Positive Thinking: Not Just a Fluffy, New-Age Term
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.” ~Sutra 2:33
I wanted to expand a bit on my Instagram/Facebook post from yesterday regarding positive thinking. When I suggest thinking positively, I don’t mean in a fluffy, “let’s just pretend everything is okay” kind of way. We’re human, so we’re going to experience the full range of emotions no matter how much positive thinking we do; however, it’s our response to these emotions that matters. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda, sutra 2:33 reveals the key to happiness—when you have a negative thought, simply replace it with a positive one. This is easier said than done, but gets easier with practice and is certainly worth the effort.
“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” ~Dalai Lama
Negative thinking, whether it’s about oneself, one’s environment, or others, contributes to stress and health problems. Positive thinking, on the other hand, enables your mind to be open to more possibilities and can have a huge impact on your health. Have you ever witnessed road rage? That guy aggressively tailgating the driver who just cut him off—you can bet his blood pressure and stress levels are high. Imagine instead how much more at peace he’d be if he didn’t let another driver’s actions affect his mood so intensely. Next time you’re cut off in traffic, instead of thinking about what a jerk the other driver is, think instead that it’s no problem and be grateful for your safety despite the close call.
The super-inspiring Ashtanga yogi Kino MacGregor says that samskaras “are essentially habit patterns of the mind that have been practiced so much so that they run on auto-pilot, unconsciously generating the same cyclical type of interactions in the world.” Samskaras in and of themselves are not necessarily good nor bad, but we get closer to achieving samadhi, or bliss, if we become aware of our own samskaras. When you think in a certain way, that pathway in the brain becomes stronger and stronger, so if you typically think negative thoughts, those thoughts will be the easiest for you to think. It will be difficult to change your thinking, but it is possible. With practice you can form new, healthier pathways in the brain that will eventually become stronger than old, unhealthy pathways. Meditation is a great way to form new pathways, as it gives you time and space to notice your own thought patterns, and that awareness is what enables you to change them.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~Marianne Williamson
The power to change your life lies within yourself. The greatest opportunity for growth dwells in the small, everyday moments. Meditate. Notice your thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It may feel cheesy at first, but with practice it will become authentic and will change your life.