Positive or a negative mind. Is there an alternative?
The mind is a vast community of thoughts. For many, the mind seems to go in one direction, towards negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Try as we may, orienting the mind towards a consistently positive outlook may be challenging. The mind is very nimble and changes from moment to moment, yet the same mind becomes very resistant when we try to turn a negatively oriented mind towards positivity.
We spend a lot of time and effort trying to make the mind a more positive place. There are three immediate benefits of a positive mind:
2. The mind feels light and is no more a disturbance
3. A sense of peace
When we entertain a negative mind, all these three benefits immediately disappear. Negativity is like a narrow well and positivity is like the vast open sky. In life, we are continually trying to climb - the ladder of wealth and happiness. Each moment spent in negativity makes this climb cumulatively much harder. But where does this ladder end? With each step, there is another rung to be climbed. Comparison destroys the light and airy openness of satisfaction and contentment. In every moment there is a constant push and pull between positivity and negativity.
Role of individual thoughts
Individual thoughts are like raindrops. Just as raindrops, once they leave clouds cannot remain suspended in air, thoughts cannot remain static in the conscious mind. Like raindrops that quickly fall to the earth, thoughts fall into a mysterious abyss beyond the reach of our conscious ability. The direction of the wind determines where clouds accumulate leading to rainfall. Similarly, our interests, expectations, life experiences, the past, the strength of the ego, success or failure in our eyes and the eyes of others all factor in on what type of thoughts come to us. The contents of our thoughts have a significant influence on our positivity or negativity. Most of the time, a positive or negative mind is a consequence of thinking. A less common situation is positive outlook influencing thought pattern.
We cannot control individual thoughts, just as we cannot hold back individual raindrops. Once water leaves the clouds as raindrops, they begin their downward journey. Similarly, once thoughts enter our conscious mind, their content and direction of transit whether positive or negative is already determined. We may imagine them as different, but their energy indicates otherwise. Intervening at the level of thoughts and trying to influence their contents as we perceive them in our conscious mind has limited effectiveness in changing the nature of the mind from negative to positive.
The mind is a reservoir
The mind is an extensive reservoir of information, ideas, stored impressions and memories which circulate through the vehicle of thoughts. Much of this information is in the subconscious mind. It is relatively unchanging like the oceans which have a more or less a fixed depth and boundary. The conscious mind is like a fast-moving rain cloud. It has no fixed location and continually moves in the space that contains the mind. Just as water evaporates and travels upwards unseen to the naked eye, forming clouds, the transfer of thought energy happening from the subconscious to the conscious mind occurs beyond our perceptive ability.
Once rain clouds form, it becomes easy for us to see them and experience the resultant rainfall. Similarly, once thoughts accumulate in the conscious mind, we can perceive their ‘heaviness’ and ‘density.’ Just as gravity pulls down water droplets as rain, our identification with the contents of thoughts circulating in the conscious mind brings them towards us. When we hold onto those contents, they influence the net positivity or negativity in the mind.
Due to the continuous movement of thoughts between the subconscious and conscious mind, getting rained on by thoughts is inevitable. But it is our choice whether we want to get ‘wet’ and if we do, we may enjoy it, or we may express a dislike. Umbrellas and rain shelters offer protection from rain for the body, but there is nothing external that works for our inner being when exposed to the constant rain of thoughts. We can, however, develop self-directed internal mechanisms. Everyone is different in this regard, and it is hard to make specific recommendations.
By being in a state of constant awareness, we can move from negativity to positivity. But positivity should be looked upon as a transition state. We cannot be there indefinitely. In the mind, positive and negative are two sides of the same coin. This is on account of relativity. The mind grows based on comparisons. Most of the time, positivity is the relative absence of negativity. The moment any negative thought or situation arises, this positivity disappears. If it were absolute, it should not be affected by external circumstances. More often than not this is not the case. However, relative positivity can be used as a transitional phase that serves as a springboard to something more permanent and impervious to adverse situations and thoughts.
Proactive versus reactive positivity
It is easy to be positive in response to a good experience (especially in our view) or when long-held desires get fulfilled. This is reactive positivity. It is dependent upon something desirable happening such as getting what we want in life. Once wishes are met, the peak intensity of happiness related to such fulfillment immediately fades, and so does the associated positivity. That feeling of euphoria associated with a positive experience can become like a drug. We want more and more of it, which pushes us towards fulfilling other desires in the hopes of sustaining a constant ‘high’ of positivity.
Proactive positivity is not dependent on experience or fulfillment of desires. It is an attitude that is constant and remains regardless of what the mind brings up. It is like the blue sky high above and out of reach of low hanging rain clouds. Clouds may temporarily impede the view of a blue sky, but they cannot cover them forever. Similarly, proactive positivity cannot be permanently overshadowed by thoughts. It may not bring an immediate sharp spike in happiness associated with reactive positivity, but the sense of well being with proactive positivity is lasting.
The direction of awareness determines positivity and negativity
From the perspective of the sky, water travels upwards in the form of evaporation. From where we stand, water rains downwards from the sky. Similarly, the perspective of awareness determines whether we are in the mind and getting rained upon by thoughts or we have risen above the mind and being watchful of the circulating thought energy. Narrow conditioned awareness resides in the mind, while the broader unconditioned awareness can rise above the thought cloud.
Weather satellites give us a completely different picture of the sky and can help track clouds and other factors that influence weather on the ground. We cannot get such advance information watching the sky from the ground through our naked eyes. When awareness is trapped within the mind’s conditioning, we are at the mercy of the unpredictable nature of thoughts. Thoughts come at random and from the narrow perspective of the mind’s conditioning we cannot look ahead and be prepared for what thoughts might bring our way. We find ourselves continually dodging and weaving through thoughts avoiding some while and expectantly waiting for the ones we find desirable.
However, when our awareness rises above the mind through becoming unconditioned, we may be able to perceive the nature of thoughts a fraction of a second before they traverse the conscious mind. Even that tiny amount of time may be enough to take away the surprise element and avoid the danger of identification with thoughts. It keeps us safe by allowing a pause, however brief before we act or talk.
For example, fear and anger come suddenly. It may appear to be a gradual buildup, but there is an instant in time when fear and anger completely break loose in the mind. When we develop a state of watchfulness, we may see fear or anger coming, and before it hits a peak intensity, we can begin to take precautionary steps. Like fear, a positive feeling related to experiences also has an abrupt beginning. By remaining watchful of the mind in this case, wisdom develops, and we won’t easily get carried away by dependent happiness which fades quickly.
Pure awareness is beyond the mind’s reach
The sky holds a tremendous amount of water in the form of rain clouds, but rain cannot fall on the sky. Similarly, the space of pure awareness from where we can watch the mind is like that sky that holds rainwater. Whether the mind has positive or negative thoughts, it cannot influence and shake watchful awareness.
The same rain can worsen a flood situation on the ground or bring welcome relief to a drought-stricken area. Similarly, thoughts can bring happiness or unhappiness when we are at the receiving end, which happens when awareness trapped in the mind. Just as the sky high above the clouds does not influence where the rain falls and whether it helps or causes damage, awareness does not control the movement of thoughts entering the conscious mind.
Due to the constant minute to minute interactions we have with the mind, going from interacting to watchful awareness of the mind cannot prevent the inertia of the prior thought patterns from continuing to move through the conscious mind. But with time they start to slow down and eventually they may flame out. Just as a flame burns brightly in the moments before it is extinguished, thoughts may make one final push and make the mind very busy before they completely thin out. Watchfulness will be of great help in preventing the rekindling of the mind.
Awareness is beyond positivity or negativity
The higher we go from the earth’s surface, the thinner the atmosphere gets, eventually disappearing. Individual awareness is like the atmosphere. Further we go from the mind, the ‘thinner’ individual awareness gets, and finally, only traces of individuality may remain. When identity disappears, there is no one there to compare or complain, to experience positivity or negativity in the mind. This happens in sleep, but through watchfulness which takes us further away from the changing weather patterns of the mind, it may then occur in the waking state.
When the mind becomes a speck in our awareness, we are unaffected by the contents of thoughts. We then leave the polarity of positivity and negativity, entering a stable neutral state which is a great place to be. There is no dependency and happiness or unhappiness will no more be labels we assign to thoughts, experiences, and for that matter to the mind as a whole. Awareness brings us to a neutral state of constant, unchanging, and independent happiness.