Instead of engaging in my usual meditation practice upon waking, I reached for my phone and opened Facebook. An imprudent act, I know. The first two items on my Facebook feed were very inspiring. One was the 2016 summer Paralympics yes I can trailer, and the other a video by mental_floss Magazine which drew my attention with this introduction: After weeks of heartbreaking headlines, we wanted to remember how good people can be to one another.
The first video portrayed disabled people overcoming major physical limitations and making incredible achievements, mainly in sports and music. It also showed them performing daily tasks most take for granted, such as parenting, driving a car, and pumping gas. The second video was filled with examples of acts of kindness and service. I especially was moved by the power of forgiveness demonstrated by the relatives of the Charleston church shooting victims. The relatives spoke at a court hearing just days after the shooting, offering the shooter forgiveness even as they described the pain of their losses.
The next three posts were disturbing. First was a news report covering both recent arrests related to the deadly attack in Nice and today’s shooting of seven Baton Rouge police officers. The second was a call for support to end the practice of “honor” killings in Pakistan after the murder of Pakistani social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, with her brother being the prime suspect. The last was a piece about Genie, not her real name, who was subject to one of the most horrific child abuse stories I’ve ever read.
When I got out of bed and began my day, instead of feeling peaceful, joyous, and purposeful as I normally do after meditation, I felt a bit discouraged about my life, slightly anxious and worried about my finances, business endeavors, and future, and a little lost as to where to put my energy. I walked around the house wondering, should I do laundry, pay bills, work on business tasks, or sit down and write? I finally decided to write, mainly to assist myself through the haze, but to assist others too. I thought, if my sharing can help others, even one person, I will feel satisfied.
Here is my inner conversation: Deb, no matter where in the journey you are, there will always be farther to go. Even when you’ve reached the top of the mountain, there will be another mountaintop. The glass will always be half full and half empty. What matters is which you choose to focus on. Do you place attention on your progress and achievements, or your challenges, lessons, and the uncertain journey ahead? Do you behold all the things you’re grateful for in your life, or all you find hard and challenging, including some seemingly impossible obstacles?
I was reminded of the first video depicting amazing athletes, dancers, and musicians who had to overcome major physical challenges and limitations in order to do what they did. Talk about obstacles. Most had to work hard just to perform daily tasks the rest of us do with ease. We’re talking about people who are paralyzed, missing one or two legs, missing one or two arms, or otherwise disabled. Some learn to use their feet to play guitar, pump gas, play with their baby, or paint.
I continued my talk: Deb, your morning stroll through Facebook offered a clear example of two ways of seeing the world. You can behold all of the good things happening in the world right now and all of the progress humanity has made, or you can get swept away by all of the prejudice, intolerance, and violence in the world, and become discouraged by how much farther we still have to go and the uncertainty of our future.
The truth is we all face challenges and obstacles, and to many of us it seems our limitations are far greater than anyone else’s. What we often don’t realize is we have all the resources and capabilities we need to achieve our life goals and heart’s dreams. Yes, even those of us who are marginalized, oppressed, abused, or born disabled. We don’t always remember we have the choice of what to focus on, and we don’t fully grasp how exercising this choice is where our true freedom lies.
Like anything worth doing, it takes some effort and repeated practice. On those mornings I wake up and feel slightly anxious or agitated or on those days I just don’t feel like getting out of bed, I try to remember I can choose where to place my attention. I can focus on the yucky way I feel and soon it will be all I think about. I can listen to my negative self-talk and soon it will consume me. Alternatively, I can behold all the things I am grateful for, or all I want to do and accomplish that day, and soon this will impact all of my thoughts and I will have forgotten I didn’t feel so well.
What I am describing is mind training, and it is not an easy task. Training the mind is sometimes compared to taming a team of wild horses. But, it works. It is well worth the effort and has benefits even beyond the achievement of life goals and fulfillment of our heart’s longings. It offers peace of mind, a deep feeling of connection, and a profound sense of wellbeing, a sense all is right with the world.
I offer you this challenge: Each morning upon waking, before you get out of bed, take a few moments to decide where you will place your attention. It could be on all that you are grateful for or on the progress you’ve made in your life or in a certain area. It is not about changing your thoughts; it is deciding on a point of view–the glass half full or half empty. Strive to remember this perspective throughout the day and come back to it whenever something threatens to change your focus. You can make it part of your usual morning practice if you have one.
Do not underestimate the power of this simple act. It works best over time, so commit to doing the exercise for 30 or 40 days consecutively. I will join you with a commitment to add this exercise to my morning practice for the next 40 days. On most mornings I meditate and then write an intention for the day, and now I will take a few moments first and choose where to place my awareness.
Part two of the challenge: Notice how this simple act sets the tone for each day. Observe how with practice it gets easier and more automatic to see the glass half full. Notice how your choice to concentration on the positive leads to more inner calm, centeredness, and confidence, maybe even feelings of bliss and joy. Lastly, witness how your choices, your outlook, and even your calm peaceful presence create a ripple effect in the world.