In my last post I explained my views and experiences on understanding negative states of mind. Now its time to see what I did to change my thought-patterns and keep negative out of my life.
It’s no secret that I’ve been influenced strongly by Tolle, De Mello etc. The only thing that I disliked about them was just a few concepts that were a bit too far-fetched – they didn’t matter though as I was so impressed with all the “good stuff”.
I only cared about the things that really worked for me and those are the things that I’m going to focus on this article.
Deep suffering = leverage
Feel free to bash me for this, but if you are truly deeply suffering, I will have to congratulate you.
Really deep suffering enables you to start looking for any answers to just get rid of the feeling.
This is exactly what happened to me and several others (such as Eckhart Tolle) who’ve gone through similar change. When you are truly dissatisfied with how your life feels, it works as the ultimate leverage for change.
You may have sometimes felt how the negative has piled up so much that you’ve just stopped resisting. The result is momentary feeling of bliss.
I experienced this feeling several times during my worst times, but the bad patterns always prevailed so that I fell back to the suffering. This is somewhat related to “not giving a fuck about anything”, which is a good momentary medicine, but it doesn’t work on the long-term.
The worst possible state to be is the feeling of apathy, where nothing feels good and nothing feels too bad so you are still comfortable enough to keep on doing what you’ve always done. You’ll have to find leverage for yourself and break that pattern.
Breaking the pattern, buying in and committing to this
When I was suffering the most, I took a huge leap and broke the pattern in my daily life. My life was incredibly passive, but I got this idea of starting to take responsibility for my own wellbeingness as I was miserable for looking at other people for it.
I knew that no one was going to save me – I had to do something.
My state was so open to everything new that I managed to buy in to stuff that helped me. This is the biggest difference between people who stay in their unbeneficial paradigms and those who become open enough to change their self.
The stagnancy has been set so deep in some people, so they shut down even the most beneficial things that are out of their current reality. They are like people sitting in a car, stuck to mud not even trying to step on the gas to get out of it. You can sense their frustration when they are behind the wheel, accusing the mud for ruining their life.
I was always trying to rationalize and make excuses about anything that didn’t match my current view of the world – I was amazingly good at this (in other words, I was very good at deluding myself). The illusion is that our beliefs feel so real to us – anything different brings forth anxiety.
Only later I found that anxiety related to change is often an incredible chance for personal growth.
I can’t say what you have to do as every person has their own set of reality – I can’t help you to buy in to any of this. I can only tell what worked for me.
I had to commit to all this and that is why it had so big effect on me. Half-assing it wouldn’t have done it as I would have just fallen back to my old habits.
Why this all works
Isn’t it interesting how when you focus on all the negative things, you’ll tend to see negative in practically everything?
Unfortunately, the negative patterns are sometimes often so deeply ingrained that it will be a struggle to get out of them.
Your brain is constantly wiring itself to the direction on what you focus on on longer period of time.
Think about skills and how repetition is the mother of all learning.
Any thought or action reinforced for long enough, will become part of your identity (a habit).
When we start doing something new, we suck at it. But as we keep doing it, there are new neural pathways created constantly in our brain.
In other words, learning to get out of negative patterns is a skill that you can learn through repetition. There are still big misconceptions about our “identities” and how people think it’s “impossible to change who we are”, but that is absolute bullshit.
You have to know how to do it and do it for long enough.
Negative -> Neutral -> Positive
When I first started getting rid of the negative influences in my life, I didn’t “just turn positive”.
Getting rid of the negative needed new kind of conditioning, which for me brought almost ridiculous neutrality towards everything. There’s nothing wrong in being neutral – it’s million times better than being depressed and feeling angry.
I got to a point where I wasn’t feeling negative anymore, but rather had a sense of emptiness. There were no goals, no purpose and no dreams.. No momentum.
It took me 6 months to realize that there is something better than being neutral: When I got rid of negativity, there was huge amount of “free space” as I didn’t know how I could benefit from having good beliefs (and how to “install them”).
I’m not going to go further about changing neutral to positive in this article, because it’s pretty much the whole topic of this blog. It’s an incredibly varied mixture of being active, having beneficial habits, going for what you want and constantly improving yourself.
As concluded in the previous article: the mind is the problem.
We can’t choose what kind of emotions our thoughts generate and we can’t instantly affect what kind of thoughts our mind generates.
What we can choose is how we react to the arising thoughts and emotions.
This is the basis of everything: when we change the way we react to our inner turbulence, we can affect to them indirectly.
I’m going to quote the title of the first chapter of Power of Now, because I can’t put it better myself:
You are not your mind
Everything starts from the realization of now: The future and the past are just thoughts that you are having. They don’t exist.
The only thing that you have (or will ever have) is what is happening now.
This is almost too obvious, but back then I needed someone to tell it to me to deeply realize it.
Through our lives we have been conditioned to think that what we’ve done in the past equals to who we are. This identity or the “ego” is illusionary by its nature. Is it real just because we think it is? Are past and future real just because you think about them? They are not.
You aren’t your job, your identity or anything you think to be.
This realization changed my view of the world: I stopped caring about how I thought things were and started focusing on how I actually saw things.
Become aware that how you currently think doesn’t have anything to do with who you are.
We easily associate our identities with what people say to us or do to us. I remember a story of a school that made a mistake: the teachers put “smart kids” in the “dumb kids” class and the “dumb kids” to “smart kids” class.
Interesting thing happened: the dumb kids started to get better grades and the smart kids started to get worse, just because the teachers had the misconception of thinking that the dumb kids were smart and taught them with this presumption.
The whole world affects you the same way constantly, unless you realize what is real and what is not.
The reason why this is important that when your life is full of negativity, you tend to reflect to your past that is full of “evidence” that supports your current mind-patterns. You are reflecting on something that doesn’t exist outside your mind.
What is real?
Our bodies can’t tell the difference between the real and realistic (daydream) images created by our minds. This is why when you imagine an uncertain future (or traumatizing past), your body will react with anxiety or otherwise horrible feeling.
When you think that your identity is full of shit and you are worthless, you body will give an appropriate reaction (emotion) to that thought, strengthening the belief.
The purpose of realizing this is to sever the link between your consciousness (your focus) and the mind. They are two different entities: the one that speaks (mind) and the one that listens (consciousness).
By doing this you’ll be able to recognize the harmful mind-patterns and by being conscious of them you can start reacting to them differently than before, indirectly affecting and slowly changing them.
The reality is simply everything that you hear, feel and see currently. That’s all there is.
If you have a painting on the wall, watch it. Or watch the wall – it’s all the same.
This is what’s real, this is the now. Subjectively looking, it’s boring as hell, but it’s reality nonetheless. The reality doesn’t have anything to do with negative or positive (or even being boring, once you realize it deeply enough)
It just is as it is.
This is the absolute first step that has to be taken to change negative states in your life.
A lot of people live their lives on autopilot - they have zero self-awareness. They are acting their thoughts out and becoming their feelings, in other words, their consciousness, thoughts and feelings are aligned.
They have integrity, but if the source of integrity is negative by itself, it’s nothing short of useless.
When a person is predominantly positive, becoming their positive thoughts and acting their positive feelings out is.. good.
When a negative person acts out their negative thoughts and feelings, the result will be poisonous both to himself and his environment.
Being self-aware is all about taking control from the autopilot by becoming the master of your own inner life. It’s about taking responsibility.
For the most part, thoughts and emotions are out of your control.
You can’t decide the next thought that comes to your head and you can’t change an emotional state just by deciding that it should change.
Your thoughts will either be somehow linked to something you are doing currently, or your subconscious will bring something from the back of your head that most likely has emotional significance to you.
This is where the applicable knowledge comes to your aid: you can install new thinking patterns that will be helpful to you.
For example, if this article resonates with you, your focus will be shifting from being your thoughts to monitoring your thoughts.
In my case, there were lots of new thoughts and insights revolving around these concepts.
I liked those thoughts, so I didn’t have any reason to get rid of them.
This is where (in my opinion) spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle have not been clear enough: there’s no need to get rid of all the thoughts that you have. The best way in my opinion is to use this practice is to get rid of unbeneficial, negative thought-patterns and enjoy the good ones.
Nowadays I don’t think about how I’m supposed to monitor my thoughts and emotions, because there’s no absolute need to. My mind is predominantly positive, so I don’t have any need to change it.
There are times when I’m feeling negative and those times are the perfect reminder for me to start doing this. The negative habits have already been gone for so long that they simply can’t last with me.
Emotions are how our body reacts to:
- Our outer circumstances (like fight or flight in dangerous situation)
- To our mind
Your mind and emotions work very well together.
This means that when you have negative thoughts and your body reacts to it with negative emotion, this emotion creates more thoughts that are in line with the emotion.
This creates a cycle of negativity that may take painfully long periods of time to get out of.
There may be short breaks in this cycle that last until you get “reminded” of it by your mind. Depending on the deepness of the emotion and the though pattern, the cycle may last from few hours to several years.
To break this cycle the best way for me is to dive deeply in to the feeling and go through it. I stay with it in silence and I find that it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There’s nothing to fight against and that’s why the feeling doesn’t have any reason to last.
It has become so natural to me that my mind quiets down automatically.
Consciousness (or focus)
The most important part in you is your consciousness: thoughts and emotions both arise in it.
You are this consciousness, not the thoughts or the emotions that are momentarily just visiting.
This is the one part of you that is always constant: thoughts come and go, emotions will be felt, but there will always be this awareness behind them.
Problems arise when your consciousness aligns with negative thoughts and emotions.
Imagine or try to remember a situation where you’ve been so mad to someone that you simply couldn’t control yourself. That’s when your negative emotions and thoughts took over.
You became your emotions.
I remember when I was completely swallowed by some negative thought, I couldn’t help but to say aloud things that were racing through my mind in imaginary, heated conversations.
Stories have power that is beyond comprehension: everyone remembers what happens in a good story as they have a unique way to stick to our minds.
You are constantly telling yourself stories and that’s why some thought-patterns stay with you longer than others.
When something bad happens, your mind will generate a story about it and remind you about it until you either do something about it or learn not to resist it.
If you have enough self-awareness, you may recognize that your negative state is around some story that you tell to yourself.
When it comes to stories, you have only three choices: to act on it, to accept it completely or resist it.
Acting on it is always the best choice. If you can’t, you will have to accept it completely so you can get peace of mind. I can’t remember getting peace of mind instantly too often, but rather gradually due to changing my point of view.
Unfortunately accepting doesn’t come natural to most people – why would it? No one likes to suffer. We spin the story around, resist how it went down and suffer because of it.
Learn the lesson that the situation presented and make it a habit to see the story for what it is instead of playing it out in your head.
I experienced some stories being almost impossible to accept completely – you’ll have to figure out ways to deal with it. That includes changing your perspective and making a good spin to it somehow. The most important part is though that you realize it being yet another thought in your mind.
Nothing real, it’s something that doesn’t exist anywhere but in your mind.
There will never be a situation where your mind doesn’t generate problems. It’s intrinsic part of it.
Whenever you have a problem, it looks like you need to find a solution to deal with it once and for all. The real problem is that when you find one, there may be momentary bliss until the next one is generated.
- Look around, is there a problem right now outside your mind? (hint: 99.9% of cases there isn’t)
- When the means to deal with the problem that you are thinking about arises, you will have all necessary ways.
- Planning is different that worrying.
- If the worry is related to a social situation, planning will often make it worse as you will be focused on your mind rather than adapting to the situation
- In most cases there is no solution that you can figure out in your mind – the only solution is to become learn to live with them. Accept them as they are and know that thinking about them won’t make any difference.
- You will never run out of mind-generated problems. Either you act now, let them be or let yourself be unfocused and dwell in them, bringing suffering to yourself.
You can only have one thought at any given moment. When you are unfocused daily and dwelling in your problems, your whole life will become an unsolvable puzzle. You lose a huge amount of potential not taking active steps to deal with them instead of trying to solve them in your mind.
The first step for me was to realize the nature of the problems, which does help, but the final solution was to engage in so many activities that there wasn’t any room for “problems”.
Stagnancy and not stimulating your mind is the perfect environment for your mind to create something to keep itself occupied.
Sometimes it’s your body
Even though the main problem with negative state is the mind, there are situations when it’s not about your mind, but about your body.
Today I woke up two hours before the usual and couldn’t sleep. I tried, but I felt some uneasiness and I was thinking about a situation related to one of my tenants.
When I focused deeper to my body, I realized that the thoughts weren’t getting any kind of reaction in my body: the feeling of uneasiness just was there.
Maybe I had eaten something bad yesterday or something, but I’m sure it’s linked to the reason why I woke up so early.
Be aware that there are situations when there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change the uneasiness in your body. When the feeling is ‘slight’, it will be very hard to tell the difference, but you should be able to notice it when you focus on your body deep enough.
It’s part of life and you will have to accept it. It will pass sooner or later.
Strong conditioned pain
Eckhart Tolle calls it the pain-body, I call it strong conditioned pain.
Strong conditioned pain is something that will “get you” every time when you are reminded by it. It’s something that has haunted you for most of your life and when you get reminded by it, you will feel instantly down, even angry in some cases.
It’s a pattern that has the deepest roots in you: you’ve probably played the situation thousands of times in your head, creating strong neural pathways in your brain.
The stronger the effect on you, the more you will have to pay attention to it.
I myself started seeing results almost instantly when I started practicing self-awareness and all this, but I had so strong conditioned pains that it took me at least 6 months to get rid of some of them.
In other words, don’t worry if it looks like you aren’t progressing: you are, but it isn’t instantaneous.
What will most likely happen is that you wake up some day and get reminded by a thought that previously made you depressed, but then you realize that it didn’t actually do anything.
After that, the thoughts that induced the conditioned pain before start to disappear altogether. If they can’t get the reaction from you, they have no reason to exist.
Stagnancy is closely linked to negative
There are two kinds of stagnancies in your life. First is staying passive (instead of being proactive) and second is sticking to same kind of daily schedule for extended period of time. Both are bad by itself, but when combined, life becomes miserable.
This is something that I didn’t realize when I started conditioning my mind. I believe that one of the reasons why I managed to get out of the downward spiral was that at the same time I started being active: instead of watching movies and playing games, I went outside to walk, rode a bicycle, visited places in my town where I had not been previously and shooting some hoops.
Naturally I grew bored with all that at some point, but it gave me a great head start as I felt good for a while because I broke my previous pattern of just being passive all day long.
All these realizations and methods are indeed a great way to start conditioning yourself out of the negativity, but I’ve learned that when you don’t stimulate your mind continuously, it will have all the time to make up shit that bothers you.
There are several ways where you can point your focus and see how your state may change.
Exception to this is when the negative emotions come over you like a tsunami, you’ll most likely feel that none of this is of any help.
No one is above the process. You will fall back to your negative thoughts from time to time. I did it several times, but then it became the perfect reminder for me to start practicing all this again. The most important thing is to keep conditioning yourself, even if it feels impossible at times.
Over time I started seeing more and more joy in my daily life as I became more self-aware and started to make my own realizations about myself.
Objectively looking my old friends were good people, they weren’t rude, but we weren’t compatible.
I had known all of them for several years and I had so many painful conditions related to them that I had to leave.
It isn’t always about the other people being negative influence, but the dynamics between you and them that bring negativity in your life.
One important symptom is that if you are emotionally dependant and notice that your emotions can get easily played by your friends – in my opinion it’s a sign that you should back off.
If there’s someone who brings you more negative than positive, you have to spend less time with them. Often spending time with them is a habit that you are playing out unconsciously.
You don’t have to be rude about it: just start valuing your own time.
Not including my family, I practically left myself completely alone. It was the best decision that I’ve ever made. ( though I don’t necessarily recommend the same to you)
Focus on the image in your mind
By having self-awareness you can pin-point that particular image that is causing the unwanted reactions in your body.
I’ve noticed that when I focus on the image, keep it still and watch it with my minds eye, it gradually loses its effect over me. It usually comes back a couple of times, but never as strong as before.
Then it gradually fades away.
Dive deeply into the feeling
What we resist, persists. I’ve found this to be the absolute truth when it comes to feeling bad about something.
It’s only natural – no one wants to feel like crap, so we try to avoid feeling like that by doing some other things, rationalizing or distracting ourselves. Sometimes it may work, but when the feeling is strong enough, it won’t do any good.
The opposite of resisting the feeling is to dive deeply in to the feeling. It’s like taking a huge leap to the unknown, focusing on it and being with it in silence.
This is also called surrendering: You realize that there’s nothing to fight against. When you surrender to your feelings and thoughts, “you win” against them as they can’t hold any power on you.
Stop judging yourself or others
Start a habit of catching yourself when you judge. This is one brought me huge amounts of joy in life, because when I stopped projecting my thoughts how other people did something wrong or bad, I became more open to life myself.
This is because when we focus on what others do wrong, we become imprisoned by that focus. If the scope of our judgement goes too wide, we will harm ourself as we will be afraid of someone else judging us for the same things.
When we watch the world from negative point of view, it inherently limits our ability to live life to the fullest.
What we resist, persists
This is very important to keep in mind.
You will never get rid of a bad feeling instantly, but accepting and surrendering to it speeds the process up a lot.
Never, ever resist what you are currently feeling.
When you are feeling the worst
When something has triggered you intense emotional feeling, nothing helps you at the moment. I’m sorry.
The feeling is so strong that it will usually overwhelm anything outside of it. What I remember was that I was out of control and nothing could influence me: the only thing was to wait for it to pass.
The way that these practices work is that when you focus on them while you are feeling normal or have slight anxiety/depression, your brain starts to rewire itself.
The trick is that in the future when you are about to get mad, you will notice the pattern in yourself and have the tools to stop it before it consumes your consciousness completely.
Sooner or later, the conditioning becomes so strong that there’s no need to get mad any more.
What comes after all this
When I really got into all this, I thought that I would probably spend the rest of my life aiming to be just present and enjoy what is. This is practically what pretty much every spiritual book will encourage you to do.
Well, that didn’t exactly work out for me. I realized that all this was an incredible tool to get rid of negative, harmful mind-patterns so that I can focus on conditioning myself with positive, beneficial habits.
This took “only” 6 months (after I had gotten rid of most negativity) for me to realize.
My experience is that getting rid of negativity by focusing all this stuff opens you up to the possibilities of world. Those possibilities are closely linked to educating yourself constantly with applicable knowledge, being active, finding what you love to do and then do it.
Coincidentally, those are the main topic of this blog.
Great resources and books:
I wouldn’t be in this great state of mind if I hadn’t listened to several great books. It’s the best way to install new sets of beneficial beliefs and thought-patterns to your mind.
My first book was Power of Now from Eckhart Tolle, but I’d rather recommend A New Earth for the “first timers”.
Tolle can be in some cases a bit hard to understand as he tends to go somewhat beyond practical information. I’d still say that about 90% of his writing is golden stuff and rest 10% should be taken with a grain of salt.
After that I listened to Anthony De Mellos Awareness and proceeded from there.
- Eckhart Tolle – Power of now / A New Earth
- Anthony De Mello – Awareness (You can listen to this in YouTube – don’t tell anyone!)
I did my best
It’s been long since I last had so strong negative conditioning that I had to focus on my consciousness on daily basis. Even though I managed to remember & research material for this article for over 4000 words, there certainly are some things that I simply forgot to mention.
By going through the same route of listening to the same books, listening to talks from several teachers and searching for expanding material from different parts of internet, I’m sure anyone can do the same.
I remember spending some time on this forum, searching answers to questions that I didn’t find elsewhere. The community in the forum is simply amazing – the lack of negativity there is mind-boggling.