“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A different resolution

We are approaching the turn of another calendar year and it is time for reflection. Those of us who align ourselves with the seasonal festivals will have other transitional times throughout the year which lead us to reflect on what has happened but the turn of the calendar year is significant for everyone, despite how much we try and see it as "just another day". 

What has been on my mind recently, is the tendency of those around me to think, not only in terms of the cycle being aligned to the calendar, but in terms of the year as "good" or "bad" depending on specific events that might have happened during the past twelve months! I have started to notice the messages on Facebook etc. reflecting this: Along the lines of "2012 was crap. Let's hope 2013 is better!" 

Even as child, when I had little intellectual understanding of such things, I found the adult writing off of an entire twelve months really upsetting! Family members would toast the New Year with a unanimous agreement that the current year had been tragic/depressing/full of disaster/maligned with bad luck and that they hoped the coming year would be better than the last one. I remember thinking of all the good things that had happened to them and wondered why they were not also celebrating. 

I have since discovered that human beings do have the cerebral wiring that anchors trauma, so psychologically we are more likely to recall the bad stuff and forget that there were also many moments of happiness. There are good evolutionary reasons for this, but whilst we have rather moved on from the need to avoid that place where the sabre-tooth cat ate our uncle, our brains have a little bit of catching up to do. We anchor the trauma and our desire to make sense of things creates a narrative, and so "It has been a bad year" or "I have had a run of bad luck" or "It has been one thing after another" Not: Some things happened and some other things happened. Some were good, some were bad, some were neutral. The bad things are the things that define the period. 

The other thing about this hard wiring is that it also creates more pathways the more we reflect on the negative events. So we have some work to do to short circuit our tendency for negative wiring. By not only thinking positively, but by noticing and anchoring the positive, happy events and moments of contentment.  This is not about being a hopeless Pollyanna. We can acknowledge the darkness, the despair, the sadness and the grief, but we can also choose to see the full spectrum of light, and hope. We all see it, desire it, otherwise why look forward to a "better" 2013? 

Mindfulness is incredibly powerful in this respect. As we learn to live in each moment, with full awareness, we become aware of the full  range of  emotional experience. But more than this, we become able to look at that constantly changing experience with equanimity. 

It is as it is.

Or in the words of the philosopher "Shit Happens!" 

"Taking in the good is not about putting a happy shiny face on everything, nor is it about turning away from the hard things in life. It’s about nourishing inner well-being, contentment, and peace—refuges to which you can always return." Rick Hanson,  author of "Buddha's Brain"The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the above article very much and agreed with the point that we as human beings focus often on the negative. I have discovered that to attract good things and good people, we ourselves must put out the correct vibes. If we constantly put out negative vibes we will attract into our lives negativity. If we focus on positive things we will put out positive vibes attracting positivity back. So, will 2013 will be positive? The answer lies within yourself ... make it good.