A recent USNews.com article directs our attention to a study published in the journal, Psychological Science, extolling the health benefits of optimism--according to the journal, optimists have stronger immune systems--and then offers five ways to become one.
A "non-imist" (a term I've made up) is one who believes that the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, but rather is as it is. Here's how one non-imists sees things.
5. Do Look at the Glass as Half Full
If pessimists could be optimists, they probably would be.
This is what I like to call an Aristotelian approach to the problems of the mind. The advice seeks to solve the problems caused by thinking by appealing to the thinker. The pessimist is told to pull herself up by her bootstraps, as it were--it can't be done.
By contrast, non-Aristotelian thinkers, people like the Buddha, Jesus and Eckhart Tolle, attempt to solve the problems of the mind by recourse to a different part of our make up: the field in which the mind resides. Tolle calls it "Presence" (with a capital P).
In The Power of Now, he writes: "The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence."
Through this background field of presence we stand outside the mind's sphere of influence and are therefore no longer subject to its negativity.
4. Strive for Real Conversations
Everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Stephen Covey has proclaimed the virtues of quality communication. According to Tolle, this too arises from Presence.
In A New Earth, he writes: "In a genuine relationship, there is an outward flow of open, alert attention toward the other person in which there is no wanting whatsoever. That alert attention is Presence."
This sense of connectedness should indeed give rise to positive feelings. But to be genuine, relationships have to be engaged for their own sake--this is non-imism.
3. Pay Attention to What Makes You Feel Optimistic
In dark days, remember those things that have made you feel good, advises U.S. News. This is self-manipulation. Why not rather step off the up-and-down theme park ride and into the real world of non-imism?
As Shakespeare put it, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Our judgment of whatever the present moment has to offer colors that moment as either the stuff of optimism or of pessimism. Nothing intrinsic to the moment does that. If we refrain from judgments, both positive and negative, life takes an even keel. We are at peace, fertile ground for the joy of being to arise, a positive state without vicissitude.
2. Take Control
Control is generally an illusion and an unnecessary one at that. In his book, Stillness Speaks, Tolle writes: "Mastery of life is the opposite of control."
"These words made me do a double take," writes psychiatrist Colleen Loehr." And then I instantly felt their truth. . . . Control tends to be a fear-based activity, and fear does not lead to freedom or joy."
Better to give up the notion of control altogether and allow life to take us where it may. This, too, is non-imism.
1. Re-frame Those "Disasters"
Finally, something on which the optimist and the non-imist must surely agree: our thoughts have impact upon our reality. Loss of a dream job may not be the end of the world, says U.S. News. Think positively. With time and training, you may once again find something you enjoy doing.
The non-imist's outlook isn't a result of having a dream job in the first place. His joy comes from his alignment with all that is, and joy flows into what he does--not the other way around. He doesn't think positively about the future. Rather, he doesn't think about it at all.
Yea, verily, non-imism was the thinking of Jesus, who said, "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."
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