Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 5 - Rejecting the Negative

The "how" of it.

This is really the basis of the entire book I'm writing, and it does require an entire book, so I don't intend to cover it in one post here. But just to go over the idea....

You are the one who has to make all the choices.

First you have to decide that you want to reject the negative. And to do that you have to have a good reason. That's the "why". Nobody can make you do it. They can hint, expect, suggest, .........all the way to demand, but just as we cannot change the behaviour of others, they cannot change ours. Only you can do it. So there's the "who".

Then there's the "when". Time actually crops up here, especially in it not happening fast. This is a process. And that's not all.

Unfortunately you only learn the benefit of rejecting the negative after you've done it. Then it's obvious. But at the time of attempting this, it's a gamble. It's a lot of work and the reward is not certain. It's a leap of faith, in a way. So you do it before you really know why.

But the "how", is the hardest part of all. This is not a switch you can flick.

There will be great resistance. From where? From you. You will effectively argue with yourself.

That's how it has to be, because you will change.

The best example of this I ever heard was on an internet forum some years back, wasn't even about mindfulness, but was a perfect example of it just the same.

A man told a story of how he overcame "head up arse syndrome" as he called it. He was being criticized for being stubborn over certain things, quite minor, petty even, but at the time they seemed important. I forget the details, but they're irrelevant anyway. The big thing here was that he made a conscious choice to take that leap of faith and let go. He said at first it wasn't easy and he likened it to giving up an addiction. He felt physical symptoms from shrugging it off. At this point he even saw a doctor, wondering if he had OCD, and was told no, you're pretty uptight but it's not clinical. Two steps forward, one step back, and then one day, actually suddenly, it all fell into place.

He drew a picture, similar to this:

This is why so many people balk at the idea. In fact it's why there are warnings about strict Buddhist meditation in those outside the Asian cultures, because the unprepared western psyche can take quite a hit.

You've heard of people who become mindful after a tragedy in their lives. Doesn't always happen. Sometimes they become bitter instead, or sometimes the "new" attitude seeps away and they revert to how they were.

Most of us aren't that bad to begin with. We are basically decent people. We just gossip and whine a bit too much, and we think it's OK, no harm in it, everyone does it..........

But the biggest fear (and it is a fear) is of losing your sense of humour.

Have you seen the Dalai Lama? Have you missed the laughter? Here is a man trying to represent Buddhism to the world, and trust me he has a great sense of humour.

You are not trying to be a Buddhist, just a better human being. That's all. You're not losing anything, you're finding yourself.

So. Here you are. Today. Interested enough in this idea to be reading this. Hopefully having read all of it so far. Maybe you've made the decision, maybe not.

What will it involve? HOW will you reject the negative? By becoming more mindful.

"Yes Melanie, we got that part, you keep saying that."

That's how! Actions begin in the mind. Feelings may be visceral (or seem to be, anyway) but actions are different.

Things you do, and most importantly, things you say, are the result of a thought process.

If you say something unsympathetic it's because you were having unsympathetic thoughts. And the great lie we all tell:

"I didn't mean it."

Let's get one thing straight, right here and now, if you have to apologize for what you said, there's a mindfulness problem. A negativity problem.

Before we go any further, we must address the issue of those who seek offence. This a disorder some people suffer from, and we can't help them. They have to fix themselves. Do we have to apologize to them?

Perhaps. If you know you are dealing with a person like that and mischievously play into it, there's no real excuse, and at some point you may need to apologize for the sake of others around you. But this is "advanced" stuff, which I'll deal with in my book, if you are so inclined. For now, hold this thought: "don't push buttons".

For now, let's assume you are dealing with rational people whose reactions to you are normal and sensible and fair. If you upset reasonable people then you must apologize. Better yet, don't upset them. Aim to conduct yourself in such a way that you never need to apologize.

But do it anyway. Apologize often. It is so good for the soul. If you collide with somebody in the supermarket, apologize. Even if it was 100% their fault. 

OK, I saw a hand raised in objection there.

Really? Why not? Do you think that if you sigh and roll your eyes at the guilty party it will achieve anything?

Oh yes, I've heard that one a million times "It makes me feel better". No it doesn't. It adds to your negativity, and it harms you.

Step 1 in rejecting the negative is not to say or do negative things.

Step 2 is not thinking them.

If you are saying them, you are thinking them. They come from an ugly place inside you, a place you should reserve not for shopping cart road rage, but for fighting real injustice in this world.

Every day of my life I see people getting more angry over pathetic things, than over the things that matter. Your priorities are all wrong, people!

Negativity breeds negativity. Somebody has to call a halt to it somewhere.

When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, STOP.

Stop right there.

Replace negativity with sympathy.

Tomorrow we'll investigate sympathy.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent!! I really hope people take your advice to just STOP with the negativity, although like any good and numbing drug, it tends to be addictive in a lot of folks. Looking forward to the sympathy part (can you throw a bit of empathy and compassion in there as well, please?), and I can't wait until you get to the gratitude section. I am predicting that will be my favorite part of all. Speaking of which, GRATEFUL TO YOU for putting all of this together ~ Blessings! <3