Yesterday I was running late, and the fastest way to get to the office (other than an Uber) is to bike, fast. I had biked once before and the experience was much different (it was drizzling, and I had extra time, it was drudgery). The time constraint made me focus on arriving fast, and this has the effect of getting you into the zone.
In the zone sometimes you experience a paradoxical effect: you are both present-in-the-world and simultaneously experiencing a straight train of thought which is completely unrelated to physical reality. So, as I was biking to the office a thought consumed my mind: why is it that we consider some experiences negative?
Barring traumatic events (which I wouldn’t call negative experience, they would be traumatic events), experience is neither positive or negative. Experience is. Negative experience would be the loss of memory, amnesia, forgetting. We are so attached to experiencing pleasure that we feel disappointed when something fails to entertain us.
And yet I could only recall my first trip on the bike. Oh yes, that felt like a negative experience: body was aching, cold water hitting my face, somber mood. Even though it wasn’t that bad, I would have very much preferred to have a comfy ride in a car.
Then I a thought came to mind: my first trip felt miserable in only in contrast to what I was experiencing at the moment, I hadn’t given it further thought until that moment. Until then it seemed simply a crappy commute. The chiaroscuro provided contrast and I was rewriting a memory as more negative than what I had actually experienced at the time.
Is there any solution to this? It seems my original train of thought provided the answer: if there is no negative experience, there is no positive experience either. One simply experiences, and any value judgement about it (either positive or negative) causes attachment. This seems to be the origin of thoughts like “I used to be much more happy years ago, but I didn’t notice at the time” or “I had a very unhappy childhood, but I’m happier now”. Judging experience, even as positive experience, brings about its opposite polarity.
How should we remain above judging experience? I think meditation trains for this. You experience a whole range of sensory experience but don’t attach any meaning to it, you simply put awareness and allow it to run through.