The Mind Amazing and a Half-Baked Thought on Karma

I haven’t forgotten about my post regarding food politics, but I’m distracted with other things that have been happening…which brings me to this post.

The power of positive thinking. We’ve all heard that seemingly trite phrase used by so-called new age gurus and self-help quacks. In some people, that sort of phrase brings out pure rancor–I posted a tweet (when I still had Twitter) that basically said “If you want it, go get it; you are the only thing that is stopping you.” I got some comments talking about how wrong I was, listing institutional discrimination, white privilege, and a bunch of other woes that we all learned about in first-year women’s and cultural studies. I went to Trent–I get it. But let’s stop being dogmatic and actually give people some agency to choose their own paths, rather than telling them they probably won’t succeed, given their socio-economic, racial, level of ability, or gendered backgrounds. It’s exactly why the power of positive thinking is actually a wonderful philosophy–it doesn’t discriminate: any person with a thinking mind can think positively. And even if you don’t believe in this particular approach of mind over matter, you can be a pragmatist and admit that it won’t hurt.

Stress can be a killer. Literally. The Mayo Clinic lists positive thinking as a way to increase longevity, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, greater immune system function, and lower rates of depression. Can we argue that positive thinking may not be a cure-all, but it could be a key step in preventing major health problems? Deepak Chopra (Oh, that Deepak…) offers up the recommendation that if thinking positive all the time is too much work, the next-best alternative could be relaxation through meditation. Here is an article he wrote for CNN on this very topic.

Also, I’m of the belief that we get back what we put in (to the universe). That is not to say that we get what we deserve–I wouldn’t say any child has incurred enough karmic wrath that they should go hungry or that people who are very sick have necessarily done something to get that way, sometimes it is a matter of luck and geography. However, if you are thinking and doing positive things–without trying to profit or having selfish motives–I do believe that you are more apt to have good things happen to you. Even in the case of someone who is terminally ill, let’s say they put out positive thoughts and did good deeds, unselfishly, before they got sick…I imagine they will have a different experience with illness than someone who has always pointed fingers, been a Debbie downer, and has always felt sorry for themselves. The last days, actions, thoughts of those two people in the same situation are likely going to be very different for them and those that love them.

I watched “The Secret” the other day. Some of it, I found inspiring…some of it, I found to be ludicrous. One moment, in particular, where this guy says that he concentrates on being positive while he’s parking his car and he never has to wait more than a few seconds to get a primo spot. Really, buddy? You’ve discovered how to harness the laws of attraction and that’s what you use it for? Parking near the entrance at Wal-Mart? Wow. But there were some great examples of people who use vision-boards to focus on their aspirations and self-image they wish to cultivate. I don’t think it’s as “ask and ye shall receive” as parking space guy made it out to be, I think it’s more like making karmic investments and getting a return (maybe a physiological return, too!).

Here’s one of my favourite TED talks about happiness, by Shawn Achor:

I especially like the recipe for retraining your brain to be positive. Amazing.