Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The author of "Buddha's Brain," Rick Hanson, tells us that we human beings have a "negativity bias." We are hardwired to attend to what makes us feel unhappy or unsafe. This tendency is biologically driven, as our brains try to guide us away from what might be harmful, yet it demands that we engage in practices that emphasize and highlight the positive in order to clearly view our environment. Allowing this tendency toward negative awareness to passively populate our view of "reality" with fear and loss, is a sure way to dwell in discontent. A terrible waste of opportunity for meaning-making, and a recipe for depression and anxiety, especially in these days of information overload from news sources that have the same negativity bias on a global scale.
Instead of giving our natural bias full reign, why not lean into the positive. Slow down and attend to the small miracles of every moment. You don't have to look far, just look. Hold the positive experiences for a few extra moments to give your brain time to engage them. Let yourself access balance and truth, in contrast to this overblown biological imperative to safety. Unless you truly engage in this effort, approaching with calm, and expanding into the meaning of those "miracle moments," they may slip away, never having registered in your internal accounts, to balance positive to negative events and experiences.
I love taking photographs of children and nature. Photography offers one way to hold and connect with those most miraculous of human experiences. More recently I have developed (pun intended) a practice of taking "mental snapshots" of the full, embodied event and vision of a particular moment. I find that those images are readily available for review, complete with the sense of reverence and joy that they originally offered, when I need that reminder. The rainbow around the moon on a Jamaican beach; the storybook castle wall in Tuscany; the first meeting with my sweet grandbaby; those moments and images along with many others are held in my mental store of reasons for gratitude.
As Springtime approaches, take the challenge to open yourself to the positives. They may take more time and effort, but a practice of appreciation will offer lasting opportunity to build a storehouse of strength.
Pretty soon you will notice sunlight shining through fading winter gloom, and like the changing seasons, you will discover opportunities for new growth.