Purple Elephants

You know this drill already, I’m sure, but let’s review. Don’t think of a purple elephant.  Are you thinking of a purple elephant? Because I just asked you not to. Really, stop thinking about a PURPLE ELEPANT. Why are you thinking about a PURPLE ELEPHANT when I told you not to? This is sometimes used as an example the linguistic tricks our mind plays. That is, our mind works in the positive, ignoring words like “don’t” and “not” and so on. Thus, the phrase, “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” is translated in our brain as, “Think of a purple elephant.”

I believe this example reveals something far beyond a mnemonic quirk. Life is led in the positive. We can only create; we cannot un-create. You cannot live your life not being your mother, or not being unmarried, or not being unpublished. Not matter how many of us linger on couches or dawdle in cafés, we are by the very nature of existence creatures of action. You are a stream of energy with no off switch, and your attention, usually in the form of your thoughts, directs that energy. Wherever the energy of your attention flows, things grow.

It is important to remember, I think, because all of us have those things we are perhaps afraid of becoming, or mistakes we are afraid of making again. The pain of those realities we are trying to avoid, from becoming our mother to not being published, is real, but only because those events or actions lay outside the swath of our true desire. Whenever you focus your energy on your true desire – telling great stories, communicating, sharing, riding a bike, whatever – the energy flows quickly and freely. It has found its natural course.

But when the energy is directed toward what we do not most desire, from a story we don’t actually want to tell to a job we don’t want to work, life becomes hard. We are paddling upstream. The only thing that has ever been wrong with anybody in the world is that they are living outside the stream of their true desire, and the further outside they are living, the greater their pain. The pain, however, is only information. The pain is reminding us that we have strayed from what we desire most. If you keep thinking about what causes you pain, trying to solve your purple elephant like a riddle, you will continue to be in pain. If, however, you seek what you most desire and direct your attention toward it, never questioning why, the pain of disconnection will cease in an instant, and all the purple elephants will disappear.

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