short circuiting process. There must be a real desire to do so. One must set the intention to do so and be consistent in pursing it. One thing I have realized is that by paying close attention to my thoughts I can become aware when a negative thought pops up. If I find myself thinking any knid of negative thought, I can immediately stop thinking it and start thinking something else.
It is the something else that is important. Replace any negative thought with a positive one. Over time I have found a number of ideas to turn to when looking for a positive replacement:
THE MESSAGE IN THE MOMENT - Every moment in our lives is filled with power and potential. Every moment has something to teach us. Stop the negative thought and ask "What is the message in this moment?" What is there to learn about myself, the world or others from this negative view I am holding? What positive idea may I exchange it for?
SIMPLY OBSERVE - Our all too human tendency is to immediately form a judgement or an opinion about an event. As an example, I was recently in the process of selling my house. We had a buyer, but before closing they backed out. My immediate response was to see this as a bad thing. I just lost a buyer - how terrible. I allowed myself to become a bit depressed about it; however, two weeks later I received another offer and this one was more than the previous one. It was in fact a full price offer. Once again this reminded me of the fact that I should not see any thing that happens as negative. I should always simply observe; not make a judgment, or form an opinion or analyze the situation. This means having faith that what appears as negative is only a way station on the route to a higher good. So when you find yourself seeing a situation in your life as "a bad thing," stop, and affirm - I let go and let God, who is always leading me to my highest good.
LOVE IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER - Has someone "done you wrong?" Or rather, is that the opinion you have formed about the way someone has treated you? I know in such cases my first reactions are often to be angry, perhaps frustrated - and to blame them. But as I become aware of my thoughts, I can stop, and say to myself - love is always the answer! I allow myself to see the other person through the eyes of love; to see them as a whole and complete creation of a loving God. I see them as someone who is probably dealing with as many problems in life as I am. I ask God to allow love to permeate this situation and affirm a positive outcome.
So some important things are:
First to learn to focus intently on what you are thinking. As we become more and more adept at this we are more and more able to stop and short circuit negative thoughts. All day long our minds are mostly just a rambling jumble of the trivial, unimportant and inconsequential. Flashing in and out of our minds all day are un-connected vignettes - scenes of things we wish for, things we worry about, things we suppose might be (but almost certainly never will) and things we would like to change about our past or other people. This may seem a bit exaggerated, but just try focusing on your thoughts for a day - especially when doing tasks that have become automatic and you don't need mental concentration to accomplish them. When your mind wanders, where does it go? Try monitoring your thoughts while in your car on the way to work.
Next consider the content of all of this random activity. How much of it is negative? how much is truly positive? How much has to do with resentments, antagonisms, frustrations, perceived slights, irritations and perhaps outright anger? How much has to do with guilt and judgment and opinion? How much time is spent justifying some form of prejudice? How much spent putting labels on people and ideas? Try focusing on the content of what goes on in your mind for just one day and see how much it reveals about how negative - and how positive you really are. When I first tired this the results were - well - spooky. To say the least I suprised myself. I found out just how much negativity I was holdling in my mind.
Now none of us can live life without the necessity of making some judgments and holding some opinions. Whether positive or negative. They simply facilitate living in the world. The problem comes when our judgments and opinions become rigid and inflexible. When we begin to see the world in black and white terms of I'm right and your wrong. This is the either/or duality that is the view of life as seen by our ego (by this I mean the metaphysical concept of ego). It is the ego's absolute need to be right (and for others to be wrong) that creates our daily jumble of negative thoughts. Once we realize what is going on it becomes much easier when a negative thought pops up to essentially tell the ego, "Thank you for your imput. Now go sit in the corner while I focus on the positive in life. This opens up the possibility for a new way of being.
As we begin to let go and simply observe instead of judging we are making room for something amazing. We are making room for a higher truth to show up in our life. We are making room for the most positve outcome in any situation. I will share with you now three quotes from Zen Bhuddism, Taoism and Christianity that all espouse this as the path for a new way of being:
from Seng T'san, Third Zen Patriarch:
"The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are infinitely set apart.
If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions
for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind."
from Lo Po Hu:
"'Learn not to argue with anyone even though you may disagree with them.
When they speak the truth say "yes." when they lie say: "Surely you know what you are saying!" But never argue with anything already said. Thus, only, will your soul listen and hear the Tao of Silence."'
And as so beautifully expressed in the New Testament:
"whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there be any excellence, if there be anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
I invite you to join me on a spiritual journey in 2014 - to make it a year of living positively. A year to focus on short circuiting negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones; to observe without judging; and to seek a new way of being.
Gene Ford Runnels