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The nature of our life is like a river: constantly flowing and changing. Little or nothing can obstruct its water. It always finds a way and does not attach to any object. Sometimes calm, a wild current at other times the water is always carrying us forward. Yet, the river has two shores on which we can get stuck: “Like” and “Dislike”.

Our “small” mind is constantly judging and classifying what comes into its focus: people, situations, places, clothes, knowledge, music, art, cars, food, … Liter­ally everything is going through this process: “I like this shirt”, “I don’t like the way he talks”, “I like to work here, like my boss but do not like to prepare that presentation.” Another facet of this automatic reaction is to agree or disagree with what we hear or read. Take a second and reflect: did you hear a voice in your head commenting on what you just read? “Oh yes, he is right” or “No way, I disagree! This is nonsense.” We are so used to our mind working in this (autopilot) mode that we consider it normal and are mostly unaware of it.

Yet, why not just continue “liking” and “disliking”, “agreeing” and “disagreeing”? How does it affect us when we keep staying on the shores of “Like” and “Dislike” for long? The first answer is obvious: we are not flowing with the river, with life and limit ourselves. An example will elaborate this further.

Let’s suppose a colleague you liked to work with very much was promoted to another job. You are sad to see him leave. He will be succeeded by a newly hired employee you have briefly seen once but feel that you dislike her. As a result, negative thoughts, emotions and feelings are building up and reinforcing themselves. So, you are unhappy about this change before your new co-worker even started and you had the chance to find out how it really is to work with her. If not looked at consciously the negativity that is building up might easily impact this new work relationship. And a vicious circle can start: a negative thought triggers a matching emotion and sensation in the body which again triggers another thought and this goes on and on. The vicious circle can easily be stopped. The key is to be aware that it started. Then take your attention away from the thoughts, toward the sensation in the body and take a few long deep breaths in and out. This interrupts the process.

Our likes or dislikes which usually come along with a set of more or less intense thoughts, emotions and feelings color our perception to a large degree. Think of it as if you watch a scenery through an old ornate, very colorful stained-glass window. The window itself is an interesting artefact but can you see clearly through it? Or is your perception distorted? Colored? The stronger the like or dislike and the thoughts and emotions involved the less we are able to just see a situation for just what it is. Meaning also that we reduce our openness to changes and the possibilities they bring.

The bottom line: we are not really accepting the present moment as it is and our perception is colored so that we are no longer open (to a varying degree) to all the possibilities and opportunities in life. Our likes facilitate attachment, clinging to the current situation and create pain as everything in life is impermanent.

Now, how can we address the constant stream of “liking” and “disliking”? It is quite easy and comparable to the steps I described in the post “How to deal with negative emotions”.

- The first step is to be aware of it. Observe your mind and the thoughts (likes/dislikes) coming up. Don’t give a lot of importance to them. Know that they are coming and going anyways. Just wonder 😊 “Oh, it happened again” and laugh at it.

- Accept that the “likes” and “dislikes” are coming; don’t fight them. By fighting them you will achieve the opposite and get entangled in them.

- Take your attention away from the thought(s) and observe the emotions and feelings that the “likes” and “dislikes” trigger. Where do you feel them in the body? Bring your attention there. Be a neutral observer. Do not resist or encourage them. Like you are watching a movie and you know that all these emotions and feelings are not you. - Repeat these steps as often as required

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself and give it time. Our minds have run wild for a long time. It is a practice that requires a conscious intention and patience. Do not expect that your likes and dislikes will disappear in one go. For a long time, I had a strong dislike for the country I was born in not feeling at home there. It was so pronounced that I felt uncomfortable for quiet some days returning from abroad. After time, now I am in a neutral mode of observation and the dislike is almost gone.

One differentiation is necessary in this context. For each and every one of us there are things in this life which do resonate more with us and things that do less. For instance, music: I love organ music, Hebrew songs, Sanskrit Mantras and also Bollywood music while hard rock is totally not resonating with me. And even with the music that uplifts me I can see the change. One time I am very keen of a particular mantra or organ music by a specific composer and period while at another time there is a complete change and I love the forceful, rhythmic nature of tacky Bollywood songs. What makes the difference? The things that uplift us and we use to express the joy of life come without the emotional reactions mentioned above. We can just be with them and enjoy them. It is good though to stay openminded and curious about other things outside our comfort zone; but we should not force ourselves to like things which do not resonate with us at this moment in time.

If you like share your experience with “likes” and “dislikes” in the comments section.

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