Did you ever hate a movie the first time you watched it, but then liked it the next? Or hear a song on the radio that gave you a headache one day, only to find yourself singing along to it in a few days? What about a person? Were you ever SO convinced that someone was a jerk, only to find yourself liking, and even respecting them at some point? Well, I do know that these things have happened to me… more than once. And I can’t help but think that these examples prove how our happiness and sadness, likes and dislikes, are actually ‘states of mind’. We all experience things differently, and our experiences are controlled by our individual mind’s. So theoretically, if we control our minds, so can we control our experiences.
From what I have learned, the Buddhist culture is very much based around the theory that only ‘love’ is real, and that everything negative is a delusion in which our mind’s have created, and by ‘changing our mind’s, we change our world’. This ‘mind-changing’ concept also reminds me of the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) I participated in at Homewood, and in Save My Life School, which basically teaches that by allowing our mind’s the time to process an emotion before reacting hastily, we can choose to react more positively. Hating a song one day, then loving it the next is a perfect example of how we can change our minds. The song never changed…we did.
So what if we decided to change our mind and implement thoughts which make us happy all the time?…It seems possible. But NOT easy. Take it from a depression survivor when I say that the challenge of changing negative thoughts to positive ones can feel similar to the challenge of climbing Mount Everest with a pick-up truck full of elephants on your back…NOT fun and NOT easy. But, what I didn’t know when my depression was at it’s ‘peak’, was that I was searching for positive thoughts and happiness from the wrong source. I needed to look for happiness from a different source than what I was use to…I needed to look for a source from within.
Many of us search for happiness externally, but sadly happiness from that source is impermanent…it’s fleeting. External-sourced happiness only brings temporary relief from our state of discontent, but we don’t see that! We sure do believe that once we get that new car, new house, or new pair of shoes, that our happiness will finally last. If you think about it, even pictures we take while on vacation, or at a wedding are to remind us of the happiness it brought us. We know that eventually the vacation and the wedding day will end, and that that level of peace and happiness will leave. How sad is that? Why can’t we have peace and happiness ALL THE TIME? The ‘high’ from an addiction is another example of external happiness that is very temporary. Eventually what addicts ‘use’ isn’t enough to make them happy. They need MORE external ‘stuff’ to block pain, which ironically only causes more pain in the end. If you look closely, external ‘things’ carry a small-print-clause that states, ‘it’s all too good to be true’...but who reads the small print? Right?
So why if we choose to be happy always, doesn’t it happen right away?! Why can’t we just wake up one day and say, “Yes I will find happiness on my beautiful vacation, but I will make sure that I’m happy even when I get back to work and the daily grind.” Well, because like anything, in order to be good at something, we have to practice it. The negative thoughts which ruminate in our minds on a regular basis require mindful effort to replace them with positive ones. This can be difficult because we are very much a society of self-seekers (which only leads to negativity), and we may not even realize it. For example, we may give a gift to someone, thinking that it’s a completely selfless act, (this could be a material object, or even the gift of love), but deep down we usually expect something in return; even if it’s praise. These hidden expectations then lead to disappointment, resentment and anger. To feel truly positive about giving a gift to someone, we have to give it freely…no expectations, even of praise. We need to give it simply because we want to make them happy….the end! But in order to do this, our self-seeking minds need to be mindful of when we have an expectation that isn’t met, and be aware of how this caused negative emotions, and practice giving freely the next time. In short, we have to practice positive virtues in order to sustain positive thinking.
Sadly, humans are also masters of negative-thought-inducing manipulation; some more than others, that’s for sure. You may not think that YOU are, but if you think hard enough, I’m sure you can recall a time when you hurt someone in order to keep your happiness…(or so you thought that would be the outcome). Manipulative delusions such a jealousy, envy and false-pride convince us that our negative actions are justified at times. That in order to get ahead in this world we need to be ruthless to some extent. “Only the strong survive!”, right? But what exactly is the strength that we are referring to in this phrase? I think it can be positive or negative…once again we decide! Many may believe that this strength involves being cut-throat, meaning it may contain an underlying intention to harm another person in order to succeed. Well any happiness this type of ‘strength’ may bring will be fleeting and bathed in anxiety. “When will someone do something behind my back to take this success away from me?” will very likely be in the back of this person’s mind at all times. But an alternative way of viewing this ‘strength’, involves being strong enough to do what it take to help others rise above adversity to succeed with you! With that positive strength, there is no limit to a person’s success!
Once again, this blog is simply food for thought. We ALL make mistakes; we are human! Heck, Budda even had negative thoughts at one time in his life! But by changing how our mind’s view these mistakes, we can skip the negative guilt-phase in which most mistakes cause, and furthermore avoid making them monstrosities in our minds! We just need to accept them as they are…and learn from them. Another ‘mind-quest’ for positivity is to try not to make assumptions that others are viewing you in a negative way when you make a mistake. They get to choose their mind’s thoughts! Remind yourself that assumptions are simply delusions. And by practicing avoiding assumptions, we practice watching our own minds, not other’s. 😉