You might never have heard of these words before, Via Negativa, but it is probably because it is in Latin, meaning ‘negative way’.
Another way to describe ‘Via Negativa’ is ‘way of denial’.
It’s true, it does sound negative, but it is just that – it’s about subtracting from your life to add positivity.
Via Negativa – is the Art of Adding to Your Life By Subtracting From It – it is a universal spiritual principle.
And just what has this got to do with health? Everything! Western science/medicine likes to isolate a problem, but the body, mind, spirit principle demands we look at the body, your thoughts, and actions as a whole. What you do and think also affects your health.
a way of describing something by saying what it is not, especially denying that any finite concept of attribute can be identified with or used of God or ultimate reality.
Here’s what’s covered in this article:
- The Theological Origins Of Via Negativa
- Using Via Negativa To Declutter Your Home
- Using Via Negativa To Develop Better Habits
- Using Via Negativa To Improve Your Relationships
- Using Via Negativa To Regulate Your Time And Energy
- Using Via Negativa To Stay Focused On Your Purpose
It is considered a biblical principle, but Via Negativa, in fact, is a Universal Spiritual Principle
When it comes to the study of theology, if you really get deep into it, you will no doubt have come across a method called Via Negativa. Thomas Aquinas is considered the founder of this theory, born 1225-1274. In theological terms, Via Negativa refers to God and his attributes and the way we speak about God as being way beyond us mere human minds to comprehend, that what we say about God as humans are really limited by our very own limited and finite understanding of Him.
The real true things we can say about Him are by way of Via Negativa – that it’s more rather of what He is not rather than saying what He is. Via Negativa assumes that we as humans cannot begin to describe God’s qualities and therefore we should rather be describing God as to what He is not. The whole point is to remove ourselves from saying things we are so used to saying about God.
Rather, we should be investigating what is the “Great Cloud of Unknowing”, in other words, stepping into unknown territory rather and removing the comfortable theological terms we are used to when talking about God.
Religionists will view it through a Biblical perspective
The problem with Via Negativa is that those of us who are more positive, it’s a challenge to take the above theological rules as seriously as others, and for those with a more negative outlook, it can lead to a kind of despair.
It’s best to come to your own conclusions.
It is up to each one of us, whether we explore God using Via Negativa or not, that we need to search for and find God ourselves.
But getting back down to Earth, if you look back to your own life; high school – college – all your dreams for your future – did they materialize or did they never seem to materialize? We are taught from very young to reach and follow our dreams, but still, we drift away, never reaching what we ever dreamed of.
Via Negativa – The Less Is More Principle Video
We can apply the positive principles of Via Negativa in our own life
Via Negativa tries to define things in a negative way rather than the positive way. So, instead of someone trying to do more and more, just adding more and more onto their plate so to speak, it is recommended to rather go the other way – to focus on subtraction, to take away in order to gain.
You can apply this principle to any area of your life – if you want to remove some bad habits, some responsibilities you do not want to be responsible for anymore, or a toxic relationship, etc. – any activities that you are involved in that you want to remove.
When you apply Via Negativa principles, you improve the quality of your life and your existence through deduction.
It is really just the art of ridding yourself of all people and activities and the useless things in your life that don’t serve you and your cause or that are totally not beneficial to you. It is cutting out and cutting off all that is of no importance to you.
When Less is more
Is there any good reasoning behind such a statement? In our lives, all our energies and out times are finite, they are definitely not infinite. We all have only 24 hours in each day and many of us have and still do waste some of these days if we are not careful.
All the things we think about, the things we do, the thing we decide on and act upon are being taken out of us, our lives.
And when we constantly try and add more and more things to our lives like learning a new hobby, starting up new relationships, doing more things, we are not really making our lives all that much better, nor improving the quality.
Actually, we could even be decreasing it, because adding in all those things, we could be cluttering up our lives.
It’s basically saying that when we add more and more things and people into our lives, we are not able to give each and every one of them quality attention.
If you are looking to receive outstanding or extraordinary results or to master anything, it will require a whole lot of extra time, and plenty of commitment, with your whole heart in it. You need to focus on what really counts in your life, what is very important to you. When you start minimizing, you often start to feel liberated, you have more time to dedicate the attention that you spent on other things, to give it to the things and people that you really love.
Just small amounts of anything bad or that extra clutter can actually put down the good, undermine it. One bad apple thrown into a basket of good apples will ruin the whole basket of apples, turning them rotten.
Sometimes we are like hoarders, we don’t want to get rid of stuff, yet we don’t want to devote our attention to it because we don’t have the passion or love for it. So we hoard it. So we hold on to people or hobbies, or projects, or relationships, things that no longer mean anything to us, or that we don’t even use.
Most of us have these tendencies to hoard stuff, useful stuff. Our material possessions take up the physical space in our house but they clutter our mental space.
It is time to use Via Negativa to unclutter your life and your household. You might say, but I need the stuff. But if you haven’t used it for a few months, even years, you probably don’t really need it anyway, and most likely would be better off without it.
But because you are mentally attached to you, you can’t let it go.
Do you want to ‘Via Negativa’ all your material stuff that you no longer need?
- Take some rubbish bags or some boxes and get rid of all the stuff you no longer need and put them in boxes, marking them; clothes in that box, papers in that box, and so on.
- Then look at all your stuff, asking yourself how often you use it. Is it every day? OK, then keep it. If it’s only once or twice a year, for instance, get rid of it. Some things you won’t even know you still had.
- Put the bags with all the stuff you no longer need out have sight; keeping them there for a couple of weeks. If you discover in that time that you never looked for stuff, or needed it, throw it all out or give it to your charity, but get rid of it.
- Think carefully before replacing any of the stuff you threw away – when you really don’t need it anymore.
It’s important not to let your emotional bond to stuff get in your way. Don’t hang on to the memories; they exist only in your head so you don’t need their presence materially anymore.
De-cluttering your house and your life helps you to breath more freely again
Via Negativa your habits
It is thought that the strategy of Via Negativa is an excellent way for people and organizations to make themselves anti-fragile – this is because the downside of your life gets removed. You get rid of the activities, the habits, and the people that made your more defenseless and vulnerable. When it comes to habits, we are aware that they hold a dominance over us only when the habit has started to affect us negatively.
So, for example, you really only want to stop smoking when you know you have got lung cancer for instance but it’s too late by then. When you allow an activity to become so important that it becomes part of your identity; it has become a subconscious replica of you. Your entire world structure is based on the fact that you smoke.
When you avoid smoking completely through Via Negativa principles, you then avoid the risks of cancer and other bad stuff associated with it altogether.
Out with the old first, before it’s in with the new stuff
Via Negativa-in your habits mean you will need to get rid of your bad habits before creating good new ones. Like back to smoking – it won’t make any difference if you just take a whole bunch of supplements because the cigarettes will still be there to undermine your efforts.
You can’t have a bad diet and think exercise will improve it. Maybe you can’t lose weight, yet you only eat one healthy day for the whole week.
If you want to add to something, you have to improve on it. It won’t help if you are still crammed with a whole lot of other stuff going on. When you don’t do anything at all, it is much easier doing that than trying to add some positive new habits.
When you get rid of the negative downsides, you can be sure you’re on your way to building on your success later in the future. But before that, you need to subtract first. Get the picture?
Before you add more, first get rid of the old – because if you don’t you will have to multi-task. Could you do these all these things, putting your all into the old and the new? If your answer is no, you will see you will start to enjoy yourself a whole lot more, because now you can dedicate yourself entirely to the things you really love.
Via Negativa people
Yes, we are social creatures, us humans. We feel for other people and use language to correspond and connect with them. It’s about co-operation and working together. But there can be downsides too.
Humans seek validation and approval from other people – this is good for reproduction, but what isn’t good is that it makes us inclined to want to make everyone happy. Social media is the same – its back to that hoarding concept – we can’t let it go.
An anthropologist has said that humans are only capable of sustaining and maintaining around 150 solid relationships. But people have overcome this ‘problem’ by going onto things like social media where they can have thousands of friends – like Facebook or Twitter.
Over time, our cognitive abilities have improved and we have become more sociable, but it is still true that the fewer people in our circle, the better quality our relationships will be.
We need to:
- stop negative relationships that aren’t serving us
- get rid of old commitments – not hold on to them
- avoid those whom we know will just end up being trouble to us in the future
- find our niche of people and offer value to them, dedicating ourselves to smaller groups of real friends
- bring quality experiences and love to our close family and friendships
- Via Negativa our energy and time
Downsizing your energy and time to where it counts
Via Negativa also applies to the way you spend your energy and time. For instance, you might do things that don’t serve you, just because you are doing them by habit or because you want to cling to a relationship still. People might hear you say, “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have enough time” when it’s not really the case at all.
You are just simply spread all over the place but without any focus. You can set it straight Via Negativa. Time isn’t on your side and you might not be noticing that you are throwing away time on stuff that isn’t adding to your life.
What is your purpose?
That’s the bottom-line principle, and to know what it is. – What is your purpose? What do you really want to achieve in life? And once you know that, you will be able to focus your time on the things, the habits, and the people that promote that – now you will be able to achieve extraordinary results because you are giving quality into what you do.
Do a Via Negativa on your daily routine, and see where the leaks are – where all your energy is going. Can you accomplish more things by doing fewer things? To make the most of your time and energy, you need to work on Via Negativa alongside the Pareto’s principle.
This is the 80/20 rule – you achieve 80% of positive results from getting rid of 20% of the negatives.
Focus, because it is the top component towards achieving outstanding results. With too much random stuff cluttering up your mental and physical realm, you won’t be able to concentrate on the important stuff. Use what we have just shown you – ADDITION by SUBTRACTION.
To be blatant, get rid of the unessential’s because then you will realize that it’s not about increasing stuff to make a success of your life, it’s about decreasing the stuff so that you can increase.
People always say “Life’s so short, I haven’t achieved what I wanted”. But it’s not really that we had or have such a short time here on Earth; it’s just that we have wasted a lot of time while on Earth. Following Via Negativa principles might make you look like you are living your life kind of defensively, but when you focus on what you are not doing instead of what you are doing, it enables you to take charge of your life more aggressively.
It gives you the chance to work on the things you really need and want to do.
Let this be the year where you don’t say – What should I do to make myself a better person? Rather ask yourself the question -What am I going to leave out of my life to be a better person, or what am I not going to do this year to be a better person”?
You might get a surprise when you turn the questions around like this to find out how your answer measures up. Use this year to get rid of all the gunk – get rid of all the downs so that you can start going up, with noticeable results that you wouldn’t really get if you started dealing with the problem just through positive actions.
You might already have eliminated heaps of bad habits out of your life, or you might have even started on them. If you have, you can start taking Via Negativa to yet another level. Now you can start eliminating stuff that might even be good, but which is taking you away from concentrating on the very best things for your life.
It means saying no to all the good intentions you had of accomplishing on the things that aren’t really priorities and focusing full out on the carefully picked priorities.
Eliminating the downside such as bad habits, debt and stuff will offer you a good life. Eliminating good things so that you can focus on your very best things, your ‘circled’ top 5 priority things, will help you to flourish in life. Let this year be the year to avoid making stupid mistakes, to walk away from the red flags. Then start watching the opportunities start coming your way.
You might have made a whole bunch of useless mistakes already this year, but that’s no reason to despair – get out of the hole you dug. Stop digging further and resolve to stop making life-altering mistakes that can alter your life.
Start with subtraction; elimination; making things right in order that you can go forward positively again. You can – when faced with a wall of adversity in front of you, reverse a bit, so you can go forward again,
Via Negativa, Less Is More