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everything’s not “all good”

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Nathan recently drew attention to “excessive positivity” found in many yoga communities. My sense is that such chatter, along with “OMG” and “totally awesome,” reflects an undercurrent of suffering. What, for instance, do people mean when they toss me an “it’s all good” response to a personal  lament? Do they truly believe that everything is flawless, that there’s no pain, depression, and loneliness in their world? I think not. I sense something unhealthy – disillusionment and sadness perhaps — dressed up as aggressive graffiti, mindless texting, and disfiguring tattoos.

The Encyclopaedia of Mental Disorders describes denial as “the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings.” It’s easy to detect denial in my life, starting with what’s right before me. I know, for instance, that too much sugar in my diet is potentially life-shortening, yet I give in to cravings regularly. I also know that not keeping up correspondence with overseas friends and family bothers my conscience and alienates me from people who care for me, yet letters sit unanswered for months. There are potentially more harmful instances which I won’t admit to publicly.

“The closer you look, the more clearly you see that denial is part of the uneasy bargain we strike to be social creatures,” a psychologist is quoted in the NY Times. The same article claims that

In the modern vernacular, to say someone is “in denial” is to deliver a savage combination punch: one shot to the belly for the cheating or drinking or bad behaviour, and another slap to the head for the cowardly self-deception of pretending it’s not a problem.

One of the Buddhist precepts I vowed to uphold is to “avoid lying, hurtful speech, and harmful thought.” Is that even possible?



6 responses »

  1. Well… yes, there IS a level, as you know Peter, where it is ‘all good’ (beyond duality), but that is not where most of us live our lives. And those who live there more than most of us would be the last to make that comment in response to others. I think you’re right about the pain. Maybe when it’s said on this very superficial level it is a kind of ‘mantra’ against having to acknowledge the reality of pain and suffering in this world, and our very limited ability to control any of it.

    • thanks Pernilla, i was afraid i’d come off as a snob (easily done when travelling the moral high road). I’m deeply disturbed by the apparent disconnect — in myself and people I care for — between what is and what we want. even “good,” as a goal, brings suffering.

  2. I’ll fess up to my secret vice: I absolutely love Lady Gaga’s video, Bad Romance.

  3. everything is ‘not good’?

    i am working on ‘everything just is’

    shall keep you posted


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