Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do what you can with what you have been given...

Photocollage by Lani with help from Tom Ryan.

I got an email today from a friend who is feeling a bit like a spectator in her own life. Coincidentally I got Rick Hanson's newsletter today, also. "Just One Thing" is a free newsletter suggestions for simple practices each week that will bring you more joy and peace of mind.

Rick says a small thing repeated each day adds up over time to produce big results. I heard a lecture of his recently and he was talking about how he felt like there was a big hole in his heart that he realized only he had the power to fill. So every day he practices a little something to increase his joy and peace of mind. And he shares it freely with others. So "just one thing" could change your life.

So today's "Just One Thing" is about mindfulness and neurology. Rick believes that we are in charge of where we place our awareness. Things may be going on all around us as well as inside us, but we are free to place the spotlight of mindfulness on anything. In a way, he would agree with my friend, that we really are observers and spectators of our lives. But he would advise being deliberate about it.
Spend your days dwelling on resentments and regrets, and neural structures that support pessimism, self-doubt, and unhappiness will quietly, implacably start wiring together. Alternately, spend your days dwelling on the good facts all around you and in you, focused on gladness and gratitude, and facing your problems with determination and initiative, and neural structures that support optimism, confidence, and happiness will gradually wire together. Which would you prefer?

The key difference between these two is how you use your attention. Since attention is largely under volitional control - you can usually direct it with conscious effort - you have an extraordinary tool at your disposal throughout your day to nudge your moment-to-moment experience in a positive direction, and thereby gradually sculpt your brain in positive ways. Which will of course lead to increasingly positive experiences and actions for you, which will in turn sculpt your brain further, in a wonderfully positive cycle.
It's a pretty neat idea, this brain sculpture stuff. I used to think my particular story was special or that I was who I was because of this super meaningful story. I thought that happiness, love, wonder, joy, and all good things were outside of myself and that I have to go get them. But after practicing mindfulness and attention, I've started to notice a couple of things. One, my story isn't special, it's just another one of nearly 7 billion stories. And the second thing I've started to notice is that happiness, love, wonder, joy, and all good things seem to be inside me depending on what I'm being mindful of.

What I would say to my friend is exactly what I have told myself in the past! You might want to look into some focus-shifting for you peace of mind. You deserve that. We all deserve that, actually!

Here are some nice links for you:
Living With Heart is a website about adversity and healing with some marvelous links, lots of good material here.

WiseBrain.org with news and tools for happiness, love, and wisdom. They also have a lot of links and downloads, great thought provoking material. They even have some inspiring quotes to help us let go of the thinking and feelings we need to let go of.

Rick Hanson's website, news letter, and encouragement can be found here.

"Do what you can, with what you've been given, in the place where you are, with the time that you have." South African boy who died of AIDS at about age 12


Photocollage by Lani with help from Tom Ryan.

3 comments:

Bill C. said...

Wow. This was a wonderfully positive post. It's exactly what I needed to read today!

Lani Gerity said...

I'm so glad Bill!

Annica said...

Great post! Thanks!