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Negative thoughts in meditation

December 9, 2009

Someone taking our online course asked about negative thoughts in meditation. His concern was whether letting them go would release them into the universe and bring negative results back to him. My answer was absolutely not! When I say “let thoughts be a meaningless activity in the mind”, that includes all thoughts, positive or negative. To allow the mind to expand and relax in meditation, we have to release it from its usual focus. During meditation we give the mind a break. We let go of the need to understand, analyze, evaluate and so on. We don’t need to pay attention to what our thoughts are about. The type of thoughts we have doesn’t matter. It’s not necessary to monitor our thoughts in any way and weed out the “wrong kind”. All thoughts are equal in meditation!

How we handle thoughts in meditation and outside of meditation is different. Outside of meditation the meaning of our thoughts is important, but even then I feel people become overly concerned about “negative” thoughts. So often people people struggle with them. They fear that negative thoughts or angry feelings will bring them harm and this can cause a lot of suffering. I’ve seen people become tense and afraid when negative thoughts come, trying hard to replace them with something positive. It becomes a war within.

From my perspective, it’s not only frustrating to try to eliminate negative thoughts, it’s futile! Life is a mixture of positive and negative. We are a mixture of positive and negative. Trying to change that is trying to change the basic structure of things. Can you get rid of one side of a coin or one pole of a magnet?

I don’t mean to say that how we think isn’t important. Of course, we’d rather have a positive, uplifting perspective on things, and our attitudes and perspectives definitely do affect us. There can be a value in becoming more aware of our mental patterns, particularly our underlying beliefs and attitudes toward life. When we start to see ourselves more clearly, we are sometimes able to bring about shifts in our way of being and seeing things. But bringing about positive changes goes much deeper than simply trying to stop negative thoughts. It involves the ability to relax into who we are and accept ourselves as we are now — the positive and the negative. It’s a kind of paradox that when we can truly accept ourselves all the way just as we are now, we may very well morph into more compassionate people. That is the natural result of self-acceptance.

Comments

11 Responses to “Negative thoughts in meditation”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for Negative thoughts in meditation | Meditation Oasis [meditationoasis.com] on Topsy.com on December 9th, 2009 6:43 pm

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  2. Chris on December 9th, 2009 7:17 pm

    The ego is a trickster! Loves to have arguments with itself. Anything to keep you focused off Spirit!

    Winning the negative thought argument by countering it with positive thoughts is about as futile as trying to win an argument with your reflection in the mirror, or outrunning your shadow.

  3. Mary on December 10th, 2009 10:25 am

    Love the images of outrunning your shadow and arguing with yourself in the mirror — they speak volumes!

  4. karthik on December 10th, 2009 3:24 pm

    Mary – I totally understand what you say about resisting negative thoughts and fearing their coming up.
    My take on this is, it would be good to sponsor thoughts based on love, joy, and peace and let the rest run through without much attention given to them. Resisting them is as you say a futile exercise. ‘What you resist, persists’ has much truth to it.
    On the other hand, I found it definitely useful to first define what negativity means to me and see if there are useful ways to direct attention to the positive without necessarily resisting the negative. The negative, it turns out, falls away naturally since you don’t pay attention to them.
    Another useful technique I found in my journey is to sense tension in the body while I am on the move and continually relax the body. The body,mind are linked intricately and hence one affects the other.
    It’s so amazing how life is all very beautiful if one can continually stay in the present. In that sense, negativity for me would be rummaging through the past or worrying about the future.

  5. Mary on December 10th, 2009 4:14 pm

    Thank you for your comment, karthik. I love how deeply you explore your experience and the insights you find. Your way of defining negativity makes a lot of sense.

  6. karthik on December 11th, 2009 10:22 am

    Thanks Mary and thanks to your thought-provoking posts! Looking forward to your next one.

  7. Dan on January 11th, 2010 7:15 pm

    I smply can’t say enough about these guided meditations. I have been listening to Mary and Richard now for many, many months. I look forward to new additions and have bought the CDs from Emusic. Thank you so much. As a musician, I really appreciate the music Richard creates and it is just subtle enough not to take away from Mary’s guiding words. For any musicians out there… you will know this is no small feat.

    Many Blessings to you both and may all beings experience peace.
    Dan

  8. Mary on January 12th, 2010 1:15 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, Dan, and especially for your appreciation of Richard’s music. It plays such an important role in supporting the meditations. I don’t think I fully appreciated the “feat” it is to create music which supports without intruding. Thank you for your musician’s perspective. Blessings to you from both of us!

  9. Brian on January 13th, 2010 8:52 am

    Interesting article. I find not dwelling or giving power to negative thoughts whilst meditating really helps. Letting them flow past works best for me.

  10. David on August 25th, 2013 2:53 am

    I just wanted to say thanks for your page and all your wisdom. Sometimes my meditation just becomes a struggle, and then its thoughts and suggestions like the ones on your page that gives a soothing, accepting feeling. You’re addressing so many of the difficulties that’s been troubling me.
    Here’s also a book that have given me so much help, which I want to recommend for anyone struggling with their thoughts, doubts and feelings: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Path-Through-Depression-Plus/dp/0061725463/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377424375&sr=8-1&keywords=zen+depression

  11. Mary on August 26th, 2013 9:42 am

    David, you are welcome, and thank you for sharing something that has helped you!

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