Forget Positive Thinking, Embrace Clarity.
Hi, tea lovers! Today is Positivity Day, and our co-founder Erica has written a fantastic piece on how the Western idea of how "Positive Thinking" translates to Chinese medicine. Enjoy!
We see what we believe, and not just the contrary; to change what we see, it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe. -Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent (2016)
At the very root of Chinese medicine’s Daoist roots is a desire for clarity. The organ system of the body is organized hierarchically with the Heart at the top. It is an empty chamber where the empress of all the other organs sits on her throne. The virtue of the Heart is propriety- being in the right place at the right time for the right reason.
In Daoist traditions, the way this virtue is cultivated is by observing and living in accordance with the seasons- moving as nature moves when nature moves. In order for the Heart to do its job efficiently, it requires a certain level of clarity. This is the job of its paired Fire organ, the Small Intestine. The Small Intestine channel ends at the ears, and is in charge of receiving information from the outside world and accurately conveying it to the Heart.
When the Small Intestine is out of balance, perception of environmental cues and subsequent interpretation may be distorted. By harmonizing the Heart and Small Intestine with acupuncture needles, the ability to receive feedback and critique can be transformed. Feeling belittled and yelled at becomes a sense of appreciation for an opportunity to develop more clarity.
Although positive thinking may feel good as the world is painted in rosy colors, it is based on a desire to avoid discomfort. Paradoxically, the more we resist our own discomfort, the more uncomfortable we feel. The dichotomy created as we push in one direction to avoid the other direction represents the mechanism for how deep rooted disharmonies in our minds, bodies, and organ systems are created. No matter how tempting and healthy the mechanism may sound, there truly is no spiritual by-pass that will successfully and sustainably enable us to avoid our own pain.
As one of my favorite teachers, Kiran Trace, says, "We all know what obsessive mind feels like. And it’s not a great feeling. Essentially, it’s a whole bunch of thoughts colliding with aggressive, loud, busy chaos... if you are invested in turning all those thoughts into positive, life-affirming thoughts, you are giving it juice! Let’s not give it juice. Let’s find a much easier way out!”
Positivity glasses distort our perceptions and prevent the Heart from doing its job. At best, they keep you on the upswing of the roller coaster for a good while, until that roller coaster inevitably brings you back down. A much more balanced and sustainable approach is to seek clarity. Sometimes things are great, and sometimes they aren’t so great. That’s ok. By giving yourself permission to feel the full range of feelings through clear and fearless perception, and accepting that being alive means experiencing both comfort and discomfort, both pleasure and pain, freedom from that positivity-negativity roller coaster finally becomes possible.
Check out Kiran's teachings and meditations for more insight on how to achieve clarity and freedom.