Sunday, July 8, 2007

I Think! Therefore I Make Myself Unhappy!

'Thoughts are natural. They can not be stopped, they can however be made sublime with counter thoughts. Just like a thorn can be removed with another and poison neutralized by poison, so can the mind be made sublime with counter thoughts. Inauspicious thoughts should be countered with auspicious thoughts. A state of thoughtlessness comes with long and intense meditation'
- Acharya Mahprajna
Sometimes our life moves in circles - a little while back in conversation with a friend I said that when Descartes said 'I think therefore I am', he must have been crazy because its possible to exist without thinking, and have a happier existence as we make ourselves miserable with the thoughts swarming around. To which he replied if what I wanted, was to be stupid.... to which I had no answer.

A couple of days later I find these lines in one of my really old books. Myself and three of my girlfriends had gone to Nepal few years ago [what a blast]. On one of our less adventurous days [para-gliding, white water rafting and that flight into the Everest in a tiny plane that crashes more often than not made up three of our 6 days] we had gone to this one shop that had the most beautiful pashmina shawls and the owners were Jain and they gave all of us this book by Acharya Mahaprajna called 'Thoughts at Sunrise'.

Anyway to cut a long story short, reading this passage made me realize that although Descartes was right in what he said ...I wasn't altogether too wrong either! Of course if we didn't think we'd be no better than animals [although sometimes I feel it's debatable if we are] and that of course the unexamined life would really not be worth living, and boring in the extreme, but we do train our minds to think more unproductive thoughts than constructive ones!

Sometimes the wrong kind of thinking leads to all sorts of misery, convinces you that you are worthless. We create prisons for ourselves - if everything is going perfect we wait for the bad to happen. If we get a compliment we immediately think that we don't deserve it. We think that everyone who thinks we are smart has been sadly mistaken and we are actually not intelligent at all. Our insecurities keep us from trusting people and sometimes our own happiness.

It's like we feel that we don't deserve to be happy so whenever we are, we unconsciously thwart any chance of success. Maybe its self-preservation, throw something away before it gets taken away. I don't know. But we mutilate ourselves mentally and emotionally with our thoughts everyday.

If indeed we could find a way to separate the bad ones from the good and simply throw away the negative scary ones we'd be happier. A state where we can consciously stop ourselves from thinking - have that kind of control that we can switch on and off - wow!

P.S.: I can't meditate for 5 secs before an unwelcome storm of thoughts, just assails me, ranging from the truly horrible ones to mundane ones where I finally remember where I put the stapler I have been looking for....

33 comments:

Katie McKenna said...

The beauty of positive beliefs and affirmations are that they do in fact make us feel better, more balanced.. and full of light and love!
cheers!

Random Magus said...

I know and I tried to experiment with that and there was such a difference...although by nature I'm a brooder, I'm trying to snap out of it

Epimenides said...

Yes there is beauty in possitive beliefs, but I sometimes think that thinking positive is just a means of kidding myself out of reality! I don't know!

Amel's Realm said...

I don't think that thinking positively is a means of kidding myself out of reality. It's worked for me for years. :-)))

Random Magus said...

Epimenides: Just attempt this exercise of replacing a bad thought with, if not a good one than a less bad one - I know where you are coming from, I live in that land! But nothing ventured nothing gained right???

Random Magus said...

Amel's Realm: You are truly lucky to have that control, it makes for a far more happier world.. I'm trying but it's tough!

HollyGL said...

I definitely have "state of mind cycles". For the most part, I am a positive person - people actually tease me about that, in fact.

Lately, I have been in more of a ...down phase for longer than usual, but I've learned that eventually it will subside, and I will remember all of the things that make this life so cool (I remember now, I just haven't been allowing them into conscious thought).

When the negative or scary thoughts rear their heads, don't resist them - or allow them full sway - just breathe, and consciously shift your focus. Like you said about changing the thought. Try to do it from a place of non-resistance. Does that make any sense? That's what I try to do. I know it doesn't always work, but it feels comforting somehow to have another "coping skill" in your arsenal. xoxo

Random Magus said...

Hollygl:You're absolutely correct thats hw they tell you to practice meditation as well don't resist the thought just gently nudge them aside

Josie Two Shoes said...

This was a really well written and thought provoking post, Amber. I loved your comment about mutilating ourselves. We sure do! I agree, that the answer is not to surpress or indulge the negative, simpley to acknowledge it and gently move it aside. That's not as easy as it sounds, but I'm learning to... slowly!

Greg said...

It's often easy to mistake an absence of feeling or emotion for sadness or negativity. A lot of people drive themselves crazy trying to pursuit happiness. Happiness is a transient state that cannot be maintained, just as is sadness. We should move in and out of these without worrying about them too much.

The notion of positive thinking is a bit ill-conceived. This tends to be a state of pretending to be something you're not rather than an attempt to really understand what is bothering you. I think this ideology is a misunderstanding of and misapplication of being goal-centered. Self-help gurus are to blame for this. Being goal oriented is what leads to success and productivity. These have little to do with happiness or sadness.

Happiness and sadness relates more to a level of awareness of yourself and the world around you. There is a lot to be sad about in our world. Most positive thinking comes down to closing yourself off to certain knowledge and focusing on other knowledge. It follows the cliché that ignorance is bliss. It's not, it's just ignorance.

The more you learn the more difficult it is to cope with that information. The most effective manner that I have found is to understand that you are limited. Some things you will have little or no effect over. So I use my time where I will be most effective. And I welcome both happiness and sadness in my life because without both how will I be able to distinguish either?

Random Magus said...

Josie Two Shoes: You should try meditating its really tough but it helps

Random Magus said...

Greg: Its not about the pursuit of happiness - happiness is transient and can only be experienced in snatches of time and then its gone. I know that full well - but some people who have no outward reason to be sad get really really sad without knowing how to deal with it. Their mind just keeps chasing all thoughts and everything is analysed and over analyzed and conclusions reached that disturb and just confuse you.

Its either a product of an unsettled mind which is a bit self absorbed, lazy and doesn't practice what it preaches.

Maybe the entire problem with me lies in the fact that I am not goal centered or ambitious perhaps I'm angry that I waste some little talent I might have or maybe I am just too much of a coward to put it to test and that's what causes the discontentment

HollyGL said...

As far as positive thinking being the result of ignorance, I guess in some cases people do operate from a place of denial when touting its benefits. I am aware of much of what life has to offer, both tragic and wonderful. For me, positive thinking is not about “ignorance”, it is a fully conscious choice to focus on that which makes me feel better. Its not always easy, and sometimes it takes a while, but what purpose would it serve for me to opt for the alternative - if I am able to choose otherwise?

If I am dealing with an emotional issue, I examine it and work with it, sometimes struggle against it, but always with the intention of coming to some sort of an understanding of it at the very least. Sometimes I do, sometimes not. But all the while, I am working toward some sort of a resolution in my mind. …and, for me, that has been much more effective in terms of peace of mind than a resignation to what is.

Random, I think the minute you make any move in the direction of your dreams - however small - you'll feel better. I know that sounds trite, but I do believe it to be true, and something I'm telling myself as I'm writing this to you.

Random Magus said...

You know my problem is, that I want to escape everything. I think if I can just put it off till tomorrow, it'll go away, but then after a few tomorrows all that has been pushed in the drawers bursts out because there is simply not anymore space to cram more in - and then there is one big explosion of self pity and hatred!

Epimenides said...

Random - "I'm angry that I waste some little talent I might have or maybe I am just too much of a coward to put it to test and that's what causes the discontentment" & "You know my problem is, that I want to escape everything" These two comments of yours summarise the way I feel sometimes!
You know, I've tried the goal setting gurus talk about, and have actually felt good by making even the smallest progress.
The problem is that they talk about making your dreams bold and grand, which I've done, but then I tend to feel weaker and less well prepared to realise them.
That is what builds up the fear and frustration, and sometimes anger!

Zakman said...

A quick note on the meditation thing. I'd say what you're experiencing is the real thing - because you're aware of what you're thinking.

I've read the theory behind TM and the whole idea there is to let the mind wander as freely as it wants to and be aware of the thoughts passing through the mind. Sooner or later, one attains a state when the mind identifies the thoughts as a separate entity and is no longer irrevocably attached to them.

And that's freedom, the way I see it.

Just my 2 fils :)

QUASAR9 said...

lol Random,
this has been in my thoughts
Have you been rading my thoughts?

Thoughts come in tides and race thru our Mind. The disciplined Mind can direct (or choose) which thoughts to dwell on and which to let pass by ...
It is the secret of every successful visionary, athlete, engineer, guru, businessman or Random Magus.

Just as when we are in love we choose to let our thoughts be on the oerson we are in love with, or the dress we are in love with, or the car we are in love with, or the sofa we are in love with, or the house or 'paradise' we seek!

Greg said...

HollySS: I do want to define ignorance because it is often confused with something like a lack of intelligence. Ignorance comes from ignore, and I mean it in that sense. This ignorance could come from actively ignoring something or just not allowing yourself to become aware of certain things. Lots of smart people are ignorant, and we all are sometimes ignorant of certain things. That said, you are doing much more than positive thinking. You use words like "dealing with" and "working toward". These are action words that go beyond just the kind of positive thinking that I am referring to. My objection is when gurus tell people they can just think about the good stuff and everything will be great. Or at least give that impression. That's a big draw to these gurus, little work big results. Resolution takes action, it takes that working things out. It takes that goal oriented approach of identifying what you want and what you can effect, and then actually taking some action to cause change. Emotions run parallel to this process.

Random Magus: Think about a math problem. Lots of people run round and round in circles trying to figure them out and say the exact kinds of things you say. They can't make any headway with them, they can't understand them, they can't find a solution. That usually means they are either not considering all the issues involved, or are not focusing their energies in the right direction. But math problems don't suffer from others telling them that it is wrong or a sin to add numbers. Most people are confused because they want to do something but are told they are bad for thinking that way. Math problems are actually easy, life not so much.

Random Magus said...

Epimenides: At least you are trying and that is being oriented towards a goal - me I am still looking for one and even that not very actively :(

Zakman: Hey thats worth dirhams not fils ;)

Quasar9: The funny thing is that I don't ever actively want things - just lately there's been this feeling that I'm wasting life, and that's scary!

Greg: If you don't even know which is the right direction how can you focus on it?

Greg said...

If you don't know which is the right direction you cannot focus on it. All the positive thinking in the world won't help.

This is where that math class and all those stupid stories problems that never made any sense come in handy. If you're lost, just ask yourself what you want and then re-examine the facts. The answers aren't always something we want to work out, but if you want to reach the solution, you have no choice.

In any case you can get very far thinking about generalities, you have to think about the specifics.

Random Magus said...

I have known that to be my problem for a while - just working towards the solution now!



PS: I always did suck at Math though

paisley said...

i have known several people in this life, who when asked what they are thinking about,,, and they say nothing.... they mean it....

and i must say,, that although i can be accused of thinking too much for my own good at times... i would rather think,, than live the blank existence of someone that doesn't have a thought in their head......

Blur Ting said...

Hey RM, I wish I could offer some good advice but I'm really not good in this department. But I can see your blogging community is very supportive and been dishing out sincere advice. That's so wonderful.

Loz said...

Amber you are way too young to be in midlife :) Self esteem is linked to all sorts of things and it's very easy for some of us to dwell overmuch on the negatives. One thing I have begun to tell myself lately is that I am not responsible for what other people think of me. If they gossip or criticise, and I know it's unjustified, then the problem lies with them, not with me. Doesn't mean it has no effect on my own feelings, but it has helped to overcome that fear of criticism and the desire to run away and hide that used to pop up way too often.

Random Magus said...

Paisley: Neither do I - my point simple is that there is nothing wrong in thinking but tere something definitely wrong in thinking and making yourself miserable. That should not be alowed at all.

Blur Ting: All of us in this world have some good things to deal with and some bad. My life is pretty good so I feel terrible about being so ungrateful. My pnly thing is that I want to discipling my brain to recognize the good things that surround me and not think of what there might not be

Loz: I am not that young thanks anyway!
I am working on exactly that

meleah rebeccah said...

first of all this has to be one of my favorite posts you have ever written.

"Sometimes the wrong kind of thinking leads to all sorts of misery, convinces you that you are worthless. We create prisons for ourselves - if everything is going perfect we wait for the bad to happen."

um yeah, I am waiting for people to throw rocks at me over the confusion on my blog. Im sure its all IN MY HEAD, but that damn thinking gets me every single time

Random Magus said...

I can imaging how much you must have agonized over that but I hardly even thought it was a big deal and no one would have wanted to 'throw ocks' at you because they know you and coz it was an honest mistake. I think sometimes we become our harshest critics... and when we need to be critical of ourselves at those times we aren't.
Human nature - always contrary

Jeff said...

I don't think we can kid ourselves out of reality, but I do think we can put reality in perspective and rise above our circumstance. Does that even sound like it relates? ;)

I want my blog to be more like this one for THAT reason.

Mark said...

We never stop thinking, however we can control what we think about. You are correct, it can be difficult to switch are thinking patterns, however it is possible,it takes focused effort. The rewards are inmesurable.

rp said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, and find myself relating to it well. I, too, am a brooder. It costs me quite a bit of precious sleep. It is one of the reasons I started my blog--to purge some of the demons.

Also mentioned is the peak and valley nature of positive/negative thought process. Definitely! I also find that oftentimes it is directly correlated to the peaks and valleys of my hormonal cycle.

Life, time and tide are all cyclical. That we are attuned to it is what makes us thinking, though sometimes tortured beings.

Random Magus said...

Jeff: I think it makes perfect sense - because it's our perspective that really determines our reactions


Mark: I envy people who can do that and I know some who do have that control


Rp: Thanks - I guess once you blog about it you realize that you're not the only one and that there are people who are going through the same thing. Makes you feel a little less strange. Plus there is nothing like getting it off our chest and 'purging' as you so correctly put it.

Cindy said...

Hello!

Your post reminds me of another adage, "Innocence is Bliss"...I believe that when you are someone who thinks a great deal about things, who doesn't just toss things aside, you do often see the sad side to it...I over think things all the time and make myself pretty unhappy. :-/ But I think you have to, at least sometimes.

Random Magus said...

Cindy: I don't think I'd make the trade-off either, I'd rather think of all the questions in the world than be bot interested in finding out!