I normally do not set out to write anything that will be positive or inspirational. I often think that we are inundated with a sort of toxic positivity.
However, it seems ubiquitous. I am referring to people trying to look on the bright side of my life before they even have a clue about the dark side. For that matter, people looking at the bright side of their own lives can be toxic also.
So far, so bad in terms of writing about positivity.
Photo is from bragachtal on pixabay.com
Focusing on the Positive can be Dangerous
Often people don't realize that by focusing on the positive they might be ignoring real danger signs in their lives. They might not be taking a realistic view. And probably the most unexpected consequence of focusing on the positive is that it can, in some cases, lead to serious depression.
That probably sounds ironic, but it's true. When your first response to a negative thought is to try to bandaid a positive thought over it, that is a recipe for depression. Why? Because you are not really dealing with either the immediate problems or the underlying feelings that gave you a negative view in the first place.
Acknowledge How You Feel
One important thing I have learned from years of coping with depression is that I am healthiest when I freely admit, both to myself and others, that I am feeling bad. In fact the sooner I admit this, the less bad I end up feeling. I think a large part of depression is trying to hide from the negativity.
Embrace all Your Parts
So, my positive thought, ironically, is that we should embrace all of ourselves, even the part of ourselves that is like Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh. Until we find all of our parts to be lovable, we really love none of our parts.
There is a poem by Rumi called "The Guesthouse," which is excellent. It is about mindfulness. Rumi was a 13th century Sufi mystic poet. This is the poem:
The Guesthouse by Rumi (13th century)
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi is Relevant 800 Years Later
What I like about this poem is that, although it is ancient, it is just as relevant now. It illustrates the concept of mindfulness in a succinct way.
I have had clients come to me and say they "cannot meditate" because they cannot quiet the voices in their heads. I am not referring to schizophrenic voices. I mean just the various different parts of themselves.
Not Knowing How to Meditate
When a client says this to me, I find it to be a great starting point because it shows me that they don't understand mindfulness meditation. Not understanding is a great start to anything.
The key is being vulnerable in your lack of understanding. When my clients demonstrate that they don't understand something, but they are candid with me about it, I can help them to come to an increased understanding. This is not because I know everything (that is just a side benefit). Ha! I actually often think that each day I am alive serves to show me how little I know because I learn how much more there is to know. At the same time, what I know often fades just a little even as I struggle to learn more.
Start Where You Are
My point, thought, is that when a client tells me they cannot meditate because their minds are too busy, I understand that they don't realize that this is the whole point. You sit with your mind in the state that it is. Your mind is that guesthouse of which Rumi so eloquently spoke.
You sit with all the feelings inside. The mindfulness is realizing that you have all of these different worlds inside of you. You might have anger, joy, sadness, grief, etc. They all live there, sometimes for a brief moment, and sometimes for years.
Mindfulness is acknowledging their presence and allowing them to exist inside you in peace. The strange side effect that serial meditators come to find is that, sometimes, by accepting that Anxiety or Rage will not give you peace, you eventually get peace.
This does not happen immediately. Also, it is not easy to sit with anxiety or rage. However, it is a little easier to sit with these emotions, fully accepting them than to run around all day trying to get away from them. We cannot run away from ourselves. I know. I have tried. For years. It won't work. If you figure out a way, let me know, but I have not found a way.
Transcendental Meditation vs. Mindfulness Meditation
Some people who find mindfulness meditation very challenging take up transcendental meditation instead. Some people do not realize that there is more than one type of meditation.
Transcendental meditation is, for someone like me, a little more relaxing, and a little easier. You come up with a mantra, which is basically just a sound. The classic one is "ohm," which has a meaning, but the important part for the meditation is the sound. Then you chant the mantra over and over, varying the sound and keep at it for about 20 minutes. This triggers a trance state in your body and it is profoundly calming. It gets easier with practice, and I have read it recommended that we do this twice per day although I have rarely managed to be so regular about it.
Well, I did not set out to write about meditation, but that is where it ended up. I honestly believe that meditation, whether mindfulness or transcendental, is a route to inner peace for most people. Maybe it is better to say increased inner peace because I know that people get frustrated when they meditate and still feel angry, anxious, or upset. It takes time to experience improvements.
What was unexpected to me as I have read about mindfulness meditation over the years is how much it has been proven to help people, not just with psychological problems. People with a variety of physical ailments have shown dramatic improvement from regular mindfulness meditation. I find that fascinating because it is a relatively painless, non-invasive, and inexpensive intervention.
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