The Up Side of Down

Why being up can get you down

I fell in love with jogging when I was in my mid-20’s.  Over-weight, miserable, and in a soul-devouring job, I took to the gym every day.  This love affair with jogging has lasted all my life though, like anything that is not a full-hearted commitment, it has suffered from severe neglect for great lengths of time.  Yet every winter I decide I will train for another 5 km run and dive happily into the daily workouts and practices.  And every summer, I hit the same motivation wall at the start line of the run. My running friends give me great advice on how to overcome this runner’s block.  Be positive!  Put yourself at the end of the race!  Do it for someone you love!  Offer it up as a gift to someone!  Pay yourself with bling!  Have a donut at the end!

I really appreciate all this post hoc cheerleading and that suggestion for bling truly speaks to my inner magpie.  However, it rarely works for me.  In fact, on one race, my marriage almost ended as my dear partner, sensing my plummeting morale, cried out, “What a beautiful day!  Isn’t it such a joy to be running along the canal on a day like this!?”  I credit my Buddhist practice of non-violence (and the fear of horrible re-birth) for not pushing him into the canal.

What’s wrong with being a Cherrie Cheerful?

Other than running the risk of being naïve or insensitive to what’s actually going on, there’s probably nothing bad I can say about being cheerful.  However, it is really important to understand that having a positive stance to our experience is not the same as engaging in positive chatter no matter how well-meaning.  Perhaps a better way to put it is that, when faced with challenges, it helps to cultivate an even-handed stance to our experience.  “Positive” in this sense means we look at what is happening in a way that keeps us steady in the face of the difficulty.  We see what is happening and do our best not to avoid the uncomfortable feelings by distracting ourselves from it.  Although positive commentary (or affirmations) may be somewhat useful here, it is more likely to defer the inevitable or prevent us from making clear-minded decisions by tangling up our thinking.

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