Andy Spragg discusses Positivity with Trish Caller – I hosted a very special session recently. Joining the Sangha House virtual studio was a Tibetan monk. Not just any Tibetan monk but a high lama. Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, Abbot of a Tibetan monastery. It was wonderful to listen to this old man talk. His face may have looked old but the vibrancy in his words and demeanour were incredible. He said “all you need to make spiritual progress is positivity. Positivity towards the world, your community, your friends and family and yourself” I totally agree with him.
As a Buddhist a key part of my practise is to accept the rough with the smooth. To not push away aspects of life that perhaps might cause me distaste or aversion, but to fully live in the world I am in. But I also recognise that this isn’t about rose tinted spectacles. We don’t just ignore problems and difficulties, we see them with honest compassionate eyes. I also understand that strong emotions can get stirred up when challenges happen. So how do we do this? How do we work with all the challenge and conflict in life, seeing it for what it is but at the same time stay positive to all aspects of it?
As Buddhists we look at the things that stop us. Those things aren’t external. They are inside of us. The blockers to positivity are inside each of us. Each and every one of us. With no exception.
So how do we work with this? How do we change our inbuilt, heartfelt reaction to the things that cause us conflict and aversion? We look inside at the blockers. This is often the way with Buddhist practice. You look at how your mind is blocking you and work to remove this. Then the block melts away. Here, the opposite of positivity is negativity and that of course means judging and judgement. This state of judging is habitual. If we allow ourselves to judge things, judging can become habit. Of course, we all judge. Just think what happens when we meet someone new. They haven’t even spoken to us yet and we start to conclude things about them. Maybe their status in life, even their job. Worst of all, we decide if we like them or not and they haven’t even spoken a word to us yet. This is very human so we shouldn’t be too judgemental on ourselves for judging! BUT it does get in the way of us seeing the true world out there and it can, very quickly, become habitual. This leads to a very negative view of the world where we judge everything.
The mind can be seen as a container. Pour liquid into any container and it takes the shape of the container. Pour awareness into a mind that is negative and that mind will see a negative world. A world that is full of things we don’t like. In the worst case we withdraw into ourselves full of either fear or anger.
What can we do about this? We just learn to notice through mind watching. All we have to do is notice negative thoughts emerging and they melt away. This way, we break the habit of judging and emerge into a positive world. We of course trust our thoughts but often they don’t give us an informed view. They can literally lie to us.
We learn to do this on the cushion in meditation. Building a habit of mind watching and noticing. Then, that habit will kick in when we are out and about in the world and we will let go of judging