“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” — Hamlet
At first glance, this idea seems silly. Of course there are bad things. Tragic, horrific, terrible things that one would not dare to label as anything else.
And then there are wonderful things. Lucky breaks, opportunities and successes that seem nothing but positive.
But Eckhart Tolle, and many Buddhist spiritual teachers, speak a lot on this subject.
The idea is not to deny that life has its ups and downs, but simply to point out two things:
1. That the impact of the event is dependent entirely on the way in which our mind processes and interprets it.
2. That we can never truly know what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as we have not yet seen the whole picture.
For example, you could be made redundant from your job, which may seem scary and devastating at the time, but you may then find that it actually gives you the time and money to pursue your dream of writing or working from home. Often, what seems negative at the time may actually be positive in the long-run.
Similarly, a perceived positive event such as winning the lottery could prove to be a negative over time as friendships and familial relationships are altered. And what happens if you blow that money within a couple of years on cars, houses and holidays? What about the shame that comes with squandering the winnings?
Life is like a large tapestry. We can usually only see one small stitch, the thing that is happening to use at the time. But, when we look back at it from a distance, we are able to see the whole picture–everything in its place. All of the seemingly random things that met, coalesced and made way for the opportunities that followed. Who is to say which of them is good and which one is bad?
What we can do, though it is difficult, is to become a little more open-minded about our immediate situation. We can try to refrain from immediately judging the things that happen to us as good or bad, and keep in mind that there is a bigger picture at work that may only make itself clearer in months or even years to come.
The mind is a strange thing. Watch and observe it, be gentle with it, but do not necessarily believe everything it tells you.
Don’t buy into despair but, equally, don’t believe that one ‘positive’ occurrence has set you up for life.
Life is a journey. Experience the breadth and depth of it fully, whilst respecting the unknown. And hold back on those judgments–at least for a little while. Perspectives shift and things will constantly evolve, change and twist.
As Leonard Cohen said “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.”
Try it, in small doses, today. In each moment, if you can’t embrace what happens (an extra project, a lesson observation, an unnannounced meeting, a tyre puncture), just simply accept it.
After all, it may feel positive or it may feel negative–but the only thing any of us can be absolutely certain of is that it is as it is.