I just read an article, where the author was slamming the somewhat trendy message regarding positive thinking and its ability to change your life or to manifest what you desire. I was struck by the author’s, what I considered, negative interpretation about the power of positive thinking. However, stepping back I realized that this author is entitled to his opinion, minus my judgement of it. I decided to put my own spin on this line of thought. After all, if I believe my experiences in this life are about what I think, so what does it say about me if I judge someone else’s place on the journey. So often I must remind myself there are as many paths as there are souls.
Positive thinking for me is about how I experience or interpret my journey. Like most people, I have faced many challenges in this life, my own set of provocations, some that I have passed through quickly and others that have taken many years of evolution to make sense of.
In times of great angst, it is not realistic to say, “think positive” and it will go away. Loss, heartbreak, disease, disability, and any other unfortunate experience that we all face at one time or another will bring with it its own set of emotions and various other consequences. But, what I have learned when facing any challenge in my life, is that the challenge does not need to become my identity. To be human, is to experience a myriad of emotions and situations, good, bad or indifferent. How and when we experience these emotions is a choice…really. Emotions must always be acknowledged and respected. To try and force a positive thought over the emotion will create more problems, if not now, eventually. I know this to be real. Personal growth will cease until the emotion can be acknowledged and accepted. I consider myself to be a very intelligent person, and yet I am a very slow learner when it comes to knowing myself.
Let me paint a few pictures here with my words to illustrate what I am talking about when I say not to make the problem your identity. Not to be a victim of the challenges that life presents to you, and this is where it counts…we all become what we focus on. What do you focus on? Do you focus on the pain of the heartbreak or the loss, and then set in motion a domino effect of negative, self-destructive thoughts, linking one thought to another about how awful your life is? How things never work out for you? Projecting into the future about how terrible you are going to feel, forever? Or possibly project a poor outcome to your present situation? Do you see where this is going, no place good. Or do you try to run from the uncomfortable feeling altogether? Avoidance of the emotion, jump into some busyness and refuse to acknowledge the painful situation. I believe, from personal experience, these strategies contribute to many human frailties including addictions, but that’s for another blog…
What I, as well as many others have learned, is that to experience the feeling associated with the unfortunate situation is never as bad as the thought of the feeling. To sit with the authentic feeling, one moment at a time can bring real peace of mind, and eventually lead to a feeling of happiness. Accept what is. A difficult situation does not a bad life make, no matter how dire. When I was in my 20’s, living in a halfway house, (again, for another blog) I met a woman, who was a mentor for me for many years. She would often tell me that feelings are not facts. There is the feeling, and then the rational, logical side of yourself who can look at the situation and know from experience that the painful, or uncomfortable feeling will pass, and coming out the other side of allowing yourself to feel the pain will bring a sense of accomplishment as well as the development of a new skill for managing emotion. Focus on the positive, not the pain. Have the pain, acknowledge your grief, anger, and on and on, sit with it if you are able, but feed your logical rational mind. Acknowledge the darkness, but, look to the light. The direst of situations can be managed a moment at a time. How many times have you heard this? How many times have you resisted this line of thinking as new age mythical nonsense? Present moment awareness is a level of consciousness that goes below the surface, it is a deeper awareness of the self and the concept of time. One moment, that is all there truly is, the past is gone, the future has not happened, (and may never happen) you have heard this before…think about what I am saying. Most of us miss most of our lives lost in thoughts of what isn’t. Like everything in life, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
As these words roll so easily off my fingers, one would think that I have got this down. However, as I said before, I am a slow learner. Progress has been made, after a lifetime of hearing the same message in many ways, I finally understand what is being said, and at times I can even apply this to my life. It is in those times when I can apply what I have learned; “reality is what you think it is”, that suffering is not only minimized, but in some situations suffering dissipates. “Accept what is in this moment”, powerful words to live by.
In the article, I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, the author likened positive thinking to magical thinking. His interpretation of the message is that to think positive when facing challenges is like thinking is magical, I do not entirely disagree with this view…when it happens it can feel like magic. Positive thinking will not make a challenge magically disappear. However, to be aware of your thoughts when facing any challenge will bring you closer to your present moment awareness bringing peace of mind.
I have been on the road since last Thursday, running from Irma. From Naples Florida to Spartanburg, South Carolina. Evacuated twice along the way. I want to go home…the roads are not entirely intact from here to there, gas is still limited…and if I got there, there is no power and no water.
The good news is, we are fine and have no structural damage to property at home. Life is truly an adventure!
Accept what is….