Positive thinking, the power (or law) of attraction, stay on the sunny side – this has all been in the culture for a while now, and the push-back is starting to get some traction. Being ‘realistic’ is the new thing, and I have some thoughts about this.
Firstly, the Law of Attraction et al is not a new idea. It’s not even a fairly new idea, nor is it limited to white, comparatively affluent people living in the US. It has, in fact, been around for centuries and in many if not all cultures, just under different guises. Asian philosophers (see Lao Tzu for one, Confucius, Buddha … ), adages that come from indigenous peoples and those from the philosophers of Europe, religious writings of all kinds, etc. etc., almost all tell us life is good. They say keep your eyes on the good and you will find/have good. They say don’t get stuck in the ugly. They say trust that you will find your way to the beautiful, no matter what your circumstances.
An idea this pervasive has some weight to it.
Secondly, looking for the positive, the beautiful, is an act of prayer and faith. It is a tool for personal cultivation, for aligning ourselves with the Divine. It is a reminder that we are meant to be lined up and in tune with God. It is the deepest, truest thing that we know, are born knowing, and forget when we encounter the ugly, the evil. I hope I never have to test this by being in one of the truly hideous situations people inflict on each other, but I have faith that it is true.
How we perceive the concepts of realism, positivism and negativism is a key. Being realistic is considered to be a good, solid trait or skill, being negative is a bit like realism over-used, while being ‘positive’ is considered fluffy and, well, unrealistic. Being realistic seems to be attached to something that is happening that we don’t like, that we are supposed to allow because we can’t do anything about it. Being negative is realism carried to an extreme, and yet some people will tell you that they are negative because life really sucks, and they’ll hang on to that view, and call it realism.
Toss in the idea that all of this is an illusion, and my brain wants to explode.
What if being realistic is acknowledging that the glass is half empty and half full, understanding that this isn’t a polarity thing, but a continuum thing. That’s good, right? Because it recognizes infinite possibilities in any situation? Maybe. Maybe…
For years now, I’ve used searching for what makes me feel good in any situation as a tool for my personal cultivation. I didn’t start out that way. Mostly I started trying to relieve my heart pain, which seemed pervasive, all-encompassing. Over time I found that I actually liked feeling pain-free, which spurred me to keep trying. Eventually I recognized how much positivism had become a tool to navigate my life that had lovely side effects. Looking for the positive wasn’t just feeling fluffy, it was helping me grow.
The ancient Chinese talked about the 9 Palaces, like the Palace of Knowledge, the Palace of Home, the Palace of Prosperity. Learning how to navigate a Palace helps us move toward stepping off the Wheel of Life (if you believe in reincarnation), or to finding the internal peace and joy, the alignment with the Divine which is our birthright. Some of us fight every step of the way to learn the lessons, usually because we aren’t conscious or mindful, or because we believe we are born to suffer our way to Enlightenment/God. Some of us learn we can accept whatever happens as a gift that may or may not be obvious in the moment, but becomes obvious with time and perspective. If we learn to keep seeking the beauty in every moment, we eventually see every gift. Positivism is a tool, then, that helps us grow.
Here’s the bottom line for me: Looking for the positive feels good. The longer I live, the more I treasure that feeling of expansion in my heart, the smile that just blooms on my face. It’s like being a child again, when every thing was new and glorious. And here’s a side benefit: not only does it feel good, it’s contagious.
If accepting reality means obsessing about why something happened, mourning the results, trying to make sure it never happens again, I’m not going there any more. I’ve been there and done that so many times. I no longer want to participate in that particular insanity, the one where you keep doing the same thing expecting a better outcome.
As long as I can still navigate the world, my ‘reality’ is going to be as ‘positive’ as I can make it. Will the ugly still happen? Probably. Will it consume me? God, I hope not, so I’ll use all the tools available to keep that from happening, keep myself reaching for the Divine by baby steps of feeling a little better and then a little better and then a little better.
Why on heaven or earth would I ever want to feel any other way?