Positive thinking is so often seen as a good thing. We get messages all the time that we should look at life as full of possibilities that can all be fulfilled if we only believe. The tendency is that if we look at things realistically, we are told we are being negative and closing off possibilities.
The fact is, whether we are approaching life thinking positively or thinking negatively, we are closing off the truth. Clarity and resolution are always possible, but only if we are no longer indulging in positivity or negativity.
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Until we achieve the clarity that comes with nonattachment, we will misread people and situations. We will believe we are being positive when we are really being pollyannas and causing injury through our blindness. Or we may feel we are being realistic when in truth we are viewing everything negatively.
In our culture, positive thinking is the more insidious threat, because it is so often considered a spiritual virtue. We then pursue it, and when we do, we refuse to accept things we regard as negative. In this way, we lie to ourselves and to others and make ourselves and others angry and miserable. We have no discernment.
One form of this positive thinking is refusing to see reality if it is not to our liking. In this scenario, positive thinking is really just denial.
Similarly, we may delude ourselves that we can set ourselves on course for liberation by thinking positive thoughts. In Swami Hariharananda’s translation, Yoga Sutras 2.33 says “When These Restraints And Observances Are Inhibited By Perverse Thoughts The Opposites Should Be Thought Of.” Many people misread this sutra as suggesting that if they have negative thoughts, they should counterbalance them with positive thoughts. That would go against the core meaning of the Yoga Sutras, which say above all that liberation lies in citta-vritti-nirodhah, the stilling of the modifications of the citta—which means the complete cessation of any thought forms or any other modifications of consciousness. When Patanjali says the opposites should be thought of, he means we must free ourselves from all sets of opposites.
Some people use positive thinking to avoid all personal accountability. They think good thoughts about themselves, and are therefore indisputably good. If they think negative thoughts at all, it has to be because other people are imposing those thoughts on them.
When these people create a problem or do others injury, they just hide or refuse to engage until everything blows over. If they feel bad at all, it is not because they have reflected on their choices and motives, but because other people are upset with them. Their own sense of righteousness and victimhood makes those other people the oppressors. They don’t see themselves as hiding but as protecting themselves from aggressors.
So they wait, assessing, until they decide the storm has passed. This is a sure way to miss the opportunity of a lifetime; by refusing to face accountability and take on the challenge of seeing reality rather than their projections, these people forsake the chance to learn and grow. In their guise of seeing everything positively, they miss the fact that these situations are there for their benefit, and are ultimately positive.
This whole arrangement is designed because positive thinkers don’t test their discernment with anyone. They know better than anyone else. They see clearly. It never occurs to them that someone else may have a different vision of what is positive.
When we think positively, we don’t see clearly. We superimpose our wrong understanding on reality. And ultimately, that reality is Reality—it is God. So when we decide what’s positive, we are trying to negate God.
The same goes for when we look at the world negatively. We believe we are seeing the truth. We believe we are not glorifying or sugarcoating reality. And we are not. We are still, however, cloaking reality in wrong understanding, and that makes resolution impossible.
Resolution is found, and is always available, in truth. It comes from neither positive nor negative thinking, but from nonattachment. It is only when we have our eyes clearly open and look at reality just as it is, with no embellishments and no detractions, that we actually see the way forward. Resolution is off the grid. And the only true positive is God’s way, not our idea of positive.
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