Does Positive Thinking Work?
Summary: Positive thinking is dangerous! Sadhguru says - "The nature of the mind is such that if you say, 'I do not want this,' only that will happen in your mind. If you say, 'I do not want the negative,' only that will happen." Instead of looking at things as positive and negative, we should essentially be looking at the situation and act accordingly. Sadhguru explains, that the who existence is happening between two dualities - "What you refer to as positive and negative is: masculine and feminine, light and darkness, day and night. Without this, how will life happen? It is like saying you do not want death, you want only life – there is no such thing. Only because there is death there is life. Only because there is darkness there is light. It is just that you should not allow the negative to overwhelm you. Let both of them be there and see how to make both of them productive."
article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org
Positive Thinking Is Bound to Crash
What Is Positive Thinking?
Sadhguru: Too many people in the world are always talking about “positive thinking.” When you say positive thinking, in a way you are trying to escape reality. You only want to look at one side of life while missing out the other. You may ignore the other, but the other will not ignore you. If you do not think about the negative things in the world, you will live in a fool’s paradise and life will get you for it. Right now, suppose black clouds are hanging in the sky. You can ignore them, but they are not going to ignore you. When it rains, it rains. When you get drenched, you get drenched.
Whatever you try to avoid becomes the very basis of your consciousness.
You can ignore it and just think everything is going to be okay – it has some psychological and social relevance but no existential relevance. It will only be solace. You try to solace yourself by moving from reality to unreality because somewhere, you believe that you cannot handle reality. And you probably cannot so you succumb to positive thinking. You want to skip the negative and just think positive. Or in other words, you try to avoid the negative.
Whatever you try to avoid becomes the very basis of your consciousness. What you try to avoid will always be the strongest point in you, not what you pursue. Anyone who tries to eliminate one aspect of life and live with the other will only bring misery upon himself.
The whole existence is happening between two dualities. What you refer to as positive and negative is: masculine and feminine, light and darkness, day and night. Without this, how will life happen? It is like saying you do not want death, you want only life – there is no such thing. Only because there is death there is life. Only because there is darkness there is light. It is just that you should not allow the negative to overwhelm you. Let both of them be there and see how to make both of them productive.
If we are concerned about this life, it is very important that we are truthful about where we really are.
If you look at life just the way it is, it is positive and negative in equal terms, always. If you look at it as it is, neither the negative nor the positive can overwhelm you. Only because they are equal, everything is happening the way it is happening. You have to harness both and produce what you can. A light turns on because there is positive and negative in electricity. A positive result is happening so we do not mind the negative. If there is a man and a woman, if joy is coming out of them, we do not mind the man or the woman. Suppose they started creating a lot of negative result, now we think they are a problem. It is not the positive and negative which is the problem; it is the end result that you produce.
You do not have to resist the positive or the negative; you just have to make a positive result out of it, which is just a question of your capability. If we are concerned about this life, it is very important that we are truthful about where we really are. Only then can we make a journey. Positive thinking has destroyed many possibilities for people. There is a poem written by a positive thinker:
A little bird did fly in the sky.
Shit it did in my eye.
But I can neither worry nor cry,
Because I am a positive thinker.
I thank God and pray that buffaloes do not fly.
If you are not willing to see life the way it is, there is no way to take a step about it. You cannot do anything about it. You can only do funny things mentally, which can keep you entertained for a while but will never take you anywhere.
Q: But Sadhguru, there is a lot of teaching out there about positive thinking and how it can transform your life. Can positive thinking help you get rid of karma, or at least keep you from creating more karma?
Sadhguru: The reason these people have lost depth to their life is because they have become frivolous by focusing their attention only on what is convenient for them, which they call positive. They want everything quick, quick, quick. There is no dedication to anything. Suppose someone has to become a scientist. He has to study for years. Maybe he will forget his wife and his children – he forgets everything and gives himself. Only then something opens up for him, even on the physical plane.
Such steady focus is mostly missing in the modern world, because there is too much of this kind of teaching: “Do not worry, be happy. Everything is fine. Just enjoy yourself!” This kind of happiness will inevitably crash and people will get into mentally sick situations. One particularly popular statement I hear in the West, and it is starting to catch up in India as well, is “Be happy, live in the moment.” Please live somewhere else and show me. Anyway you are in the moment, where else can you be? Everyone quotes this because books have been written and programs have been conducted by people who have no experience or understanding.
The Karmic Spring
If you watch those people who always talk about “Be happy,” depending on their lifestyles, within a few years they end up depressed. It will invariably hit you very deep because your energies are apportioned for different possibilities according to your karmic structure. There is something for your pain, for your grief, your joy, your love. This is called prarabdha karma. It is not just in your mind. Karma is data. Your energy is functioning according to this data. The prarabdha is like a coiled spring. It has to find its release. If those things do not find expression, if you deny them, they will take root in a completely different way.
Why can’t you just be here, without any specific attitude? Without any philosophy? Just aware. Simply aware.
It is important that you simply see everything the way it is. You do not deny anything. If grief comes, grief. Sadness comes, sadness. Joy comes, joy. Ecstasy comes, ecstasy. When you do this, you are not denying or trying to stop anything. At the same time, everything is happening, but you are free from it.
The Danger of Positive Thinking
The nature of the mind is such that if you say, “I do not want this,” only that will happen in your mind. If you say, “I do not want the negative,” only that will happen. Why are you talking about positive or negative at all? Why do you want to look at things this way? Why not look at every situation the way it is, accept it the way it is, and see what is the best you can do about it? A situation is neither positive nor negative. Do not try to develop attitudes and philosophies. Why can’t you just be here, without any specific attitude? Without any philosophy? Just aware. Simply aware.
Every situation demands a different kind of response. If you develop attitudes of positive thinking, it may work well in one situation. But in another kind of situation you will do stupid things, because you have a prejudiced idea that you have to be in a certain way. If you go on thinking positive at the wrong place, the worst things may happen to you. There is no need to be positive. There is no need to be negative, either. Just be aware. If you are aware, you will perceive a situation just the way it is. When you perceive a situation the way it is, you can act to the best of your intelligence and capability. It is as simple as that.