They also see a very threatening world. And so they adopt a ‘survival strategy’. Some become people-pleasers in order to gain others’ approval. Others become controllers, in order to compel others to please them. Still others retreat, remaining silent so as to avoid all possible conflict with others. All of these strategies are based on fear - fear of disapproval, fear of disappointment or fear of conflict.
This view of the world impacts their feelings, their relationships and their lives. By focusing on the negative, they are always unhappy. By not trusting anyone, they are unable to make close friendships. And because they believe that their future outlook is gloomy, they never allow themselves to pursue their dreams.
Other people have a positive outlook. Perhaps it’s because of a happy and secure childhood, or perhaps it’s in their genes. They seem to find something positive in every situation, and they’re optimistic about the future.
These people are happier because they focus is on the bright side of things. They have better relationships because they are more trusting (and trust usually draws out the best in others). And their optimism compels them to pursue their dreams with such focus and persistence, that they are likely to realize their grandest visions.
The ”New Age” movement
A number of books have been written about “the law of attraction”, “the power of positive thinking” and “positive affirmations”. And many people are making an effort to change their habitual negative thought patterns into positive ones.
But often times, this just turns into another kind of battle. Before, it was “me vs. them” and now, it’s “negative vs. positive” thoughts. As you work on changing negative thoughts to positive, notice what’s happening… You are judging every thought. You transform every negative thought into the positive. It’s hard work! And you’re still in a state of resisting – resisting what you judge to be negative.
A different approach
Let’s consider a different approach… Imagine letting go of the battle. Imagine welcoming all situations and thoughts – allowing them to come and go with neither resistance nor clinging. Imagine there is a vibrant life energy constantly flowing through you, and you just let it flow.
You may notice negative thoughts, positive thoughts, judgmental thoughts – and you welcome all of them and let them go. No resistance, no attachment. The only thing that is constant is your attentiveness and your peacefulness.
It’s interesting that when you are in this state, you do sound like one of those New Age ‘positive’ people. When something terrible happens, you don’t see it as ‘bad’. But you don’t see wonderful things as ‘good’ either. Everything just IS, and you welcome all things with a peaceful heart.
There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"
Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck? Who knows?
The Chinese farmer never judged a situation as good or bad. He just went with the flow, peacefully accepting and dealing with each event as it occurred.
When you are in this state of mind, you actively participate in life. You experience all sorts of emotions. But you observe from a deeper place. This deeper, inner state is constant and peaceful. And from that place, you savor every moment, every thought and every emotion.
I remember when I was in my early twenties, at times when I had just split up with ‘another’ boyfriend, I would go and sit beside the river and write poetry. And I remember noticing that as I wrote, I was actually enjoying my sadness. I would BE with the feeling, allow the tears and turn them into poetry. I was able to savor even my sadness.
I think that we came to this life because we wanted to experience emotions, challenges, frustrations and joy. But we sometimes get so caught up that it’s not fun any more.
In order to regain our perspective, we need to step back once in a while and remember that we are just passing through one little lifetime - a tiny moment in the history of the universe. So make the most of it. Soak up the experiences. Welcome each situation, each thought and each emotion with open arms, and then let it go. Savor this moment … and the next … and the next …