Tuesday, 19 May 2009
How can I stop negative thoughts?
Two problems with the question in the title:
1. No such thing as negative except in your mind. (And yes, there is no such thing as positive either. Novel concept, no?)
2. You can't stop thoughts of any kind. You might as well try to stop yourself breathing.
Thoughts arise naturally out of the emptiness. You can't stop them. And if you try, you would be better off trying to stop the Niagara Falls. They will go on forever. Reality check: Thoughts are here to stay. We get to live with them.
And what's so bad about thoughts, anyway? They don't cause problems. We do. The thoughts bubble harmlessly through our awareness until we presume to relate to them. When we believe them, then something happens. We create a relationship to the thoughts. And that relationship is what creates our inner experience. (See the Primer on Reality.) For better or for worse, that thought then settles into our mind. Fun, isn't it?
What happens when you start getting into multiple relationships with multiple thoughts is that it sews into a tight inner experience. And the more thoughts you relate to, the more likely they will argue with reality. Yep, that usually means pain. So how do you get out of that relationship?
Hint: it has nothing to do with killing the thought.
You can NOT, if I haven't already made that absolutely clear, kill a thought. The act of aggression against it is yet another way of relating to it. You draw it even closer. You question your relationship to it. Again and again, until you see the truth of it. The way of it is reality. And you will be free of thought. They will bubble harmlessly away. And you can go your own way. Question and Question until they go. Or stay.
Is that true? If you really look at any thought, and honestly consider whether it might be true, you will find that it isn't. But look at your truth. What is it for you? Look at your reality. What is the way of it? "Yes" or "No" is fine. There are only TWO answers to this question. Yes. And No. If you feel compelled to say anything else, that is a story. If you feel you need to justify your answer, that is a story. If you feel that you need to say more to explain your position, that is a story.
Can you absolutely know that that is true? Sit with it and think about it. This work is about meditation. And again, yes or no is fine, but if you come up with a yes, I challenge you to ask yourself this question: "Can you find one example, one instance, where this thought might not be true?" And yes, you can fudge it all and blithely say no. But if you really sit and try, in spite of the fact that your mind is eagerly straining in the opposite direction, you will find it. In my experience, nothing is absolutely true.
How do you react when you think that thought? When we are not at peace, we are out of balance with reality. The only way that can happen is when our thoughts, our stories, the fables we believe in, are out of sync with reality. We are too focussed on the inner tale. When you believe the thought, you will react in all the ways that make you miserable, angry, irritated, frustrated. Yes, if you are completely strict and honest with yourself, every time you are emotionally out of kilter, if you sit with it long enough, and ask yourself, "Why am I feeling this way?" eventually the thought or belief will come out. It takes practice and experience, because many of these beliefs and thoughts have gone unquestioned, invisible for years, and with our sloppy thinking we believe them. This question asks you to see what thinking that thought is causing you to feel.
Who would you be without that thought? This work is about education. We don't shoo the thought out the door. We don't try and kill it. This is a simple question. We have seen what it is like to be with that thought, and now we see how we would be without that thought. This is the education of self. We see what damage we are doing to ourselves by holding on to thoughts. And if you were smart, you would let it go at this point.
If you didn't want to let it go, then let me explain one other point. IF you believe in peace, then there are only 2 kinds of thought: Stressful and stress-free. Can you find a single stress-free reason to keep your thought? If not, let it go. And if you are committed to it, you will never find a stress-free reason. At least no one has found one yet. There are those who have mistaken stressful reasons as stress-free, of course.
And you can go, "But, but..." all you like. In the paradigm of peace, it is that simple. The "buts" come from another paradigm - the paradigm of right and wrong. The paradigm of arguing with reality. That paradigm will give you loads of reasons to keep the thought. Cultural upbringing, childhood memories, parental beliefs, la di da. The whole load of it. If you are into being right or wrong, that is fine too. But recognise that peace is not guaranteed in that paradigm. If you want peace, then this is one paradigm which will show you a useful way to look at it. If you still want that paradigm, it shows you aren't committed to peace above everything else in your life. You find peace when you place it higher than everything else.
You want something else? You want wealth? You want relationships? You want health? You may or may not get those. Hopeless, really. Life will do exactly what life will do. Nothing more and nothing less. And you may or may not be happy. Reality will rule. That's why so many great ones go nearly to death before they figure this out. Life beats them again and again and again because they argue with it. Then, for the lucky ones, they change priorities. They give up hope, because reality is hopeless. They only want what is, and nothing more, because it is wayyy too painful to argue. That is surrender. That is the end of pain. Where is your priority?
NOTE: I do not represent Byron Katie's work. The questions are hers, and the explanations are mine. It is my way of relating to them. I have a deep respect and appreciation for The Work, but I am not affiliated with them.