(A recent post got me thinking...)
Recently I read something from the Dahlai Lama about attempting to, just for seven days, resist thinking any negative thoughts about any other person. He stated that in a competitive, consumer society we are conditioned to focus on the negative and that this is destructive to our psyches and communal well-being.
At first I said well that is fucking ridiculous there are too many idiots and assholes for me to resist thinking negative thoughts... but then I reflected on what my statement said about myself.
So I decided I would try it. The first day was a disaster... no luck, OK, I would do it an hour at a time-very difficult (I work on a busy campus and I do run into a lot of people...). Manageable, but strangely I noticed how easily my mind could laspe into negative feelings/thoughts and that even as I worked to develop a positive outlook about current events/relationships, past events would begin to seep into my consicousness and would assail my defenses... what about when this happened, or when I failed to do this, or when this person let me down, or the countless people I have hurt in my lifetime...
Despite the periods of pain this exercise has caused me, I have been noticing more moments of pure happiness and delight in life--I am also more conscious of how my negative thoughts are a conditioned reflex (often unconscious) and that I can choose to be happier.
I'm an old school existentialist who is suspicious of bliss, but I am learning to enjoy myself more... hopefully I can spread some of that joy.
Thanks for the post Okir.
Interesting. You know, I've actually heard of this exercise before and I never really understood how it could be hard for anyone to not think negatively of someone else. I feel like I so rarely have any spiteful feelings towards anyone. Sometimes sympathy and sometimes lack of understanding, but really the only people who can work me up are the ones I care about dearly, the ones I've really invested a bunch of time in. Otherwise it's all just shrugs of the shoulders. I suppose that's an emotional response though and not really something I rationalize.
Thanks for the insight.
I can relate to having patches of time like that.. It's something that sneaks up on ya when you're not paying attention. When I've had phases of negativity, I early on find myself arrested by an awareness of the heaviness/graveness I feel, then it seems that I will realise that it has been some time since I last laughed outloud. This leads me to introspect - what had transpired to lead me into such a state tension, seriousness, etc.?
I find three excercises particularily helpful: i) understand my emotional responses/interpretations that which domino'd or triggered 'the state'; iii) find means of excerting energy (dance in the living room, do jumping jacks, belt out made-up songs - be ridiculous) ii) look for the positive (see the bunnies in the clouds).
I find that pent up energy has everything to do with that mindset, and all kinds of energies have to go somewhere - so if ya don't choose where to put it, it may just infect the part of your 'mechanics' that you most often rely upon (in this case...the mind). Some things cannot be reasoned away and must be excercized out of the body....
The rest of the time, I find myself in your shoes Oso. Forgive me though if I'm making ill-conceived presumptions by saying that with age, a kind of fatigue sets in for the struggle with all that which one has suffered by or for. Like all fatigue, it can make one bitter and grumpy....
You live in La Jolla, you better be thinking positive thoughts! (for those that don't know La Jolla is one of the most beautiful beaches in California)
Seriously though you have probably hit the nail on the head when you said:
"really the only people who can work me up are the ones I care about dearly, the ones I've really invested a bunch of time in."
Also I over-exaggerated my negativity ... I'm more of a roller-coaster ride (think of the big wooden coaster at Magic Mountain).
I like that you listed out of order!
Probably part if the problem is in line with #iii in that it is getting cold and I need sunshine and exercise. I will run to the point of exhaustion tomorrow ;) I think dancing would also be good for the soul and grooving all night to an amazing band!
I think I am acting my age too much trying to be "responsible" professional... need some craziness, which always puts a smile on my face.
Its funny you said this:
"Forgive me though if I'm making ill-conceived presumptions by saying that with age, a kind of fatigue sets in for the struggle with all that which one has suffered by or for. Like all fatigue, it can make one bitter and grumpy...."
because I think this all set in last month which was my B-Day.
Adding to all this is the fact that I do not feel a part of Lexington... I need to be West!
I always try to think positive, it is not an easy thing to do. Often I find myself in a mental fight to supress negative thoughts about things. Even in the worst situations I will look for a positive effect no matter how small, and work from that.
I choose to be happy.
Come West my friend. Wasn't there talk of a December visit?
I was in Oregon this past Christmas--summer will be Cali.
I do not know why I am unhappy. I feel like a arsehole and idiot as I can not find a job. I am a professional with masters degree but no one wants me. For last one year I tried thousands of jobs and went for hundreds of interviews. Councils and NHS appears to do shop front interviewing to show that their friend who is temping is the best for the job.
It seems as though it is inside of every contemplative artist/writer/musician/activist/freethinker there is a significant amount of unhappiness. I believe it is because we do not see through that same bubbly-filter that those lucky ignorance-is-bliss, sheep-like people have the ability to do. In this existence, we more readily recognize the contradictions, the ugliness, the sorrow and sadness and pain, with more profundity than others can comprehend.
However, we are more apt to know that there is so much beauty in this place that it wells up out of your heart sometimes (and for me,when it is too great, it comes out in tears).
We recognize the things, both good and bad, that others simply miss. This naturally leads us to thinking there's a bunch of fucking assholes around, few worth noticing or talking to.
This being said, I think the Dalai Lama must be the man. When I read this post, and the author's post on which you commented, I began to think about a typical day at my job- retail. Talk about a nightmare of ignorance. Then I began to think about talking to all of these people without negativity, and I could literally feel my brain squishing and hurting. Painful exercise is correct.
However, I think I am going to try it, because if one can die of cynicism, if one can be destroyed by their own negativity and inadequacies, then I am well on my way. If I can master some art of happiness and hold on to it without it sleeping back into the bleak abyss, where I only catch glimpses of it undulating beneath the grey surface of sorrow... if I can figure out a way to be content and not always itching to be doing something else, not always thinking I should be somewhere other than I am..
If it is possible to view others positively, to begin to think of life positively, maybe there is a chance. I'm going to give it a shot.
And I was just here looking for links to the film class, you have too much interesting stuff on your blog, teacher.
Nicole... I know it is difficult, but it is worth dealing directly with your pain... I don't know if you have seen it, but here is a wide-ranging reflection on my journey, up to a certain point Animalogos
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