Put a little light on it
'Think positively. Be positive.' What’s that mean? What’s positive? What’s not? To start with, to think positive there has to be the concept of a negative. You can’t have a positive without its dark side, the negative. So what is negative? And are these absolute values where if you call it a positive or a negative just once will it always be so, in any circumstance? Then faced with this Either / Or situation, can you take a negative and turn it into a positive by thinking its opposite?
To think positive there has to be an acceptance of a negative. Simply to 'think' positive is useless, in fact worse than useless, it’s self-deluding because, for the appearance of a short-term gain, it will only exacerbate the problem in the long run by giving the illusion of change when the nature of the problem has not been identified let alone addressed. Of course changing a negative quality by the cultivation of a positive quality can be done, but only if the nature of the negative has been identified in some way and then properly addressed.
This may not be so easy as it sounds. To begin with there can be a real reluctance for us to be willing to go there, to actively turn and look into what we would rather not know about too deeply. And even if willing, when facing up to it, it may not go the way we want or expect. So wouldn’t it be much easier to let these things hide out, slide by, lurk at one remove, so we can continue to convince ourselves of what we’d prefer to believe? Yet at the same time there we are still searching for this elusive positive, which, when it comes down to it, will also continue to hold its distance in exactly the same proportion as the negative we have not yet acknowledged. Or, alternatively, we can decide, turn, and go directly and look into our own negative… and take a walk on the dark side.
The discovery of every negative is a positive assertion
Accepting the use of the words positive and negative as we generally understand them, if the inclination is to see or acknowledge only the positive, we are actually missing half of life. And with that we are therefore also missing our full potential. That implies that in every negative there is the potential for a positive outcome. And so it is. That has powerful implications.
Before trying too hard to become positive, the way to overcome any negative is to see oneself very clearly, very honestly, and identify the precise nature of the negative first. The way to do that is to tune in to the actual experience of the thing itself - whether that be in the mind, through emotion or through sensations in the body - and let it express itself, completely. It means letting the hidden and suppressed forces that lie deeper inside come to the surface so that they enter into conscious awareness. In that way they become known. Sooner or later that’s what will happen in meditation. Until then they are still there but, while unknown, they still have an influence on what we think, choices we make and actions we take, while we think that those thoughts, choices and actions are for the best. It doesn’t add up.
You can’t release what you don’t know
Allowing yourself to be a witness to what we call the negative within us is the trump card, the ace in the hole. No negative quality can withstand constant scrutiny without somehow showing something of itself, more fully, defining itself, defending itself, and maybe just revealing the cause of its being there in the first place, and thereby losing its power. The strength of its influence over us is in its being unknown. And you can’t release what you don’t know. Change that and it cannot remain the same. So if you want release from anything, you have to know the effect of it on you, in you - it’s an experiential thing.
A negative is an effect of a cause. But it doesn’t actually really matter how it got there. The outer cause is actually irrelevant to the actual release… actually! That can sound strange and we may even go through a stage of disagreeing vehemently with it, apportioning blame here and there, but it will surely come down to that in the end. The cause is just a part of the problem, it does not necessarily hold the solution - there comes a point when it doesn’t serve any useful purpose to keep dwelling on it. But it is essential to get to know the residual effect it’s having on you right now, irrespective of the cause, because that's where the release begins.
How deep can you go?
One of the main conditions for this self-discovery is the quality of the question. By that let’s just assume you have the right question, meaning you know the nature of what you you are aiming for, and you can identify the negative that surely stands as an obstacle. No, the quality of the question is not so much the what, but where in yourself you look. For example it is pointless to ask this kind of question through the normal thought process - that means in the general activity of daily life. You have to go inside, and there you have to prepare the ground properly. Which means if you’re serious about it you have to dedicate something of yourself to making it happen.
The inner environment has to be cultivated, for one purpose only: to allow the aspect of the conscious mind that we call awareness to go to the greatest depth that our preparation can allow. The quality of answer to any question of this kind is directly related to the depth the awareness can get to. No way around that. The body needs to be relaxed, energies need to be harmonised, and the mind needs to let go. It’s not the purpose here to describe how this is done, but one word will suffice: Yoga - because it works. But you have to be patient, it doesn’t work with impatience for the result.
In the inner world all the rules change
When you get into the inner world, and as you go deeper, all the rules change. The mind is different there. You are different there. How different? Just check out your dreams. You are you there, sure, and you know that much… in dream; but you would not know yourself as you with your awake-mind. It’s an accurate analogy because meditation is a way of self-discovery which passes through the dream dimension. There’s a separate post on Sleep and Meditation here. Which is why the development of awareness is an absolute essential, so there is no meddling where the conscious mind has no jurisdiction. It can look but not interfere. This goes beyond self-discovery to equanimity, contentment, happiness and joy. I guess that’s positive enough.
Because the inner world is so different, you need the same quality of mind you would use to understand what you find as you do to get there. The normal mind is far too analytical. The absolutely essential element is the ability to halt judgment and view everything you come across impartially, as an observer - watch and wait - see positive and negative by the same light. This is quite an ask. It doesn’t come easy. But it is a skill that can be cultivated. It’s done by constant practice, making many mistakes, learning from every mistake, and never giving up.
If ever there was one area where a more advanced kind of positivity could be called into play it is here, by never letting the impartial view become compromised by personal preference. That is what is called having a positive outlook. To be honest it’s pretty much necessary to get away from it all and take some guidance in practice for some time. And if that sounds like shameless promotion for meditation programs, it doesn’t compromise the truth behind it. So here’s a link to meditation courses for 2018.
Positive and negative in the same light?
Finally there is something that cannot be anticipated or convincingly described, but which is revealed by constant practice. That is that the view of positive and negative, seen in the same light, begin to lose their differences, that they are not so far apart and not necessarily accurate in the labels we apply to them.
They are both qualities and all qualities originally arise in the same way, having a positive purpose, to be useful. There is always a search for harmony and everything originally had a positive intent. For the most part things just pass their original intended usefulness, that’s all. That usefulness may have been a one-off or reinforced repeatedly; either way there it is, still hanging around with good intent. To see that is the secret, where a negative is almost automatically changed into a positive, where the discovery of every negative is a positive assertion - because they are really just two sides of the same coin. It’s more difficult to be angry with that because then you see the same in others as you have seen in yourself.
But it requires a little effort on our part: to keep developing and focussing that essential quality of awareness. Remember it’s always there; wherever you are, potentially awareness always goes with you.