Maintaining Positive Mental States
We have been discussing the practice of virya, or diligence, meaning discouraging negative states from arising, helping them to become dormant again once arisen, encouraging the arising of positive states, and lastly, encouraging positive mental states to stay around longer. This last part is our focus today.
The import of this part of the practice is largely this: once you notice that there is a positive state in your consciousness, extend the length of time it remains active. So, if you notice “mindfulness is in me,” avoid just moving on from that awareness, but keep practicing mindfulness at least a little longer than you might otherwise do. Maybe even a lot longer. Likewise if you notice “peace is in me” or “happiness” or “love,” keep those states alive in you. Don’t just run right past them on to your next worry, fear, or sadness.
If you live with a partner, spouse, or family, you can ask each other to encourage these positive states in you. Also ask them to avoid encouraging negative states in you. Tell them, encouraging positive states in me makes me happier, and therefore helps you too. Encouraging negative states won’t just affect me, but also the people around me. So if you know leaving on plate on the counter bothers someone in your household, then you know what you need to do. So part of your practice becomes putting the dish in the dishwasher right away. This may seem like a small thing, but life is composed of small things!
Similarly, if you know that someone in your household likes to be appreciated for cooking a nice meal, or for their artistry or musical talent, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate those things.
Express this appreciation in a warm and heartfelt way.
Relationship researcher John Gottman has determined that couples who are likely to stay together and thrive as a couple have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. So this practice of virya, viewed interpersonally, is not just ancient wisdom, but is born out by science as well.
Be diligent in this practice, and it will help both you and those you love.