Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Here: A User's Guide

Every time I post something that some consider "negative" I get a little flurry of emails and messages urging me to think more positively. The latest was a Facebook post when I mentioned that the weekend had not been the respite I had hoped. Care for my father who has advanced Alzheimer's had required a lot of driving and some difficult decision-making so I was offering up a little prayer that my sleep be deep and replenishing.

Several people wrote to tell me I was making myself tired by acknowledging this condition, suggesting that I simply keep saying to myself, "I am not tired. I am full of energy."

Now, I know that how we view conditions- both inner and outer- profoundly impacts our experience. But I was tired- not dying, not angry about being tired, not panicked or catastrophizing in any way. Because I could acknowledge I was tired, I went to bed early.

What bothers me about this so-called positive thinking is that it assumes that all thoughts of what is, when what is does not meet our ideals, are negative. There are often truly positive things that come out of days when I am tired and can acknowledge it- I deepen my kindness toward self and my compassion for others who are not having a full-throttle day. Tired isn't in itself negative or positive- sometimes it's just what is.

Fundamentalist positive thinking implies that acknowledging conditions creates them, and that denying what is will instantly create desirable change. But while we are human beings we are embodied souls/ ensouled bodies living in a physical reality prescribed by certain conditions. If I jump off the roof of my building with only positive thoughts about flying, I'm still going to hit the ground, because gravity trumps thinking in the experience of falling.

If we don't honour the physical realities of being an ensouled body, we aren't likely to honour the very real conditions of living on a physical planet- and this is really what concerns me. An economic system that relies on and tries to create infinite growth on a finite planet ultimately can't work. And just having positive thoughts that it will all be okay is not enough to change our unsustainable growth and voracious accumulation of stuff. We can't think away the garbage we've put in the ocean, and if we believe that thinking about that garbage is what creates it, we're not likely to do the thinking necessary to find a way to repair and stop the on-going damage so that life can be renewed and sustained.

Denial isn't just unnecessary, it's dangerous.

I have tremendous faith in human ingenuity, creativity and the inspiration that comes when we are aligned with Life and Spirit. But all of that happens within the very real conditions of being here- and being here is a gift. I want to receive that gift in all aspects- those I find easy and those I find not-so-easy with my eyes and my heart wide open, and in deep gratitude.

Oriah (c) 2014

18 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. I have a real struggle with the idea of generalized positive thinking. Yes, there are lessons in the difficult times but denying their existence is engaging with them and part of me knows it's rubbish to try and say, 'I'm OK' when I'm feeling really bad. I've tried really hard with this but just end up feeling worse because I 'should' be able to do it but can't!! It comes from all sides and some I really respect but I've decided to let myself off the hook - nothing awful will come as a result of acknowledging when I don't like how I feel.( I have ME - 26yrs)
    Your wider perspective thoughts are also a helpful perspective. Thank you again and sending love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanlu, it's rare that I connect with someone who has had ME almost as long as I have (I was diagnosed in 1983.) Sometimes when folks tell me I need to be more positive (ie- not acknowledge I am tired) I want to ask them how they think I've managed with a chronic illness for over 30 years. If I hadn't managed some positivity I would not be here! but likewise if I cannot assess my physical needs (and yes, sometimes- dare I say it?- my limitations) I would also not be here, because over extending makes this illness worse. So glad you found this helpful, Oriah

      Delete
    2. This one really speaks to me Oriah.
      I believe we should acknowledge where we are at any given moment, and love our limitations as well as our triumphs. They are all us and all worthy of our love. Always being and thinking positive is not realistic, and we deny a huge part of ourselves...and others, if we think they should always think positively too. I like positive people, but I really connect with those who admit life is not always happy, and who are willing to share their bad days with me as well as their good ones. We all need a shoulder to lean on, and if we don't admit that we have bad days and needs, then we can't be there for anyone else either. Thank you Oriah, you always resonate with me!

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    4. According to Einstein: "No issue can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

      So the miracle of positive thinking and being comes from a shift in perspective, not a change in the reality of the matter.

      NAMASTE

      Delete
    5. A shift in perspective is indeed often needed and helpful- unless that shift is into denial, delusions or lying to ourselves and others- which is what happens if we believe we must not acknowledge that what is (within or around us) if what is, is less-than-ideal.

      Delete
  2. I totally agree. Only people who have never felt wary to the bone, dog-tired and totally exhausted from it all, who have never have had heart-ache so brutal that it threw them to the floor can say such crap as "You only have to think positive and hey presto it all goes away in a finger-snap-instant" Such bullshit sentences drive me nuts. I want to ask those people "Have you ever lost 3 beloved people and 1 beloved cat to death in just one year? Have you ever had such grief and pain that ripped out your heart and splintered it into 1000 pieces? Have you ever been inside of such a dark spiral of depression that you could only bring out the garbage by telling yourself that you will see the awesome stars in the sky when you do so? Have you? If not, then shut the f*ck up with your one sentence-heals all-crap-of-positive-thinking and wake up to the real world! Of course there is joy, too! Of course there are awesome moments, too! BUT don't be in denial that shit happens to good people, that there is brutal loss and heartache, that the earth is fed up with our behaviour how we treat her! No, life is not always just fine and dandy and positive! Deal with it! Be real, cry, be angry, be sad, laugh and love. ALL of it is life. Wishful thinking can only do so much. Denial is not only dangerous, it is utterly stupid and bites you in the ass sooner or later anyway. So might as well deal with it honestly." Thanks so much Oriah for being true to yourself. You rock :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sabine, your comment very much reflects many of the hundreds received on Facebook to this post- and it touches on something I didn't even mention in the post that is true: that real damage can be done to people who are facing enormous challenges by those who tell them that they "must" or "should" think it away with positive thoughts. Thanks for this- too true and so sad when we do this to each other.

      Delete
  3. Thankyou Oriah - I really enjoyed this post. I believe strongly that I should look for the good in every situation - if I'm tired, the good might be that I'm tired because of what I've accomplished that day or it's good a reason to spend 10 hours tucked up in bed! - but positive thinking of the "let's pretend this isn't happening" variety is unhelpful and can lead to denial of situations, feelings, issues that need to be faced and dealt with.
    I feel much the same about affirmations. I subscribe to a site that sometimes suggests using these - I'm afraid that if I look in the mirror and intone "I am a beautiful and creative person" or whatever, on a day when I feel far from that, I'm likely either to follow it with some very rude words, or just feel bad because I'm self-evidently NOT what I'm claiming to be (or not at that moment anyway).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne- smiled at imagining your rude words after an affirmation that doesn't fit in this moment :-)

      Delete
  4. Hi Oriah,
    when I started to change my way of life some 20 years ago, my first approach was the technique of positive thinking which was very good for me at that time. Before, I thought so horrid things about myself, life, and the world, that it really was a big help for me. But after some time it didn't work for me any more because it would have meant to ignore my common sense and my genuine feelings. From that point I could go further to accepting what is and to start changes out of this acceptance. This is quite difficult at times, as you know as well. Anyway, I learned that this is the really powerful and effective means, much more than positive thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I call that kind of behavior "the cult of happiness."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just wanted to say how much I've been enjoying your blog since I signed up to follow. You often speak to my heart. In addition, I also have a father with Alzheimer's (advanced) so my heart reaches out to you as a fellow walker on that path. Much love to you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. <<>>

    I would dare to offer an edit: An economic system based on scarcity on a planet with infinite resources is doomed to failure.

    Bill Edgewood, NM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill, you'd be right, except we don't live on an infinite planet. The failure to "get" this is the failure to accept the gift of being here in a limited life (we will all die) with finite resources. These limits are not a "bug," they're a "feature" of the blessing of a human life- they shape our lives in ways that offer particular gifts.

      Delete
  8. Barbara Ehrenreich´s "Smile or Die" lecture talks about the dark side of fundamentalist positivity.
    I hope it is okay to share the URL here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo

    ReplyDelete