The Power of Negative Thinking

I meditate daily, sometimes using nothing but a timer and sometimes using one of the many guided mindfulness meditations I find drifting around on the Interwebs. There are hundreds of them out there, they’re free, and some of them are very helpful indeed. Especially for those mornings when I suspect that, left to its own devices, my brain will cheerfully totter over the line from meditation to napping.

Many guided meditations have a theme: joy, lovingkindness, inner peace, even grief. Most of the good ones simply focus on redirecting your attention to the present moment, which is pretty much the whole point of mindfulness meditation as I understand it.

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a bad meditation, but after sampling a fair number of the online offerings I will posit that some meditations are less not bad than others. There are scripts that purport to juice up your creativity or to banish anxiety or enhance performance (in what area of one’s life, I can only surmise) and since the goal of meditation is to pretty much get past things like goal-setting and simply be, I don’t quite get that approach. Still, what can it hurt?

However there are one or two meditations I have run into that make my third eye roll. These are the ones that are full of exhortations to banish all negativity, to burnish one’s chakras and to focus the mind relentlessly and exclusively on positive thoughts. The operant assumption seems to be that we create our own reality with our thinking and therefore if we project wonderfulness out into the universe, our experience will be correspondingly groovy.

mindful.org

The unspoken flip side of this script is that we mustn’t let even a tickle of a hint of anything less than fabulousness enter into our awareness lest we attract Bad Things. If Bad Things happen to us, then it either means that our soul has assigned itself a lesson without asking us, or that whatever is going wrong has been brought about by our own negative thinking. So it’s our fault.

I’m not buying it. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor of cultivating a positive mental attitude. I know that a lot of how the world looks to me depends on the lenses through which I’m seeing it, so keeping those lenses free of accumulated grime (AKA resentment, discouragement, and pettiness) goes a long way toward improving my outlook. But first of all, my thoughts are not that powerful. If they were, I’d have legs like Jennifer Aniston.

I’m  committed to experiencing life as fully and honestly as I can, and, honestly, sometimes life sucks. To pretend otherwise is to live in denial, which is another form of fear. Also it’s irresponsible: if we refuse to allow suffering and injustice and random bad (insert expletive here) into our awareness, we’re only making a feeble attempt to let ourselves off the hook. How else do we have compassion? We exist in a universe composed of contrasts, and as much as I wish it were different, if there is no sadness there can’t be happiness, just like if there is no darkness there can’t be light. Don’t look at me like that; I didn’t make the rules.

But here’s the thing. I find that when I stop running away from the awful aspects of life, I appreciate the non-awful parts even more. Last Monday I returned to my day job after a week of holiday break, and like many employees with a generous benefit package, I whined inwardly about having to drag my carcass out of bed in the cold dark morning and go back to work. Later that day I got the kind of phone call that makes your heart drop into your stomach, and by the wee hours of the following morning I was driving five hours south to be with a loved one in the hospital.Seeing my beloved family member in dire straits was gut wrenching, and there was no way around that, and it didn’t matter for a nanosecond what I so wanted to be happening instead. But at least I could be there. And when the crisis subsided and I was able to get back home in time to go to work on Friday, I was never so happy to see my coworkers, and my office, and even the young miscreants who frequently end up in my office.

That may be a puny example, but you get my point. Life is one big enchilada, and you don’t always get to pick out the beans. But sometimes you get a perfect margarita on the side. Maybe that’s a theme for my next meditation. May the glass of your life be rimmed with whatever sparkly and tasty thing most delights you.

 

4 Replies to “The Power of Negative Thinking”

  1. Anni

    Oh, yeah. Nicely put. You made me think of the poor cancer victims made to feel that their own negative thoughts made them ill. Or that they are contributing to their failure to respond to treatment. AND THAT PISSES ME OFF AND… oh, wait… chill… stay positive… OHMMMMMMM…

    Reply
  2. Laurie

    First, I am so sorry you had to endure the hours of uncertainty and worry, even if they did make you appreciate your office, coworkers, and delinquents. I think that the good stuff and the bad stuff is just churned out by time. No amount of positive thinking can change the course of events, but it CAN change our attitude and how we react.

    I, too have tried the online meditations and prefer to just remind myself “Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.”

    Great post, Jan! You always make me think! 🙂

    Reply

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