I’m am writing this blog for two reasons, i think.
1 – Because I feel I need to organize my own thoughts, so I can explain this to someone without them looking at me with a “huh?” face.
2 – For the people in my life who say things like “I was positive today about “blank” and I didn’t get what I wanted…so explain it to me Shawn?! Why didn’t I Shawn?! You always say STAY POSITIVE and good things will happen!.”
So…here’s my answer.
First, lets talk a little about what most people think when they hear the word “Positive”
“Be positive”, “Think positive”, “Stay positive”, “Have positive thoughts”…sound familiar?
Does this mean that you FORCE yourself to be happy when a tragedy occurs?
Does this mean that you FORCE yourself to be happy when something gets you sad?
Does this mean you “think positive” and get whatever you want?
Well, maybe sometimes…but probably not the way you think.
This is where people mis-understand, or misinterpret the meaning behind the practice.
You can look in the dictionary for the word “positive” and I can tell you that no where you will find the definition – “a thought that gets me everything I want.”
Positive is an attitude, feeling, or a state of being. It’s a feeling of surrender and contentment. It’s a way we control whether we suffer or not. It’s a way we control how we react to whatever it is life throws at us.
To ignore an emotion is to miss the lesson within that emotion itself.
This means if you are sad because your dog died then it’s ok to be sad.
I would be sad.
This just means you don’t allow yourself to suffer through it, that’s all. Be sad…it’s ok.
If you didn’t land the promotion after ALL the “positive thinking” and you are disappointed…then be disappointed…it’s ok.
If you are just expecting everything to be good whenever you think “I am thinking positive” then you are missing the point.
What is REALLY good anyway?
When you categorize life into “good things” and “bad things” suffering will be there.
(side note: I did a whole blog on good vs. bad in “Crushing the duality between pain and pleasure” so I’m just going to only get slightly into this…)
When there are immediate expectations due to your conditional behavior, then suffering will be there.
When people teach you what is “good” and what is “bad” then you will immediately think that not getting what you want is “bad.” You were taught, somewhere along the timeline of your life, that THIS is good and THIS is bad…
…but how do you know?
Getting what you want now can turn to pain later…and NOT getting what you want can turn out to be your biggest blessing. So then what is “good” or “bad”
Is “good” when something externally works out in your favor?…or you receive something of material worth? What if the situation that works out for you causes pain for someone else? Is that still what you consider “good?”
So, you’re “positive” for that job promotion and you get it…but later it turns into a nightmare…did your positive thinking pay off? Well, for the moment I guess…but is this “good?”
All life is uncertain and that is the ONLY 100% truth there is. It’s the practice of surrendering into it that brings true liberation.
In my opinion, to be “in a positive mindset” is to be in a place we do not allow ourselves to SUFFER…no matter what the situation.
There is a parable in buddhism that explains a story of man who is walking through the woods and unexpectedly gets shot with an arrow. He looks up to find the archer loading another arrow and pointing it at him…
What would you do now? Would you stand still and let him shoot you with the second arrow? or would you get out of the way?
We can’t always see that first arrow coming but the second one is up to us to either move out of the way or get shot again.
The first arrow is pain, but the second arrow is suffering.
Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. – Haruki Murakami
Picture a timeline…
In this timeline there is a starting point, an end point and a huge space in between. Within that space will hold the life you choose to live. It’s the space that’s important. Not the beginning or end…but the space in between.
How we choose to live in that space is up to YOU and YOU alone.
The beginning and end are inevitable and unchangeable. The thing is, though, most people are so obsessed with the end that they completely take the “space” for granted.
Now also, within THAT big space lies smaller divisions with their own timelines…I’ll give an example…
Say you develop an illness or injury. The moment that illness starts it’s now your “beginning point” and when the illness is over is your “end point”. That situation has IT’S OWN “space in between.”
Every event or situation throughout your life will have it’s own timeline. It’s within the “space” of that timeline that determines the amount of your suffering. So if you break a leg and choose to whine for 6 weeks screaming “It’s not fair!” then THAT will be your suffering and wasted “space”. If you choose to use that time in a more positive way like reading, watching a new show, spending more time outside or even meditating then your “space” becomes part of your growth…get it?
The pain is unavoidable and the “end point” is uncertain, but your attitude about it will decide whether you want to suffer through it or not. It’s up to you.
Now a personal story…
Years ago I had a girlfriend that passed away of cancer while we were still dating. She was only 20 and battled it for over a year. She was in and out of hospitals, had multiple treatments, radiation, etc… Her diagnosis would make anybody (especially at the age of 20) shattered, angry and defeated. Yet from the very beginning she NEVER once had any sort of negative attitude. She never had self-pity, never cried (at least not in front of me), and never looked even slightly sad.
While I was battling the “Whys?” and “How could this happen!” she lived each day as if everything was like any other day. She treated the hospital rooms like her own personal playground. She decorated her IV with a face and arms and named it “Ralph” and she actually made a sign she hung on the door the read “No sad faces” (or something to that effect). She ALWAYS had a smile on her face…a smile I will never forget.
She never wavered from her positive attitude or ever seemed sad. Even the last time I spoke with her (which was probably a day or so before she died) it was like any other conversation and she just told me she loved me.
Meanwhile, I never took any of this well. At the time I was a 19 year old angsty teenager who thought I knew everything when, in actuality, I knew ABSOLUTELY nothing. I was actually upset, mad and dumbfounded how someone could be so happy at the chance of dying. Imagine that! I was actually mad at her for being so happy. At times I kept my distance because I think a part of me wanted to pretend this will all just go away if I ignored it. What I didn’t know at the time is this 20 year old ANGEL was teaching me one of the GREATEST lessons I have ever come to know…
HOW TO LIVE.
While I’m sure she didn’t wish to die it was her WILL and ATTITUDE that actually showed EVERYONE around her HOW TO LIVE!
It has taken me 20 years, numerous books, workshops, experiences, hundreds of meditations and more to finally see the truth in our existence. She knew it without any help at all…
People are so quick to say things like “Oh, what a shame, she was so young”…but she was more evolved then ANY OF US.
Her body might have been shed early but the energy of her spirit is within everything I study and within EVERY practice I now teach. I have no doubt she was meant to be a part of my life and the power of this kind of energy will carry on in my heart for the rest of my days.
It takes some people MULTIPLE lifetimes to learn how to TRULY live like this…she did it in 20.
Did you choose to think of that as a sad story? or a positive one?
Did you think “How sad.” or did you think “How beautiful.”
How you answered says a lot about your perception of things.
It’s perception that is truly EVERYTHING. The way we perceive things is the way we will choose what our next steps will be. It’s how we treat our “space in between.”
It’s the space that makes us immortal…it’s the space that carries on.
So, now…maybe you understand a little more when I say…