Beyond Positive Thinkingby Kyle Spear
I was an ardent reader of “self help” books since the later part of my school days and it became quite an obsession with me during my college days. The recurrent theme of most of these self-help books was the power of “positive thinking”.
It was easy to summarize, the message in all these books, in one line – “if you want a positive experience of life, then you must think positive”.
Of course the way this message was conveyed would vary from book to book. Some books used psychology-based reasoning, some books used spiritual reasoning, some books talked about the law of attraction, some books talked about the success mindset etc, but it always boiled down to “think positive”.
The indirect message that these books conveyed was to suppress anything that felt negative either through control-based techniques or through distraction. There would also be a lot of talk about “success”, in these books, where examples of men who made it “big” were touted as evidence of the power of positive thinking.
Also, the definition of success was usually given in a narrow manner of having a lot of money, of having a lot of friends, of having a great relationship, of traveling a lot, of being a leader, of being ambitious, of being a “go-getter”. Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, and all of this can make for some good entertainment and fun, but to specify it as the goal of life is like putting on blinders on a horse to give it a tunnel vision.
I bought into this whole philosophy of positive thinking, and it felt right to me, until some deeper questions about the reality of life started coming up. These questions started arising when I let go of trying to suppress the fear of feeling meaningless, of feeling the deep emptiness/void within, of feeling alone, of being clueless.
I sensed that the moment I let go of trying to think positive, or trying to keep myself goal-oriented, I quite naturally started sensing a deep emptiness within which is what I was trying to avoid all along, which is what all humans try to avoid using some means to cover it up, to ignore it, to suppress it. It was scary to allow this feeling of emptiness because it seemed to engulf my past mindset, it felt like a strongly depressive energy, it felt dysfunctional and it felt exhausting because the mind was fighting it constantly.
I continued to allow what was arising, even though it was unpleasant to do so, and the momentum of the mind kept fighting against this emptiness that seemed to come up.
While allowing this emptiness a lot of questions started coming up, questions about life, questions about reality, that I felt I could no longer ignore or conveniently suppress through the refuge of positive thinking.
Some of the questions were as below:
- Why am I trying to think positive, is it just because I don’t want to feel bad? What’s wrong with feeling bad?
- What does “positive” really mean? Is it not some means of adding a perception onto reality in order to give it some imposed meaning? If I don’t feel naturally positive about something why should I try to impose a positive thinking about it?
- Why do I keep “trying” to find a meaning and purpose in life? Isn’t it because it gives me some pseudo sense of security that I am doing something worthwhile?
- How can I know if what I desire is what’s right for me? What if my desire itself is coming from a place of ignorance, or a place of misunderstanding?
- Feeling like a separate individual is what I feel naturally so why should I force myself to feel “one” with everything?
- Why should finding peace be so important, isn’t this very mindset in opposition/resistance to allowing what’s naturally happening/arising?
- Why is bliss deified as the highest feeling to achieve? Wouldn’t I get bored if bliss is all I had?
- Is there really any meaning to life, any end point to reach, any real destination to conquer? Or is life just about experiencing?
- Why is losing interest in material world (physicality) considered a “better” state to reach in spiritual circles? It may be a part of evolution of a soul but how is it a “better” state, isn’t it just another state?
- Why are we taught to be “loving” instead of just allowing what we naturally feel, isn’t what we naturally feel the most authentic experience of the moment?
These are just some questions that came through and as you can notice there is a tint of darkness inherent in all of them.
I could sense that I naturally stopped feeling so “light natured” about life the moment I stopped trying to impose that idea (the idea of wanting to feel good about life). Initially, there was this sense of strong fear about feeling dark about life, it felt like a sacrilege, like a blasphemy towards life and yet I couldn’t stop myself from feeling this way because this is what I felt quite naturally and I had let go of trying to impose anything on myself. I was just allowing what was coming up naturally.
Having read loads of literature on the “law of attraction” I felt that these dark feelings, that were arising, were going to attract a lot of negative reality in my life. I wanted to get back to feeling/thinking positive, but I just couldn’t, and at one point I simply surrendered to allowing what was arising – if life was going to get negative, I was fine with it (by “fine” I don’t mean I was “happy” with it, I was just fine with it like I stopped being afraid of the negative).
With time, I noticed, in this surrender, that rather than becoming negative life actually seemed to become more balanced, I could sense an emotional stability within me that I never felt before, I could feel that I was no longer dictated by any feeling, any thought or any belief. I could sense my personality changing in terms of an integration of power (and objectivity) that was missing before. I could sense that I had developed an independent thinking which was free of the influence of any books I had read or any teacher I had listened to – for the first time I actually felt an “originality” in me that I never did before (all my life I had only tried to copy others).
In this state of openness I also got the answers to my questions (cited above), not answers that I wanted to hold on to but answers that just felt like a knowing. These were the answers (to each of the question I mentioned above, sequentially).
1.) Why am I trying to think positive, is it just because I don’t want to feel bad? What’s wrong with feeling bad?
There is nothing wrong with feeling bad, it’s just natural to feel bad because we are sensitive beings. To try to suppress these “bad feelings” is unnatural, and is done either out of fear or out of some external conditioning. “Feeling good” is just one experience, it’s not everything, it’s not a higher state.
Being human, being life-energy, includes feeling good and feeling bad, the light and dark. The problem is with “imbalance”, when you suppress bad feelings, or try to cling to good feelings, you create imbalance and this imbalance gathers momentum, and this momentum is what becomes disturbing.
2.) What does “positive” really mean? Is it not some means of adding a perception onto reality in order to give it some imposed meaning? If I don’t feel naturally positive about something why should I try to impose a positive thinking about it?
In the light of aligned understanding (or clear awareness) you neither feel positive about life nor do you feel negative about it – you sense life in its ordinariness, its beauty and its limitation, its pros and cons, its mix of light and dark nature.
You don’t feel a sense of awe about anything neither do you feel depressed about anything. It’s a “neutral” place of functioning, but it’s not a dull neutrality rather it’s an objective/reality-based neutrality, the neutrality that allows for wisdom to operate, the neutrality that makes you mature where you stop being naive, where you stop craving, where you stop holding rigid views.
3.) Why do I keep “trying” to find a meaning and purpose in life? Isn’t it because it gives me some pseudo sense of security that I am doing something worthwhile?
Life has no inherent meaning except that it’s following its nature. The nature of life is rooted in a desire for growth, for self-expression and self-experience.
You can never stop this “nature” in you, you can’t stop the desire for growth, the desire for expression or the desire for experience. It’s okay if you want to give a meaning to your growth or expression, but it’s not really the meaning that drives you, it’s your very nature to be driven. You will be driven even if you let go of trying to associate meanings or purpose – you can never reach a place of doing “nothing”, you will always do something or the other, trying to be “blank”, or being blank, is just a temporary state of experience (and it’s also a doing) it’s not some ideal state to achieve or stay in.
I don’t see a big meaning in anything and yet I am driven to do things that feel like a requirement, that feel interesting, that feel like an expression, that feel like an experience and that feel like growth. For example, I am writing this post not because I associate an importance with it (as if this is some truth that needs to be out there or that everyone needs to know) but because I feel like expressing this, for no other reason but for the sake of expression.
4.) How can I know if what I desire is what’s right for me? What if my desire itself is coming from a place of ignorance, or a place of misunderstanding?
I can never know if what I desire is right for me, so I am open to allowing the collective wisdom of life to operate instead of trying to force my specification. If a desire finds fulfillment its fine, if it doesn’t that’s fine too, it’s no longer that important to meet a desire and they don’t invoke the same “craving” energy that they did in a state of delusion.
A desire is just a thought towards a certain expression or experience or growth, nothing more nothing less, and it’s natural to desire because it’s inherent to our nature. I am not opposed to desires neither do they have a strong hold over me, it’s just one part of living.
5.) Feeling separate is what I feel naturally so why should I force myself to feel “one” with everything?
Though we inherently come from the same space/source of life, we are separate beings/souls, each of us, and we can’t ever feel “one” with each other totally – we will always be separate souls, eternally. Each of us has our expression to live, our experiences to have and our growth path to traverse. Each of us has our own pace of evolution, and though, eventually, we all evolve in the same way, towards the same maturity, but our experience of our journey will always be personal to us – no-one can ever know you the way you know yourself, only you can meet yourself 100%, this means that you will always feel alone in some way and it’s best to connect with this aloneness instead of fighting it.
Though we are all made of the same “one life-energy” we are all separate in our mix of personality (not just as humans but also as non-physical souls) which also keeps getting molded through our experiences. Feeling separate is a reality of your life, as a being, it’s best to embrace the sense of your individuality instead of trying to dissolve it. However, just because you feel separate doesn’t mean you can’t be sensitive to others, we are all connected as life-energy (connected and yet separate) and hence can “sense” each other.
The balance this reality of oneness and separation is of essence – to just focus on oneness can lead to a disconnection with your individuality and to just focus on separation can lead to insensitivity towards the outside.
6.) Why should finding peace be so important, isn’t this very mindset in opposition/resistance to allowing what’s naturally happening/arising?
There is a difference between “trying” to find peace and being at peace with life. When you are at peace with life you are also at peace with not being peaceful – that’s the paradox, once you get this you will see how true it is. The peace that comes from the state of openness is not a temporary experience it’s simply a state of “non-resistance” to experiences – this “peace” is not like your imagination of the temporary experience of a static peace.
The better word for this peace is “inner wholeness”, the state of inner wholeness is not like some experience of peace but it’s like an openness to allowing peace or activity (inner or outer movement) without resistance. So it’s not about trying to find peace but about coming to a place of true openness – a person who is trying to find peace will always feel disturbed, however a person who gets rooted in openness goes beyond the disturbing effect of the disturbance.
7.) Why is bliss deified as the highest feeling to achieve? Wouldn’t I get bored if bliss is all I had?
Bliss/joy/pleasure/fun is just one experience of life and all experiences are relative, which means that in order to experience bliss you also need to be aware of its opposite.
Since your very nature is rooted in the desire for experience, it naturally moves/vacillates between opposites – the light and the dark experiences. You can’t ever stop the desire for growth, for experience, and hence the idea of finding some permanent experience is unreal. You will naturally get bored of one experience if it lasts too long. It may seem very ordinary that our movement in life is driven by our nature of getting bored of “sameness” and yet this is the obvious truth.
Bliss only feels extra-ordinary to beings who are imbalanced, just like the prospect of eating food feels extra-ordinary to someone who has been starving for a few days – for someone who feels balanced the experience of bliss is not a big deal, just like how someone who is well-off doesn’t think too extra-ordinarily about food.
8.) Is there really any meaning to life, any end point to reach, any real destination to conquer? Or is life just about experiencing?
There is no purpose to life, it’s simply living its nature. There is no end-point because our very nature is to desire growth or new expression. We can define purposes by giving it some relative/higher meaning but it’s not important to do so, and it’s only needed when you have a sense of “narrow thinking” or delusion. If something feels right to you then follow it, but let go of this idea that it’s “the ultimate right”, it’s just what’s right for “you” in your current state of being.
In fact, you don’t have to feel good about something in order to do it, you can just do it because it’s needed from a place of wisdom – for example, it may not feel good to you to kill a lamb and yet you may do so to feed yourself and your family. To do what feels right (or what feels needed/required) and to do what feels good need not always be the same.
You don’t have to define a high and mighty purpose for yourself, you can just follow what feels like the required deal for you in your current reality in all its ordinariness. To want “experience” is the purpose of life but it’s not really a purpose it’s just a “nature”.
9.) Why is losing interest in material world (physicality) considered a “better” state to reach in spiritual circles?
You can always feel better through comparison but in reality there are no “better” states in life, there are just higher states of being in terms of evolution – also, higher does not always mean better, it just means higher in terms of a different level. “Better” is a relative term. Losing interest in the material world is not a “better” state to reach, it can just be a state of evolution, for you, as a being, where you no longer feel inclined towards the material realm (possibly temporarily). From this place you can decide to no longer incarnate into physicality but pursue your movement in the non-physical realm. This does not mean that you are “better” it just means you’ve choosen differently. From life’s perspective, nothing is better or worse, everything is a required experience – the feeling of being “better” is only an individual feeling created through comparison with others or with oneself (comparing yourself with how you were in the past).
Also, just because you’ve found higher awareness (or found inner wholeness) doesn’t mean that you will lose interest in physicality, in fact you can find a new interest in it – physicality is not a limited realm, it has infinite depth and infinite potential to explore, if you’ve lost interest in physicality it could just be a temporary deal. Also, there is a difference between “losing interest” and “fearing”, if you are afraid of physical living there is still an indirect interest which will keep you bound to it – to truly lose interest in physicality is a higher level of evolution in a being who has gone through all the physical experiences, and expressions, and thus no longer finds interest in it (this can easily take several thousand years of physical living). As a being you can have as much growth and enjoyment in physicality as in the non-physical realm, it just depends on your requirements for growth and desires.
Eventually you are bound to get bored of the “sameness” and will want a different experience, this does not mean that you are “better” than others who are still enjoying the thing that you are bored of, it just means that you’ve moved to a different level. I gave the analogy of life being like a “pac-man” game (in the post – A false sense of extra-ordinariness), when you are at level 10 you can look back at a person who is playing level 3 and feel that you are “better off”, and of course you are better-off than that person in terms of skills and expertise of playing pac-man, however you are also at level 10 which has challenges that match your skills at their equivalency so you are not really better-off except through a relative comparison with someone else who is at a lowel-level, if you compare yourself with someone who is playing level 14 you may not feel better-off and would simply feel a desire for growth towards that, just like how the level-3 person feels a desire to grow towards level 10 – the same nature is operating in all of us, all the time.
10.) Why are we taught to be “loving” instead of just allowing what we naturally feel, isn’t what we naturally feel the most authentic experience of the moment?
Commandments/directives are needed/required/necessary for beings who are at a lower level of maturity, who are not aware enough to make their own choices and hence need to be “directed” in some way. Directives, that come from the outside, are never going to feel totally natural to you, because they are not custom-made for you, they are just a general guide-line. Depending on your level of awareness, you may feel secure following some external directives or you may feel suffocated by them.
The teaching of “be loving” is one such directive, and it’s meant for people/beings who just need an external dictate to hold onto since they are not yet ready to sense their own inner wisdom, or to connect with their natural state of being. As a soul, when you grow in awareness, you will no longer be enticed by directives, rather you will naturally move towards independence and free-thinking. You will find that the dictate of “be loving” is flawed in its own way because you can’t just be loving towards everyone/everything unless you try to impose such a mindset on yourself.
Your very nature is rooted in seeking betterment which means that you have to dislike something, or see something as a lesser, in order to move higher – so “be loving” doesn’t fit in with your very nature. You can be loving towards a few things, but not towards everything, and what you love determines what you want to explore and what you dislike also determines what you would like to explore (in terms of changing it).
Also, as you grow deeper in maturity/awareness, you naturally let go of holding on to being influenced by emotions like love or hate, rather you function purely from an objective stand-point – what needs to be done, what wants to be explored, what feels required, what feels responsible etc. To just hold on to a dictate like “be loving” can severely block your ability towards connecting with your true personality as a being and thus block your natural expression and objective wisdom.
Maturity Vs Positive thinking
As you grow in maturity you are no longer attracted to notions of positive thinking simply because you don’t really see anything as being negative, you just see everything in its state of growth.
When you plant a seed it first grows into a sapling, it looks weak and vulnerable, would you call it “negative” or would you call it a phase in growth? This sampling slowly grows into a strong tree with deep roots, would you call it “positive” or would you call it a phase of growth? When you define something as positive you are bound to see something else as negative, and this perception is rooted in a certain narrowness, where you don’t see reality in its big picture or the whole picture.
When you see everything as a moment in growth there is no longer the need to label it as positive or negative, it’s just a phase of growth. There are no failures in life, there are just growth moments, there are no successes in life, there are just new platforms to grow – failure and success are both terms that have a tone of “finality” to them, and the truth of life is that there is no finality, there is no end-point.
When a certain event happens in your life, and you perceive it to be negative, just look within towards what’s the growth that it wants to invoke in you, if you truly don’t find something within you that needs to grow then look outside towards what’s the growth that you can assist in bringing forth – if you do feel that a growth is needed on the outside but don’t feel like you can do much about it, then just let it be, it’s not for you to do anything about it currently, however if you sense a requirement for inner growth then it’s totally your responsibility to stay committed to it until you bring it forth.
Be willing to see reality as it is, and allow what you feel quite naturally, without trying to impose a feeling or trying to follow a dictate – if you feel hatred allow that feeling instead of suppressing it by trying to follow some dictate about “being loving”. Of course, you don’t have to take action on spewing your hatred externally, you just have to allow the feeling “internally” without suppression. Your inner space is what needs to become open, only then can it become balanced, and it can only become open when you stop trying to suppress what you feel naturally.
I get the question quite often – “When you say allow the feelings, do I go ahead and allow myself to express it to people?” What’s required to be understood is that the state of allowing is an “inner work” where you work on your inner space, it’s not about trying to influence the space of others. The reality is that when you try to influence others, or when you express yourself to others, you also have to be open to their reaction (and there will always be a reaction of some form) and be willing to deal with the consequences. It’s best to express yourself, to the outside, from a place of inner balance so that the consequences are not imbalanced. When you express yourself from a place of inner imbalance you will naturally attract a response that amplifies or reflects that imbalance in some way. The state of allowing is totally an inner work towards finding inner balance, once you find this inner balance you have the right foundation for an expression that does not invoke imbalanced consequences.
In most cases the so-called “negative events” bring forth more maturity than the perceived positive events, this is because pain creates a stronger push towards evolution than pleasure until you reach a place where you don’t have to be pushed by pain rather you just have an objective wisdom to connect with the required growth without getting the hard knocks.
Psychological suffering is only present as long as there are elements of inner imbalance in a being, once you hit inner wholeness you don’t need the experience of psychological suffering, till then it can’t be avoided. Imbalance and suffering go hand in hand, and this suffering is the motivation towards finding balance. One has to remember, however, that a realm like physicality is created with a certain design, with physical bodies of a certain make-up, that actually allow for the experience of growth from being exposed to limitations and challenges of this realm – it’s like life creating a realm of limitations, and challenges, with the intention of having this “experience” of growth, simply because it’s the very nature of this life-energy, that we are, to want this experience of growth, it can’t be helped.
Once you truly get a sense of this nature, of desiring growth, in you, you will understand the logic of life, you will see that it does not have a purpose (positive or negative) it’s just satisfying its nature.