This part of the article “Why Positive Thinking May Be Overrated” sits well with me:
Lyubomirsky, who has not read Ehrenreich’s book, says that while she has “critiqued and parodied” pop positive thinking programs like that of The Secret, there is some merit to adopting a more optimistic outlook on life.
“Positive thinking has a role to play in a good life as long as it’s not empty,” she says. “If you want to apply to medical school and be a doctor, I would speculate that practicing optimism about that goal might motivate you to try harder.”
Yes, when it comes to pop positive thinking programs, I have my own reservations about them. I agree that too much of a good thing can be bad, and that goes the same for “positive thinking”. In fact, when I am with a group of people who are cheerful all the time, cracking silly jokes constantly, I feel out of place, like a fish out of water.
I feel that for positive thinking to become genuine, it must become a part of our personal revelation. Therefore, just mindlessly repeating a positive-sounding statement from a self-professed motivational guru or speaker will not be helpful in the long run.
That is why I haven’t been listening to sermons for a long time. Instead, in my own time of contemplation, whenever some thoughts pop up in my spirit that are encouraging to me, I would record it in my handphone calendar to serve as a personal nugget of encouragement as it means something to me.
This morning, I was reflecting that maybe because those people in the christian religion have been told week after week to praise God at all times, this may indirectly send a message to them to deny or downplay feelings of sadness, disappointments, etc.
So, eventually it becomes a show put forth by most church-goers, to just talk about blessings and how blessed they are or their families are, and how good God is, etc, as if it is a “sin” or weakness to show any signs of doubt, disappointments, etc.
While I acknowledge that there is a place for positive confession of faith, I feel that sometimes this deliberate outward display of “faith” might turn people off, especially those who are not in the christian institutional church circles.
On a similar note, this verse from Ecclesiastes came to mind:
“To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”
Yes, there is a season to everything, including our emotional states of being. To be constantly cheerful or constantly sad can become boring after a while. As shared in my blog recently, I was reflecting that my default mode is joy, which is a state of inner bliss of the heart or spirit. But I also realise that at the soul level, I can still express emotions of happiness or sadness.
Based on what I learnt from a blog “Mind and Consciousness ~ Written by David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva)” earlier about the difference between our mind and our consciousness, perhaps I can view it like this:
At the consciousness level, my spiritual bliss is more or less constant, like a buoy that rises up automatically whenever it is made to sink under the water.
At the soul or mind level, my emotional highs and lows, or mountains and valleys, are actually appropriate responses to changing circumstances (for example, I can “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”).
In other words, the constant spiritual bliss is what makes me divine, whereas the fluctuating emotions are what make me human.
Both completes my true self because I would be incomplete if I were to be completely divine and devoid of any human emotions, or if I were to be devoid of any spiritual bliss and completely human and ruled by my emotions all the time. Therefore, both the divine serenity and human emotional see-saw are necessary in life, so to speak.
To me, mindfulness is about embracing both divinity and humanity in the present moment, without making judgments on whether the emotions are good or bad, and just being aware. This is an liberating experience – free from being controlled by circumstances all the time.
Motivational speakers often say: “You can decide whether to be happy or sad. It is up to you.”
I would say, Yes and no. Yes I can decide to be happy or sad, but I want to go with the flow too – in some situations, it is more appropriate to be happy than sad, while in other situations, it is more appropriate to be sad than happy. This is something that is spontaneous, and therefore I would not want to try to control or manipulate the feelings that arise from within.
In the past, I like to listen to sad songs that bring tears to my eyes, because for some reasons, I can relate to them better – they evoke my deep emotions and allow me to express them freely in my personal space. At the same time, it doesn’t drive me to a place of utter despair. Instead, I would feel better after a while, like the sun shining after the rain. So yea, there is indeed a time to weep, and a time to laugh – all this is meant to be a complete human experience for us.
To sum it up, there is a balance – too much of sadness can be draining whereas too much (self-manufactured) happiness can be frustrating. There is a time to listen to sad songs, and a time to listen to happy songs. I am addicted to neither, and I can enjoy both kinds of songs at different times. I will just go with the flow, so to speak. I must say though that after I got into christianity since 2002, I have been subconsciously moving away from sad songs. But now, I don’t care because I am free to be human (as well as divine). Like what someone said, it is all about living authentically and being true to ourselves.