Negative states are not mandatory; believe it or not, they are voluntary! Proving this to ourselves is the first step in walking out of the psychological prison created by our current misperception of reality.
Imagine for a moment you're driving home from work, and you've just come from having a pretty rough day at the office. As you drive along, your eyes see the road before you, but your mind is in the past. It's very busy running and then re-running a few of the day's unpleasant events, much like an unattended slideshow cycling through the same few images over and over again. You relive that painful stab of some thoughtless remark someone cruelly blurted out, or the embarrassment of that stupid comment you made without thinking.
All we need to see to walk out of this darkened theatre of unhappy thoughts is right before our eyes: the more we think, the more we sink! Instead of achieving the freedom we imagine through this struggle, we find ourselves further entangled in the dark web of our own imagination!
In moments such as these our lives and our choices are not our own; they are literally the property of a mind that is asleep to its own operations. Its unique "blindness" is that it's busy showing itself the very images that it doesn't want to look at! This means the more desperately the mind struggles to escape the conflict it feels, the less it's able to realize that its real struggle is with itself--and not with the world that it blames for its conflicted condition.
Breaking free of this interior web of thought can't happen by pulling on the individual strands of thought that hold us there. In the end, it is awareness of our actual dilemma that releases us from it. By its light we are empowered to see the truth about our "thought self" and the false sense of life it weaves for itself by thinking about itself: its world is not the same as ours.
Like the swan that mistook itself to be an ugly duckling until it caught a glimpse of its own graceful reflection in still waters, we can open our interior eyes and see that the world of thought is not the home of our True Self. This practice is called self-observation. It is the "alpha and the omega" of a life without limits because through it we realize that who we really are cannot be confined by anything, let alone a cage of thought.
Learning to observe our self begins with one simple but deliberate act of attention on our part. As many times a day as we can remember to do it, we want to first come awake to whatever activity is running through our own mind and then simply, quietly, take a single step back from our own thoughts. We watch our own thinking--its movement and character--instead of allowing ourselves to be drawn onto its stage and into its drama.
Instead of reacting to these thoughts and feelings as they pass through us, pulling us into their world as they do, we release them as they are being formed. In other words, we are neither for, nor against, any thought with any other thought. And should we find ourselves sinking into the web of some needless negative thinking, then we need only step back and watch that event. Although thought is sticky stuff, please know--in spite of appearances--release is immediate! So, we must stick with our new intention to "see" our way free until we know the truth of it in the moment.