Heard of The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman? If you’ve not yet read it, do. It struck a nerve as I recalled recent conversations; some snippets:
“I just tell myself I shouldn’t be thinking that and then I force myself to be positive.”
Or: “I tell my mind to stop, and start thinking something nicer.”
How about: “I feel so bad for even thinking negative things!”
You get the idea. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve said all of the above myself. What is this pervasive insistence on unicorns and lollipops all of the time? Burkeman will open your mind and let you lose the guilt over negative thinking.
It’s getting easier to feel bad for not having a glossy, swishy, joyful life every waking moment. Between facebook, photoshop and miracles in sound engineering there’s little room for imperfection. We should be happy. All. of. the. time. Thinking bad thoughts means we’re flawed, if we’re less than joyous it must mean our lives, and more importantly our selves, aren’t good enough. We have to think more better more of the time.
Burkeman explores how we’ve become trapped by this insatiable desire to have life be more perfect. He believes the dark side of our thought processes have become an unfair source of distress for many. He explores a few of my personal favourites, talking about mindfulness meditation(which we’ll be exploring in my Tuesday night sessions), has an interesting encounter with Eckhart Tolle on my old stomping grounds, and gets to the crux of fear in devoting a chapter to death, something I think we should all ponder more seriously.
Burkeman, himself an advocate of “negative thinking,” had me smiling with relief and agreement. In essence, this book is an ode to surrendering and accepting life equally in its lows and highs.
If you’ve read some previous posts you’ll know I’m not full-tilt positivity all the time. I’m comfortable admitting what any given situation is stirring up in me. I’ve always believed life has its ups and downs, and you learn more, grow more, and get smarter once you’re through the rough patches. I think the more we can be authentic individuals the sooner the world will be on its way to actual positive change. Ironic huh?
So how can we take this need to be daisies and gumdrops all the time and apply it to yoga? Are you thinking one hundred percent good thoughts in yoga class? Doubtful really, as yoga practice usually take us to uncomfortable places. Isn’t it so wonderful we have a tool that enables us to encounter our negative thought patterns on a regular basis without necessarily attaching it to anything in particular?!
The next time you’re in a place you’d like to wiggle away from, mentally, emotionally or physically, just leave it. Try not to “do” anything about it. Don’t waste energy trying to undo a thought, or regret that you were annoyed that the instructor had you in a posture longer than you’d prefer, or that this explanation is so silly and you don’t need to hear it, or that a wonky breathing technique makes your nose feel funny; accept every moment of class, as if it were all meant to be, precisely as it was. Good thoughts and bad.
All beautiful people think less than beautiful things some of the time. Let them move through you and get on with the practice of life.