I was reminded recently that meditation alone is not a magic bullet. It’s a very useful tool but if we don’t culture good mental habits, it won’t serve us as well. The person I was chatting with turned out to have been meditating since the 60’s. Also a vegetarian for decades. But they hold grudges and choose to see the world and others darkly. They’ve spent many years hating their life but not changing anything. Now their body has balked and refuses to heal.
While meditation will tend to soften those bonds, if we then reinforce them again after our practice, they just become entrenched. Further, a good effortless meditation technique makes the thoughts and attention stronger. If the thoughts we culture are not positive, it will amplify that too.
I’m not advising here that we make a mood of being positive. That’s a just another form of denial. It’s natural to be angry or sad here and there. But if we don’t let those moods go and instead invest in them, that’s when they’ll cause us trouble.
At a talk today by singer/actor Andrea Menard, she used music as an example. She said it was perfectly fine to use an angry or sad song to help express our feelings. Cathartic, even. But once expressed, it’s time to move on. If we then put that song on repeat and listen over and over, we’re just investing in the mood.
If you’re the kind of person who has songs playing in their head a lot, she suggests you pay attention to what the message of the song you have going is. Is there something you’re not acknowledging?
Being positive means culturing what is positive. Giving our attention to what is good. As Andrea observed, we’re surrounded by music in public places that is achy-breaky, angry, or otherwise drama-invested. She calls musicians who are reaching for a higher, more positive message with their music Music Messengers.
We want to feel our feelings honestly and allow them to express in healthy ways. Then let them go. Favouring what we want with our attention rather than what we don’t want.
It can be a subtle thing that takes time to culture. Like gratitude. But the stories we make up about ourselves and our lives can thwart that if we give them weight and emotional energy.
Meditation can help us see the bright side and learn how to favour our attention. But we have to make that choice.