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#HowToBeHappy: Cultivate Neutrality

via Ephrat Livni, Quartz

You’ve likely been asked how you see the proverbial glass: half full or half empty? Your answer allegedly reflects your attitude about life — if you see it half full, you’re optimistic, and if you see it half empty, you’re pessimistic.

Implied in this axiom is the superiority of optimism. Culturally, we’re obsessed with positivity—our corporations measure worker glee, nations create happiness indices, and the media daily touts the health and social benefits of optimism. Thus, the good answer is to see the glass half full. Otherwise, you risk revealing a bad attitude.

Rarely—if ever—is the complete answer to the question considered, however. Actually, the glass isn’t half full or half empty. It’s both. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet,

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

What he meant is that when we’re attached, preferring this or that, good or bad, we miss the big picTeachings of Zen by Thomas Cleary.ture. We formulate opinions, preferences, sometimes misconceptions, and we cling to them though they cause suffering. We identify with our thoughts, and decide whether or not we like things before experience begins. Likewise, we decide the significance of events when their relevance is unknowable.

Neutrality sets us free. It helps us see something more like the truth, what’s happening, instead of experiencing circumstances in relation to expectations and desires. This provides clarity and eliminates obstacles, making things neither awesome nor awful but cool.

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