Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Magnificent Brain

Frankly, I always thought the whole notion of "positive thinking" was a load of crap.

How's that for plopping it on the table?

Sometimes I think positivity is pushed in this culture like some kind of magic tonic, that it will cure everything. It's confused with "upbeat". The two are entirely different. Being positive also does not mean "cheerful". In that respect, the whole concept has become conflated and the importance of it has been lost in the onslaught of fluff. Being positive is an overall way of life. It's not just smiling a lot and expressing cheery thoughts.

Lately, it almost seems as this message is being pounded into my head. Thoughts are things.

Dealing with my housemate's negativity has been a real challenge. Every day, it's all about her hardships and separation from others. Any mind that concentrates on hardships and differences between self and others for too long becomes only the hardships and separations it fantasizes. In the end there is nothing left but the hardships and separations ~ a good life stolen by self from self. And that is where she is now.

That was one object lesson. It's been sort of a spiritual version of "this is your brain on drugs".

I was listening to PBS and Dr. Daniel Amen who wrote "Have A Magnificent Mind At Any Age". His "12 Prescriptions for an Improved Brain" emphasized this: Concentrate on the things you love about your life more than the things you don't.

He showed some supporting documentation. There were pictures of brains. Brains when we're negative. Brains when we're positive. There was a significant difference between the two.

There are physical consequences as well as quality-of-life consequences to allowing ourselves the laziness of being negative. Dr Amen's brain scans proved that. It puts it in the venue of science rather than some blah-blah "be positive" tripe that leads a lot of people to dismiss it out of hand.

What that has brought me to is a mindfulness about how often I allow myself to complain, to awfulize, to worry and to look at worse case scenarios. Without realizing it, when we do that, we change our brain patterns that lead to these physical as well as mental consequences. In so many ways, it's just as dangerous as smoking, eating poorly or not getting any exercise.

Something to chew on.



Olivia said...

This is a great topic.

I think that there is a genuine positivity that focuses on gratitude, contentment, and joy. On what is right with our lives and worthy of appreciation. The energy here is of removing separation, of allowing, and is gentle and loving. It is removed from judging and labeling. It is kind.

Then there is something else, something legalistic and very rule-based, where people judge and label so-called "negative emotions" as wrong and bad. This something is very forced, but with an energy of striving instead of allowing.It doesn't feel good. It feels false.

Authentic positivity is attractive, even irresistible. I think that this is the kind that changes the brain. The other false weird thing repels.

If someone could articulate this better, I'd love it. I am trying to sort this out in my own mind as well.

Great topic, Chani!


secret agent woman said...

I don't believe the idea that if you just think positively, you can have anything you want (you knw, visualize it into being) but I do believe that a positive outlook is healthier.

meno said...

Love the way this starts out. :) I agree.

The trouble with positive thinking as a cure to any and every thing is that it makes everything our fault. Get cancer? Your fault, you negative creature!

Having said that, of course it makes a difference to try and not be negative all the time. That's poison.

flutter said...

there is a large difference, as I am sure you know between being a pollyanna and trying to see the good in the world around you.

for me, it helps to try to see the good

heartinsanfrancisco said...

A very interesting post.

I also detest being importuned to be "positive" when what is really meant is "cheerful." The distinctions are important, as you noted. My mother was a Pollyanna who tried to turn me into one, too, but I couldn't hack the required denial. I finally realized that being as different from her as possible was robbing me of being as contented in my own life as I could be, and I found my comfort zone in the middle ground of honest optimism.

Leann said...

I enjoyed the beginning of your post Chani. It got my attention. I could not wait to see where the post was headed.

Honestly I'm not sure where in all of this I stand. I'm not sure I have a solid 'belief' system in place. I am an optimist. I believe that what you put out into the universe (energy) is what you reap from it. Being optimistic (denial) is just that. Denial.
We all have highs and lows in our life.

The one question/thought I had while reading this was: I'm surprised at your level of faith when you appear to be a 'see it to believe it' kinda gal. (The brains)

It was a thought provoking post and I enjoyed reading it.

Blessings and enjoy your day!

Olivia said...

My favorite thing about your blog is how well you generate discussion and how the blog, the comments, all make such a great read. Happy Sacred Sunday, O

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I've been practicing mindfulness about being positive. I know that it's made a huge difference in my outlook on life and my energy level. My mother, before she moved here, was surrounded by negative people. She now is surrounded by people with a sense of humor and grace. She's grown much happier and younger since she's been here.

Something to chew on, indeed.

Happy Sacred Sunday!

painted maypole said...

i agree that positive thinking does not mean that only positive things will come to your life, but i have found that when i let myself wallow in the negative that i let ore of the negative in, and am not as open to the positive.

positive thinking does not make bad things go away, but it can certainly change how you react to them, and how you look at all manner of things. it has helped me, buy I still struggle with it.

niobe said...

Very interesting. I've certainly never thought of myself as a positive thinker -- but I have to admit that I tend to look for the silver lining. And I make an effort (in general, anyway) not to complain.

Though, when I'm thinking about the future, I like to imagine the worst case scenario. Because, for me, it helps cushion the blow if the worst comes to pass.

Anonymous said...

positive thinking is not going to cure your cancer, but it certainly does have clear physiological effects. i find that when i am in a more positive cycle, my body has a much more measured reaction to things. great post.

Angela said...

Wow, wonderful post, Chani. It's really fascinating, isn't it? I'm just trying not to resist the positive things that are constantly flowing my way. Negativity is resistance to all the beauty the universe has to offer. And still, I go there. At least these days I'm pulling myself back rather quickly and I see you doing that as well. It's a challenge, no?

Anonymous said...

Depression is a horrible brain disease and it sucks all of the color out of life! I love that pic BTW. I know what you mean about cognition and the push to be cheerful- it kind of smacks of Oprah and the way we all are constantly made to feel we are lazy and deficient if we aren't always trying to do plastic surgery on our personalities! oops- you got me ranting a bit- I'll stop now:)