Every afternoon I work with an afterschool program, usually I'm offering art experiments and projects. At least once a week, a parent arrives to pick up their child, finds me knee-deep in some sparkly, sticky tangle and says, " I don't know how you do it" So I thought I'd tell you my secret, I have found that it works at home, in my workplace, and at family gatherings too. I keep my eyes trained on the good.
One of the very first teaching experiences I had was with a Montessori teacher who gave me advice that continues to serve me today: to stop and listen to the room. I didn't know it then, but it's essentially mindfulness- bringing my attention fully to the moment in front of me and soaking it in before reacting. Finding the good in what seems like chaos is much more easily done this way, and often times the good is that I was able to stay calm. When I allow the time to listen I notice so many more subtleties about the energy I'm sensing, instead of pushing my agenda like a steamroller. As I write this I'm coming down from the energy of Halloween day in a classroom of 3-5 yr olds. The anticipation level is high today, my friends! It could just as easily be a baby shower for your second cousin, taking a moment to stop and listen is an opportunity to return fully present to the moment and often the easiest way to go with the flow- which feels pretty dang good.
The mind is at work stirring up evidence all the time, what's not safe, why it won't work out, what is and is not my place. Because of the mind's earliest job, to keep us alive, it seems like we're not even wired to look for the good. My mind looks for the bad and stays away from it. The reptilian part of our brain certainly serves a purpose, it's just not the one I want driving the bus. Looking for the good unseats the mind and leaves me in what feels like uncharted territory instead of old patterns and unhealthy habits. In her work of self-inquiry, Byron Katie asks, "what do I fail to notice when I'm believing what I'm believing?" and this question has been the golden path out more times than I can count. When I'm completely down, feeling overwhelmed and all alone, if I can find even one thing that I'm failing to notice I find myself all of a sudden in the eye of the storm instead of at the mercy of it.
Make a list of gratitudes. I giggled when Marianne Williamson said it, because it's true, that we don't give up on working out just because we didn't lose 10 lbs and gain six-pack abs that same day. I give up on working out for lots of reasons, which is another post, probably on discipline. Gratitude is a practice that makes a habit of unseating the fight-or-flight brain that wants to be our default setting. When I practice gratitude I can suddenly see the big sky and the scale of what I'm thinking is a problem.
Here are 5 things I'm grateful for right now, I'd love you to add to the list in the comments space below:
Sun shining on my back
The sound of my dog breathing heavily in her sleep
A quiet place to sit and think