FROM THE ARCHIVES: Choosing Balance Over Positivity in 2015

This post was originally written on 18 March 2015.          life shits

Western culture has enjoyed resurgence in positive thinking over the last few years. Thanks to the advent of social media, positive ideas are being spread with unprecedented rapidity. Inspiring memes, poignant quotes attributed to the Buddha, Jesus, Steve Jobs and ancient historical figures who probably couldn’t write their own name let alone pen the moving strictures we attribute to them. Fitness brands such as Lorna Jane bid us to NEVER give up, to always believe something positive is just around the corner, and to live a life of love and positivity.

We have been told through many new-age gurus that we can think ourselves happy, that we should always look for the good in every situation, and that we should love life. In theory, these premises are meant to inspire. Like anything, however, the key to a happy life is balance.

Balance is the key to good physical, emotional and mental health. Nature models balance to us on a daily basis. There is day, there is night. There is death, there is life. To live and thrive, nature relies on balance. When there is a lack of balance, we start to see a decline in the good health of nature.

It is no different for human beings. There is a diverse spectrum of emotions in the human psyche. Happiness is one of them, but it does not stand-alone and it is not more important than any other emotion. It is one, part of team of emotions necessary to being a balanced human being.

It is not natural to be happy all the time. And to accept the premise that we should be places an immense pressure on us to not be authentic.

Happiness is a by-product of a balanced life, and of self-acceptance. As a Mindfulness Meditation teacher, it is my belief that self-acceptance must be practiced in order for a person to be truly happy. Self-acceptance means being aware of your faults and flaws and all of the things that make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed of yourself. It means sitting with them, not judging them, and keeping them company. It means not making yourself wrong, or trying to cover up your feelings with a better, happier or more convenient feeling.

I recently did some backpacking overseas. When I arrived back home in Australia, it was with a new sense of appreciation and gratitude for my country and for my life.

But my life is not amazing every day. It is not awesome every day. There are ups and downs, good times and hard times, and that’s what tells me everything is OK – the fact that I am human, and that I experience the full spectrum of human emotions. If you approach life negating what’s real in lieu of some perceived ideal way of feeling – you’ll become an emotionally constipated person who has trouble related to other people and their regular, “non-ideal” emotions. And that would be an alienating situation to be in.

So next time someone looks at you with that manic gleam in their eye and asks you why you’re not happy or smiling or sprinting a marathon whilst simultaneous baking a vegan, gluten-free carrot cake in a Thermomix – ask yourself whether you’re balanced. Happiness is not a show or a performance or a PR stunt, and you don’t have to force it or prove it to anyone.

Sometimes it’s the private moments, the little realisations or our own inner landscape, which make us happy. It’s not always discernable to the outside observer. And nor does it have to be.

There’s nothing positive about fake positivity.

We don’t have to look much further than nature. A tree may shed leaves and experience disease but still grows. Autumn time isn’t “wrong” because all the trees have lost their leaves. They are not failures for not having retained their foliage. It is all part of the cycle of life and growth.

I believe one of the best things we can do for each other is make a commitment to being real, not ideal. A mentor who I admired immensely once taught me the value of “speaking the unspeakable” – making visible that thing which sits in the no-man’s land between people and prevents their true and meaningful connection.

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