Here’s how lucky I am: even on the rare occasion that I actually feel low, I still get to be grateful, which in turn makes my lows, not-so-low. A lot of my students assume I avoid all the lows (and I do avoid many), so they tend to feel relieved when they learn that I’m more like them than they might imagine. To them, the fact that I also sometimes feel bad, helps them feel better. It helps them feel like they are not so different from a person who can steer their thoughts more effectively.
Of course, offering them that solace and relief just by being myself makes me feel better —which is why I never stay low for long. I would guesstimate that I would have about two or three really notably sad periods a year. I’m a little sad more often than that, but I’m talking about the times where I’m so sad that I wish I wasn’t sad at all. But even those periods never even last a full day. Usually, after about 4-5 hours they’re gone, and even then, they only start because they’re generally brought about by extreme conditions like extended periods of little sleep, poor diet and maybe pain.
As an example, I’m currently waiting for dental surgery. My schedule’s been intense, and that busy-ness has lead to me losing about 4-5 kilos (10 lbs) over the last couple of weeks. Those things combined to lead me to sad thoughts, which I entertained for about an hour before I noticed them.
I was about to switch out those sad thoughts when I realized that it was a rare occasion, and that it could be quite useful for my writing —hence this post. It’s not often I get to write to you when I’m feeling low so the sadness represented an opportunity. The only trick was, that realization made me grateful, and that’s already started to take me out of this state of mind –so I’d better be quick.
When I’m feeling the way I usually do, I see other people’s lives from their perspective. The writer in me instantly imagines, ‘if I wrote that person as a character, what kind of reaction would they logically have?’ This is why I’m compassionate when someone’s suffering, because their negative reaction is often theirs by nature. And yet I can still see that other reactions are possible, which is why the world looks so wonderful to me. Many potentially exciting and incredible and fortunate things happen to people all day long, but we have to be focused on finding them to see them.
On the other hand, when I’m feeling like I have been the last hour, I instead look at other people’s lives and I do what egos do and I think of me. So rather than focus on their potential good fortune, I focus on how I did not experience that good fortune, or that I’m not currently experiencing any. The creation of an ‘I’ that is suffering is contained in that narrative. I build ‘me’ in my reality by telling myself a story about how I am lacking this or that. In that state, that ‘I’ only exists in a context of wanting.
As I write that, I’m pleased with how accurately it describes the difference between ego and flow. But I wouldn’t have thought of putting it like that if I wasn’t feeling low. See? By engaging with my low-ness openly (as opposed to defining it as undesirable), I don’t make the low feelings real-er by self-talking them into my reality by opposing them. Instead I just accept the lowness as just another part of life, and then I make the choices that flow from that awareness.
Fortunately, in other parts of my life I don’t have a belief that I can’t change from one emotion to another. I can recognize my freedom if I’m picking sandwiches. But I can lose sight of that freedom when I’m making choices that I perceive are more important to my happiness. That’s why greater consciousness and openness brings greater freedom. I remember my ability to choose more easily.
Contrary to that, sadness is always comparative. We create an ‘I’ and then we define a ‘want’ and in the crux between those two ideas is our suffering. That’s the fabric from which we weave our narratives of disappointment, and loss, and regret, and jealousy, and, and, and…. And of course, we get the neurochemistry that goes with that thinking and that’s why we’ll feel the way we do. Fortunately it’s the same process to go in the opposite direction.
Just do what I’m doing. It might feel easier to me because I’ve been doing it so long, but you’re entirely capable of this. Spend less time allowing your mind to discuss you and more time focusing on the good fortune that others around you are experiencing. Trust me, there’s plenty of good things going on in this world. If you’re focused on those realities, you will feel incredible.
Happiness is no big deal. Neither is sadness. Don’t be overwhelmed. It’s a moment by moment choice to think this or think that. And if you find yourself in a negative loop, don’t panic. Just watch the loop and get to know it and witness how you’re actually creating a ‘you’ to suffer. The pain is created by your comparisons between where you are and where you wanted to be.
Maybe you’ll be sad because you’ll wish you were married, or that you had kids —or that you weren’t married and that you didn’t have kids. You’ll wish you were born into a rich family or that you weren’t so shy, or that you were smarter or that you had bigger boobs or muscles. You’ll compare. And it’ll hurt. So instead, pay attention.
The world around us is bountiful, exciting, inviting and worthwhile. But it’s always doing its thing. It’s us that has to stop focusing on our internal egocentric narratives about how we want the world and ourselves to be different. Instead, we must accept this world and the experiences it delivers. If any of us does that, we will love our lives because we will be forgoing our wants in favour of appreciating our good fortune.
I may have written more on the subject of feeling sadness, but now I have to stop because I’m not the least bit sad anymore because I feel I may have been helpful. If you try it, you will find that same approach will work for you.
Love you guys. Take care. And thanks. 😉
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.