last month

All negativity is optional

I do not wish to suffer. I have had enough suffering.

Therefore, I choose not to suffer.

For me, choosing not to suffer is a commitment. This is what I often refer to as “telling the truth”.

My habits are not the truth. My habits are to suffer.

So telling the truth means I observe my habits. I must be aware of my habits if I am sincere in my commitment not to suffer.

If I do not observe the habits, I cannot see them clearly. If I do not see them clearly, they continue unconsciously.

The habits have momentum. These habits are not strictly my habits. In fact, when I see clearly, I see that they are not my habits at all.

They have momentum because they have been passed down from generation to generation. Because no one looked carefully. Because nobody knew enough to point out the obvious. So they continued. My parents didn’t know better. Their parents didn’t know better.

The habits have been passed down. And they have become so normalized that I will be blind to them unless I choose to look.

The habits that I am referring to are all negativity. All judgement. All belief in the inevitability of suffering. All ignorance of our true nature.

These are normalized. The world out there is reacting to these normalized habits with the very same habits. The motto “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is the motto of the normalized and thus nearly invisible habits.

But there is another way.

That other way did not originate with me. I could not have found it on my own.

The other way is the way that the Buddha spoke of. Jesus spoke of it.

An eye for an eye truly makes the whole world blind. But by the grace of what is beyond this world, we can discover true sight. Spiritual sight.

Spiritual sight is necessary for telling the truth.

Spiritual sight is seeing without referring to the habits. Spiritual sight is to see purely without contaminating the seeing with my thoughts, reactions, memories, etc.

Spiritual sight is a beautiful light that illuminates all. And in so doing, it reveals the false as false.

But I cannot have it. I cannot possess it. Because the one who wants to have it is the habits of negativity – lack, fear, arrogance, defensiveness – that the light instantly cleanses. These habits disappear in the pure light of spiritual sight.

When I notice negativity – judgement, depression, anger, fear, worry, jealousy, defensiveness, clinging, grasping – I am reminded of my commitment.

I give thanks for this reminder. I give thanks that the grace of the true teacher is truly in all things. Even in the seeming negativity the grace of the true teacher shines forth. It says, “You are grasping. You are struggling. You are trying too hard. Let go. Surrender. Receive grace now.”

The habit of “an eye for an eye” screams that the only possibility is to lash out, to defend, to punish, to “show them”, to prove myself. I remain still.

The habit of grasping grasps tighter. It squeezes so hard that I fear I will be crushed. I fear that I will be destroyed.

The habit screams that I must do something.

I remain still.

I choose to tell the truth. The truth.

What is the truth? I can only see it when I choose it. I choose it by remaining still.

Not restrained.


Not sedated.

Consciously restful. Aware of the habits. Aware of the impulses to lash out. Aware of the impulses to blame. Aware of the impulses to shame. Aware of the impulses to contract.

Yet choosing restful stillness. Choosing to receive the grace of the true teacher.

All negativity is optional. All judgment, fear, worry, anger, jealousy, arrogance, pride, and all the rest.

It is optional because it is not true.

It only seems to be true out of the continued indulgence of habit.

But when I trace the string of retaliation to its source, its beginning, I find only the grace of the true teacher. This grace is spiritual sight. It is the pure light of pure seeing.

There never was a first insult. No one started this. No one hit first.

This is what the true teacher reveals. There never was a threat. There never was any negativity.

There was only the mistaken reaction, justified by the story of attack, threat.

I am free now – by grace – to surrender completely. I am free to rest in this uncaused nature.

Whatever the appearance, whatever the seeming impulses, the grace of pure seeing is here. This pure seeing reveals that all so-called negativity and all so-called positivity is this grace.

I perceive thoughts, sensations, images, memories, etc. Out of habit I may think that some of these are negative and some are positive.

If I chase after the positive and avoid the negative, I am blind. I am perpetuating the habits that have been passed down blindly.

When I remain restfully still, consciously present, observing all that arises and tracing it back to its source, I merge with pure seeing. That spiritual sight instantly cleanses all wrong perception of separation. It instantly reveals the false as false.

It instantly reveals that there is no negativity and no positivity. There is only truth and ignorance. And ignorance is unreal.

Sincerely, I believe this is possible for everyone. I believe that there are no conditions for this. I am not a saint. I have not earned grace.

Grace is available to all right now. I truly believe that all that is necessary is to surrender to grace. And I sincerely believe that the method that I have described in this essay is available to all.

This method is such a blessing because it is effortless and does not require merit. There are no conditions for it. You do not need to be pure and perfect. You do not need to be highly intelligent. You do not need to feel anything in particular. You do not need to have any particular experience.

This method is equally powerful if you consider yourself to be a negative person or a positive person. Because every so-called negative experience and every so-called positive experience equally invites us to surrender to grace.

Whatever happens, I observe. I remain restfully still, deeply relaxed and undisturbed. Even if reaction happens and I have a thought that I made a mistake or a thought that I was unconscious or a thought that I should have done better, I remain restfully still, undisturbed.

This is possible for everyone. I truly believe it is. Because this restful stillness, this undisturbed nature, is the truth. It is untouched by whatever disturbances seem to appear. And all that I need to do is watch. I simply observe as grace shows me to observe – restfully undisturbed.

I am like a baby. Imagine a newborn baby held in her mother’s arms. A sound startles the baby. Her mother gently soothes the baby. “Shhhh, all is well. I am here.”

I am that baby. When I perceive a startle, I listen or watch carefully and hear and see my mother soothing me. “Shhh, all is well. I am here. You need not do anything.”

The habits of retaliation, fear, anger, and all the rest of it are beautiful reminders. I momentarily forgot that I am held in my mother’s embrace – in the grace of the true teacher. And the habits, the startles, offer the reminder. “Shhh, all is well. Rest. Watch. See purely. You are always undisturbed. You are not separate from me. You are this pure seeing.”

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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