How can I generate positive emotions that will make me fly?

waterfall rapids

Is it possible to generate positive emotions or do we have no control over how we feel?

Have you ever noticed what your mind is doing when you are not watching?

When I suddenly become aware of my thoughts, I am always surprised to find out that they are happening without my involvement. They are automatic. I am on autopilot.

Thoughts just pop out of the blue, and my mind catches on to them and keeps chewing on them.

One automatic thought leads to another, then another, then another until I am drawn into an incessant inner narrative that usually comes with bright pictures and images.

Before I know it, those “voices” from the past get mixed with something I heard on the news recently or some of my old fears and resentments.

This deadly mixture circles in my mind, eventually creating a dark cloud of negativity that grows ever bigger until I become aware of myself and say: “Why am I thinking all this!”

It’s so hard to stop. If you are like me, you know that negativity can be delectable. There’s a certain pleasure in savoring how you’ve been mistreated in the past or how things can go sour in the future.

But such thoughts and emotions are poisonous and will very soon generate fear, anger, resentment, and selfishness.

How do you get rid of “stinking thinking” and generate positive emotions?

“Stinking thinking” is a negative train of thought that generates selfishness, fear, resentment, and dishonesty, and eventually leads to compulsive behaviors.

So, how do you get rid of it?

The paradox is this – the more you try to stop negative thinking the more you focus on that which you want to eliminate. And what you focus on grows bigger.

Resisting certain thoughts brings on more thoughts of a similar nature. This process repeats itself indefinitely until we… switch our focus to something else.

And this first step is usually the hardest one. By the time I realize I need to switch my focus, the momentum of the negative thoughts and images in my mind is so strong that it’s almost impossible to stop.

King Solomon once said,

For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

We are what we think. Or rather, we are what we focus on. Our focus determines our life. To generate positive emotions we need to shift our focus.

However, we can’t stop negative thinking by thinking. Because the more we think about how to stop thinking the more we energize it through focus.

There’s a simple technique that allows you to switch your focus without thinking. The key is to find things, activities, or images that are EASY to focus on in the moment.

In other words, we can’t reverse the negative stream of thinking all at once, but as soon as we put our focus on just one “better-feeling” thing, activity, or image, it becomes easier.

As soon as we do this first step, the magic of Solomon’s wisdom unfolds – just like one negative thought attracts more negative thoughts so also one positive thought attracts more positive thoughts.

The first positive thought is usually the hardest one. The next one is easier, the third one is much easier, and so on.

What are some things that are EASY to focus on?

The list will be different for different people because what’s easy for me to focus on may not be easy for someone else.

Here are some things I find relatively easy to focus on:

  1. Laughing – watch a comedy.
  2. Writing – creativity pulls me out of negativity.
  3. Connecting with people – talking to friends.
  4. Walking in nature and naming things I am grateful for.
  5. Cooking.
  6. Playing with my kids.

With each laughter, each smile, each sunset, and each creative idea, the positive momentum grows stronger until cheerful thoughts start coming in easily.

Ordinary things stop being ordinary. As you walk in the park, you find yourself saying the words of Elizabeth Browning’s poem:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God.

Embrace All Your Feelings To Be Transformed – A Lesson From The Gospel of Thomas

Two girls hugging

Since ancient times, people intuitively knew that if you reject your feelings, you will be consumed by them, and if you embrace all your feelings, you will be transformed.

Blessed is the lion which becomes a man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, for the lion becomes a man.

The Gospel of Thomas

One thing my alcoholic father passed on to me is a feeling of emptiness and a desire to fill myself from outside in.

He chose to medicate the feeling with alcohol. I have tried to do the same with food, people, and workaholism.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. Richard Rohr

The more I numb out my feelings on food, people, or work, the emptier I feel. The feeling is strong, and often comes without warning – regardless of what I do on the outside to alleviate it.

In fact, using external means to get rid of it doesn’t work.

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The Powerful Parasympathetic Effect of Meditation – Science Behind Ancient Contemplative Traditions

Lake with a pine tree

Is there science behind ancient contemplative practices and, if so, how does it explain the powerful parasympathetic effect of meditation?

The element of “letting go” is at the heart of all ancient spirituality.

Letting go is this inner gesture of release – of whatever you are holding on to in the moment. Or rather – of what is holding you.

Until recently, this knowledge was intuitive and experiential. There was no science to confirm the powerful stress-reducing effects of meditation.

But in recent decades, an eye-opening correlation has been found between those ancient forms of spirituality and the activation of the so-called parasympathetic nervous system.

The California-based HeartMath Institute collected data from the functional MRI hooked to the brain of a person actively engaged in meditation.  

The results were astounding! And they show why meditation has such a powerful parasympathetic effect.

What is the parasympathetic effect of meditation?

It turns out that the way we respond to a stimulus in the outer world determines what neural pathways will be activated in the brain.

If we respond to the stimulus with any sort of negativity – which on the physical level feels like tensing up, constricting, freezing, tightening, pushing away, shortening of breath, clinging, clutching, seizing, etc.) – we activate the so-called sympathetic nervous system.

In this case, our lizard brain (the oldest part of the brain that controls the fight and flight mechanism) gets a signal to start pumping stress hormones into our bloodstream and we feel this high-adrenaline fight-and-flight response. 

However, if we respond with the inner gesture of release, letting go, and relaxing this inner resistance, we activate our prefrontal cortex – the rational part of the brain, which brings on a powerful parasympathetic response.

The parasympathetic effect of meditation is the result of the mental gesture of letting go.

It feels like opening up, inner softening, gentle yielding, accepting, consenting, allowing, embracing.

In other words, as soon as we stop resisting whatever we don’t like about the present moment and start welcoming it, our sympathetic nervous system shuts off and the parasympathetic turns on.

As a result, we switch from “fight and flight” to “rest and digest.”

Here’s how it happens in the so-called Centering Prayer – my favorite form of meditation.

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