“How can one whose attention is fixed on his loss and misfortune ever be comforted, especially if he keeps visualizing it, brooding over it, his eyes heavy with sorrow, talking to his loss as if they were two persons staring into each other’s faces (p. 47)? (Blakney, Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation)
These are important words for all of us today. There are so many challenges in or lives from illness, to job loss, to personal debt, home foreclosures, death of a family member or friend, and the list could go on and on. Sometimes it seems that it is impossible to have the strength and fortitude to get out of bed, to look another day in the face, and to move forward. But if we don’t–what is the alternative?
In mindfulness training, Unity, and Zen Buddhism we are encouraged to put no more attention on the good than the bad. Sounds crazy doesn’t it! Well hear me out for a minute…As a retired Unity minister I spent hundreds of hours teaching and speaking about the power of “mind action.” What you hold in mind manifests after its kind. Some people call it the law of psychological reciprocity or in the vernacular “what goes around comes around.” Where you focus your energy there you go. So when I am sitting in meditation if my mind wanders to a negative thing going on in my life, that’s okay and if my mind wanders to a positive thing going on in my life that’s okay too. What we don’t do is hold on to it, ruminate over it, or focus our attention on it.
So what do we do? We just say “Isn’t that nice, or interesting, or informative” and then we go back to simply counting our breath, one on the in breath and two on the out breath. This allows the brain to focus on something else, something insignificant, something simple that we can actually do without “thinking.” The mind is a wonderful thing and it only knows what we tell it! So what are you telling your mind. Where are you focusing your attention?
When I was a kid playing outside and I heard the sound of the ice cream truck coming down the street I would squeal with joy and run into the house to ask my mother if we could buy ice cream. Sometimes I got a no and sometimes I got a resounding yes. As my sister and I ran to the truck with our money in hand I could visualize in my mind that delicious Fudgesicle. I could see the deepness of the brown color. I could taste its sweet cold chocolate on my tongue. I could feel the chill as it moved down my throat into my stomach! Wow what a thrill.
Once I got it I rushed to eat it so it would not melt in the hot summer sun before I could consume it all. And then as quickly as I got it–it was gone! The thrill was over and only the memory lingered until the day when I would hear that sound again of the ice cream truck. How quickly the mind can turn from joy to sorrow on the simple melting or consumption of a Fudgesicle. Good Humor is not just ice cream…its a memory, an emotion, and a way to a life of joy. Yum, Yum.
I want to make it clear here that I am not talking to the person who has been diagnosed with clinical depression and needs it to be taken care of by a medical doctor and/or psychiatrist with medication and therapy. For you there is a need to take the prescribed medications along with your daily use of meditation and mindfulness techniques and training.
But for the rest of us, including me, it is a time to acknowledge the bad and the sad and then move forward toward the good and the joy. It is a time to create a plan each and every day to discover the good in things–even when they appear to be bad. There is not a single person that I know of that has not told a story about his or her life where something “bad” happened and that it ultimately turned out much better than they ever could have imagined. The loss of a job gave them another opportunity to go back to school, or get a better job, or move cross-country where they found a friend or partner the person would have otherwise not met.
So let’s take the opportunity today to realize that life is more than a Good Humor Fudgesicle and its temporary joy, but it is a balance of dealing with peace and love both the good and the bad, the happy and the sad with patience and persistence. So let’s get going…and don’t forget to bring along that Fudgesicle!