Why does it seem like it takes more effort to cultivate positive minds and habits then it does to cultivate negative ones? It seems as though negative habits and thoughts are effortless whereas positive ones take effort and conscious awareness. This is because it does take more effort. The brain is set up to absorb negative experiences more readily than the positive, this is a basic primordial survival instinct that served us well at the dawn of man but not so much today. When we were cavemen walking through a wooded area we needed to remember that time when a saber toothed tiger lunged at us, gashing our arm as we narrowly escaped with our lives more than we needed to remember how beautiful that flower looked or smelled as we walked through the woods, if we were to survive. The brain is designed to protect the separate self, protection of the individual is key here in the primordial fight or flight system. The brain is an amazing organ when used properly yet we must learn to become the masters of our brains lest we allow it to rule us with fears and anxieties.
The brain is set up to absorb negative thinking. It’s part of our primordial survival mechanisms, yet the brain gets us in trouble with the fear based primordial mind of survival. Today, we don’t have to live in constant fear like wild animals. We have enough intelligence that when we put our hand on a hot stove and it burns us, we won’t do it again. We don’t need an incessant anxiety about it and for it to dominate our brains unconsciously with fear, yet this is what happens. That’s a simplistic example, but you get the point. We often lie in our beds completely safe from any harm yet the brain keeps us locked in anxiety of something that might happen but isn’t happening now and usually it’s something that never does happen. This ceaseless worry does not serve to help us in the situation at hand. In fact anxiety and worry lowers our immune function and weakens muscle tissue making us weaker and less capable of handling situations, yet the brain ignorantly believes it is protecting us by incessantly milling this in our minds. So our brains become sponges for negative experiences and shields for the positive. We see this in our relationships, our mate can do a thousand positive things but the one negative thing they do, we harp on it and brood over it as if that one negative thing negates the thousand positive and we suddenly search for ways to rid that person from our lives, this is a primordial fight or flight reaction so recognize this when it comes up. We must train our minds in positive thought. Fear and negativity are just fantastic stories our minds create to try to protect us, yet the reality is that we are fine in this moment. As we sit here there is no danger, yet often, and perhaps right now, we may have fears and anxieties that take us from the present reality of perfection and peace. There is danger sometimes, but when we are mindful of each moment we can easily divert danger as it comes, we don’t need to obsess over it. The ancient Samurai knew this. They were the greatest warriors on the battlefield. In the midst of chaos, anger and fear they were centered and clear and thus the greatest warriors on the field, they trained their minds. Ironically the worry and fears and anxieties take us from the present moment actually making us more prone to danger, a clear mind in the present moment is a strong mind and body ready to combat anything if need be.
It is not easy to just stop worrying or being angry and so forth, it takes insight and a sort of training the mind in new thought patterns. Meditation is paramount in helping us retrain the habits of mind we currently have. In the basic forms of meditation we become more mindful and settle the fight or flight monkey mind that dominates us most of the day. A simple breath meditation just 5 minutes a day can have profound effects on your health both physically and mentally and could be the start of new empowering habits of mind.
About the Author: Brian E. Miller is an American author and adventurer who travels the world writing, learning and teaching. Realizing there are many paths and something to be learned from everyone and everything, Brian teaches from many sources, often drawing on his studies as a teacher and practitioner of Buddhist psychology, yoga and the science of meditation. He has traveled all over the United States and India, amongst other parts of the world, studying with many credible teachers. Brian has discovered through his extensive study of religion, spiritual tradition and philosophy that although there are many teachings, the base of them all is quite similar. He realizes that one’s journey is that of self-exploration and expression and all he can do is be a medium for those wishing to search within for their own Truth.