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What we choose to see

I got an email today from a friend – one of those that goes ’round and ’round.  This one a story of a man who choses to be positive despite the trials of his life.  So here’s the story (pay close attention to the last paragraph):0040

John is the kind of guy you love to hate.   He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say.  When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, ‘If I were any better, I would be twins!’

He was a natural motivator.  If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, ‘I don’t get it!  You can’t be a positive person all of the time.  How do you do it?’

He replied, ‘Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today.  You can choose to be in a good mood or…you can choose to be in a bad mood.  I choose to be in a good mood.  Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or…I can choose to learn from it.  I choose to learn from it.  Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or…I can point out the positive side of life.  I choose the positive side of life.”

‘Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,’ I protested.

‘Yes, it is,’ he said.  ‘Life is all about choices.  When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice.  You choose how you react to situations.  You choose how people affect your mood.  You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood.  The bottom line:  It’s your choice how you live your life.’

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.  After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident.  When I asked him how he was, he replied, ‘If I were any better, I’d be twins…Wanna see my scars?’

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.

‘The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,’ he replied.  ‘Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices:  I could choose to live or…I could choose to die.  I chose to live.’

‘Weren’t you scared?  Did you lose consciousness?’  I asked.

He continued, ‘…the paramedics were great.  They kept telling me I was going to be fine.  But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared.  In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man’.  I knew I needed to take action.’

‘What did you do?’ I asked.

‘Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,’ said John.  ‘She asked if I was allergic to anything ‘Yes, I replied.’  The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply.  I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Gravity’!’  Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live.  Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.’

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude…I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.  Attitude, after all, is everything.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

_________

After that great story about choosing to see things positively, the story ends with the notion that each day is “trouble!”  Isn’t that a choice right there?  Our choice to perceive the world as positive or negative? To perceive the future as holding joy or “trouble?”  One of my teachers says: “The world is a horrible place full of pain and struggle/ The world is a wonderful place full of joy and opportunity.  You choose.”  And in that choosing, you create the world that you see.

My we all chose the world of joy and opportunity for ourselves and for each other.

On the brink of opportunity

I’ve been feeling recently as if the whole world is in turmoil. Maybe I’m just becoming more aware? Maybe I’m projecting my own sense of disquietude? Or maybe as they say, time really is moving faster, and everything is changing.  My Yahoo home page doesn’t help. Each day when I log on to check my email I see news of military action of countries against each other, yet another bank failing, worldwide financial crisis, our troops being killed, all the political fisticuffs of the election, natural disasters on multiple continents, murder and mayhem…

Some say humanity is on the brink of a shift. There are even two books called “The Shift” (which I haven’t read yet but now that I’m done with coursework for my Masters degree, I’m hoping to have time to read). There’s also a book called The Shack which is supposed to be really interesting in its perspective – that’s my next “must read.”  My point is that I know I’m not the only one feeling this uncertainty. It almost feels as if the ground is moving under me sometimes – as if reality itself is changing (and no, I don’t do drugs! LOL!).  But what is reality changing into?

A few months ago I was reading a lot about the 2012 predictions and about the time leading up to 2012.  There are predictions of doom and also predictions of hope and change – predictions of a shift in human consciousness.  I look around and realize how much has changed, just in the last decade in terms of the dialog & interests of people. Years ago a person had to be careful talking about ‘energy’ that people would think you were weird.  Now you can find chakra products at WalMart!  Yoga and meditation are mentioned (or used for advertising) in even the most mainstream publications.  Things are changing.  Mellen Thomas Benedict talks about an evolution of consciousness.  At the same time, some people are talking about 2012 as the end of the world, and others express disappointment at the slow pace of progress in the evolution of human consciousness.

Is this shift just a matter of wishful thinking or are we as a species being presented with an opportunity?  If we are accelerating toward something – and if in fact our thoughts create our reality, isn’t it up to us to decide what that ‘something’ is?  It seems imperative that we chose to believe that we are accelerating towards a brighter future.  I find myself often sliding into fear as I wonder about what is going to happen.  The messages are all around to back up that fear: The terrorists are going to get us! The Earth is going to be destroyed! Your money is going to disappear! Those people will ruin our democracy! I have to remind myself to take charge of my perception and chose to operate from a place of empowerment & awareness rather than from a place of fear.  I have to remind myself to see progress in change rather than a steady march toward destruction.

When you work with children it is recommended that you offer rewards instead of punishments. So instead of saying “If you misbehave again you’re going in time out!” you say “If you’d like to be able to play some more then chose to do the right thing”  What’s the difference?  Fear versus empowerment.  It’s a subtle difference, but can be quite powerful.  As an example of this, our rhetoric about the environment can be: “If we don’t change our destructive behavior, the earth will be destroyed.”  That statement just makes me feel hopeless.  An alternate perspective is:  “If we want to preserve and heal the Earth, we will be better stewards of it.”  That statement feels like a call to action with the possibility of success.  It’s a small difference, but there may be power in those subtleties.

I continue to believe that small changes in each of us can create a huge change in the overall consciousness.  Each of us is, after all, only really able to change ourselves.  I also believe that a big shift in our thinking can happen in an instant.  For example, when 9-11 happened, we woke up one day and everything was different – it was a negative difference, for sure, but it only took a few hours.  Isn’t it possible that the same shift could happen for the better?  What if we each chose, instead of looking at our civilization as propelling itself into the depths of consumerism and despair, to look at all the positive changes happening now and focus on maximizing those? What if we chose to focus on the fact that there is more environmental consciousness now than there was 10 years ago instead of heralding the Earth’s destruction as inevitable?  What if we chose to recognize and celebrate that yoga and meditation are becoming part of mainstream awareness rather than decrying “the commercialization of spirituality”?  What if we rejoice that our nation is finally able to conceive of (and perhaps elect) an African American in its highest office and that our youth are energized to participate in the electoral process, rather than lamenting the vitriol that has been stirred up by this presidential campaign?

If we look at the positive shifts that our societies are making we might feel more hopeful and carry that hope into the way we view the world.  I’m not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the issues that obviously require attention and action.  I’m just suggestion a shift in where we hold our perspective.  We are not avoiding destruction, we are embracing an enlightened consciousness. Our focus is not on death, but on life.

Seeing the Light

I taught a Family Yoga class this morning and we did a meditation to imagine the Light of your heart getting brighter and brighter and sending Light to the children of the world who are not so happy right now. The kids were so thrilled with their Light. “I saw it!” “It was so bright!” How awesome to be so in touch with your own brilliance!

I’m not much of a Bible scholar, but didn’t Jesus say somewhere that to enter the Kingdom you had to be like a child? They’re already there! I’m still glowing just thinking about it!

Free of Bias

I’ve been talking to people about my views on the election campaigning based on (my understanding of) yoga principles. In an article I wrote recently on my website, I talked about how negative and angry I was feeling when watching the election coverage and thinking about all the issues that are pertinent right now. I expressed that I’m trying to be less judgmental of others who have a different impression than me. After all, without differing opinions, we don’t have a democracy, right?

The challenge of non-judgment, though, is how to resolve the perception that the other’s point of view, or actions, or behavior, are just plain wrong. As in evil wrong, or unjust wrong, or harmful wrong. How do you not get angry at someone who has caused pain and suffering to other people by their indifference or greed? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that anger is not a constructive emotion for me. My thinking gets cloudy, my heart gets hard and I become pretty irrational. I actually can feel the skin on my neck crawl. So in fact I hurt myself by becoming angry, rather than contributing anything useful to the world.

So, if not anger, maybe we should respond with indignation. Indignation – righteous indignation, right? To me that means: I know better than that other gal because I’m better than her. Me right, you wrong. Constructive? Not really. Does this contribute anything useful to the world? Not really.

The only useful response I’ve come up with so far is action. Recognizing that something doesn’t seem to be working and doing something to contribute to making it better. Staying angry or indignant in the meanwhile doesn’t really help me. Focusing on the outcome that I would like to see on the other hand? Priceless.