Monday, July 23, 2007

The Ride of Negativity

Yesterday Hubby and I took Mabel and her friend to Idelwild Park. It's one of the oldest amusement parks in the country, apparently, at 130 years old. We had beautiful weather for the first half of our stay, then dealt with a little rain and some thunder and lightening at the end of the day. The girls still managed to get in a lot of fun with rides, water slides and games.

I will confess to you my goal for this trip was to get my favorite treat, a funnel cake with ice cream and strawberries on top. Usually when I get this I clean my plate, but this year I didn't finish it -- I got to my satisfaction point and felt quite okay with throwing the rest away. A sign of progress, I think.

On the way home we stopped at a little diner for supper, and I was really torn about what to get. I wound up ordering a Reuben sandwich with a side of onion rings and ate it all. This morning I paid the consequences for that salty corned beef and sauerkraut -- water retention.

It's amazing how a little bloat can trigger a flood of negative thinking. I started thinking that I'm not eating "healthy" and will start gaining more weight. Add that to the fact that I haven't gone on my morning walks the last two mornings, and the negative diet mentality thoughts only escalated.

But I notice that I catch myself being negative a lot quicker than I used to; I am more conscious of this behavior and can quickly realize it does me no good. So I find myself able to shake myself out of this attitude before it can evolve into depression, self-loathing or disordered eating. And fortunately, this conveniently ties in to some of the notes I took on "The Power of Now" before I took it back to the library.

"All inner resistance is experienced as negativity, in one form or another. All negativity is resistance. In this context, the two words are almost synonymous. Negativity ranges from irritation or impatience to fierce anger, from a depressed mood or sullen resentment to suicidal despair. Sometimes the resistance triggers the emotional pain-body, in which case even a minor situation may produce intense negativity, such as anger, depression, or deep grief."

And in my case, anxiety attacks or binges. Eckhart Tolle also delves into why it's so hard for many of us to let go of this resistance, which leads to negativity and the subsequent dysfunctional behavior:

"Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry, or hard-done-by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane."

You could say negative emotions can deliver a message -- a signal from our body that something's wrong, that something needs to change. In the past this negativity would have been a signal to me that I needed to get "back on track" and be stricter with my diet and exercise. But I've learned that there's so much more behind it besides the "eat less, move more" solution, and Tolle agrees:

"Yes, recurring negative emotions do sometimes contain a message, as do illnesses. But any changes that you make, whether they have to do with your work, your relationships or your surroundings, are ultimately only cosmetic unless they arise out of a change in your level of consciousness. And as far as that is concerned, it can only mean one thing: becoming more present. When you have reached a certain degree of presence, you don't need negativity anymore to tell you what is needed in your life situation. But as long as negativity is there, use it. Use it as a kind of signal that reminds you to be more present.

He even gives some advice on how to stop negativity:

"Whenever you notice that some form of negativity has arisen within you, look on it not as a failure, but as a helpful signal that is telling you: 'Wake up. Get out of your mind. Be present.'

"...whenever you feel negativity arising within you, whether caused by an external factor, a thought, or even nothing in particular that you are aware of, look on it as a voice saying 'Attention. Here and Now. Wake up.' Even the slightest irritation is significant and needs to be acknowledged and looked at; otherwise, there will be a cumulative build-up of unobserved reactions. As I said before, you may be able to just drop it once you realize that you don't want to have this energy field inside you and that it serves no purpose. But then make sure that you drop it completely. If you cannot drop it, just accept that it is there and take your attention into the feeling, as I pointed out earlier.

"As an alternative to dropping a negative reaction, you can make it disappear by imagining yourself becoming transparent to the external cause of the reaction... Feel yourself becoming transparent, as it were, without the solidity of a material to pass right through you. It is no longer hitting a solid 'wall' inside you... practice with little things first. The car alarm, the dog barking, the children screaming, the traffic jam. Instead of having a wall of resistance inside you that gets constantly and painfully hit by things that "shouldn't be happening," let everything pass through you.

"Somebody says something to you that is rude or designed to hurt. Instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense, or withdrawal, you let it pass right through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness. In this way, you become invulnerable. You can still tell that person that his or her behavior is unacceptable, if that is what you choose to do. But that person no longer has the power to control your inner state. You are then in your power -- not in someone else's, nor are you run by your mind. Whether it is a car alarm, a rude person, a flood, an earthquake, or the loss of all your possessions, the resistance mechanism is the same."

This is great to remember when someone you know says something hurtful or rude, but even more important when the perpetrator is yourself.

So, instead of falling into diet mentality, these negative thoughts remind me to be more conscious, to stay the course with Intuitive Eating. I keep myself from falling back into the restrict/binge cycle, which just leads to more negative thinking, and on and on it goes, like an amusement park ride.

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