Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › Positive Thinking?: Readings for July 24th NVMG Meeting
This week’s reading focuses on what meditation is not - positive thinking - and focuses on the difference between ideas around positive thinking and making an inquiry into the nature of our minds.
You can print out a copy of the reading by clicking on the link below:
Please bring a copy with you to the meditation group.
Meditation and Buddhist teachings do not instruct one to think positively (or negatively for that matter). The point of the practice is to look at our thoughts, feelings, and emotional experiences, good or bad, without judgment and without trying to change them. Mindfulness practice is not about developing skills to acquire abundance, riches, happiness, or any goals at all. In fact, the basic tenet of the teachings is that misery/suffering (dukkha) arises when we try to get away from the facts of life, by constantly trying to avoid pain and seek happiness.
Buddhism is definitely not the “Secret” and its popularization of the “law of attraction.” It is not about trying to “manifest what you want with good intentions”, or the belief that everything will turn out all right in the end if we remain optimistic. As James Baraz points out in his book “Awakening Joy”, in reality it’s not all going to be alright in the end, because in the end, without exception, we’re all going to get sick or old, and die.
Positive thinking is not bad per se. It is a mental attitude that admits into the mind thoughts, words and images that are conductive to growth. But positive thoughts are still thoughts that are influenced by our past conditioning. What we often view as positive is some desired scenario that we believe will makes us happy when it comes to fruition. Sometimes this works for a while and sometimes it doesn’t.
In cultivating mindfulness, however, we are trying to go beyond thinking, positive or negative, to understand the nature of our relationship to our thoughts. When we understand that our thoughts are just thoughts, no matter how angelic or vicious, their power over us to delude our reality diminishes.
By directing our awareness inward, we can begin to become intimately familiar with the ways of our minds and bodies. Even when thoughts and feelings are unpleasant or disturbing, we can learn to hold them with compassion and be with them just as they are. As Pema Chödrön says, “we base our lives on seeking happiness and avoiding suffering, but the best thing we can do for ourselves—and for the planet—is to turn this whole way of thinking upside down.”