The Tao of the Negative

I have, proudly, earned the reputation on the NAZ Elite team as being a negative person. I’m negative about workouts, easy runs, really anything hard or that makes my job difficult. This proclivity towards the negative started in college when my teammates and I found that underwhelming jokes were very funny to us and were both more interesting and more authentic than overwhelming and unrelenting optimism. This discovery led me down a path of negative thoughts, underwhelming tweets, some pretty good jokes, and landed me in a coffee shop writing about my bade attitude. It’s like I’m in detention by choice. Such is the life of a millennial with just enough fans to encourage him to keep making fun of himself on the internet.

Ok, bear with me here, because we’re about to go on a tangent. I promise that I'll circle back to my original point, and if I can’t I just won’t publish this. My 3rd year of college, I started having anxiety issues. At first it was small things like just getting super stressed about a big paper, or being super nervous for an important test. It was momentary and once I got past the obstacle, my anxiety went away. But then it started to build, I started to get stressed at night about all the things I had to do the next day. I would routinely wake up and not be able to fall asleep until I made a list of all the things that I had to do. Eventually, I started stressing out about irrational things, like a bank account I’d closed 2 years before. That bank account kept me up for 3 nights in a row. Every time I closed my eyes and lay my head down, worries about overdraft fees or my minimum balance would pop into my mind. These thoughts persisted even after multiple trips to the bank to make sure that everything was ok. That’s when I went to the mental health center, where I was first exposed to meditation and mindfulness.

When people hear the words, mindfulness and meditation, they usually think about Tibetan monks and eastern medicine and incense. But mediation and mindfulness, don’t involve sitting in a dark room and wearing robes while you completely clear your mind and hum some sort of rhythmic incantation. Mindfulness just means that you try to be completely in the present moment. It means being wherever you are in space and time. Meditation is just practicing that state of paying attention to the place you are in, the sensations you feel, and the sounds you hear. If you’re someone who scoffs at eastern practices and considers them to be some form of witch magic, I’d tell you to open your damn mind, eastern culture has some cool shit too. I’d also like to inform you that this is not an exclusively eastern school of thought. Many westerners have preached this idea as well. Most notably, Henry David Thoreau in his book, Walden. Which, you should read if you want to prove to all your friends how GD hip you are. You should do it in coffee shops or on park benches while drinking americanos, espressos, or shots in the dark (cups of black coffee with shots of espresso in there). Coffee drinks containing various forms of milk products is not hip enough, and drinking tea is pointless since you’re already reading Walden and probably wearing a flannel buttoned up all the way or not at all. You’re there dude, you don’t need tea. You should read it even if that isn’t your goal, but I don’t have a ton of jokes about demographics other than hipsters.

So, back to the point, back to me being negative. My piss poor attitude didn’t stem from meditation. I hated on things that made my life hard far before I went to the mental health office. However, mindfulness did make me feel like my negativity was some form of Zen that I'd unknowingly stumbled upon. My negativity is not the belief that I can’t do something, it’s the acceptance that running is hard, workouts are uncomfortable, and racing is very very painful. These are not pleasant moments, so to try to create a happy place in your mind to cope with discomfort seems backwards to the Zen apprentice sitting here typing away for his internet blog. We are not supposed to cope with things, we are supposed to experience them. We shouldn’t block out the physical or emotional sensations we are having, we should feel them in their entirety; good (rarely), bad (often), or somewhere in between.

I am not telling you that this is the only way to think, there’s a lot of research about the benefits of positive thinking. I am just telling you to give negativity a fair shake. At the very least, you’ll get funnier, and in my opinion, more interesting.

 

If you are interested in mindfulness or meditation, a good place to start would be the Headspace app. It has a free trial option of 10, 10-minute guided meditations. I would also, highly recommend the book, Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn.

Additionally, if you are feeling extreme anxiety or any negative thoughts or feelings, please please please seek out a mental health professional. I know it’s hard and I know that it can feel embarrassing, but you aren’t alone and these people want to help you. Fly your freak flag and ask for help if you need it.