There probably were some positive experiences you have had recently. Just small things really. Like the delight of bumping into a friend at the supermarket, a warm glow felt when someone shows you some consideration, or the delight you felt in observing your small grandchildren playing.
But when bad things also happen, how easy it is to forget the positives. The washing machine develops a fault. Someone at work has a go at you. You sleep badly because of a sore throat. If you focus on the bad stuff, you quickly forget any pleasant experiences and instead develop a negative frame of mind. So much so that you are in danger of noticing no hint of anything good and seeing what is bad in everything. So if you have this damaging tendency, how determined are you to start to see things differently? To notice more about the magic of life? And how in practice could you go about this?
Blocks that hinder you noticing the magic of life
You can be inwardly deadened by the noise and pollution of our urban environments, the endless information and the drudge of work. The temptation is to mindlessly sleepwalk through this kind of life; allowing past memories and future fantasies to dominate your consciousness as a way of escaping from the reality of the present moment. Then of course you become absent-minded; too alienated from the needs of the moment to notice the here and now with its ordinary crop of positive, albeit fleeting, experiences.
“The past is history,
The future a mystery,
At this moment is a gift.
Which is why it is called `the present.’ ”
Another factor that can hinder us in getting in contact with the positive uplifting side of life is that of materialistic science. The spiritual writer Roger Walsh has pointed out the blinding power of science, saying that we are so bombarded by its way of looking at the universe as a great meaningless machine that we are led into a kind of cynicism regarding any meaning and purpose behind our world.
A third factor I would like to mention, is that of attachment to bodily pleasure and worldly concerns. For example developing an emotional, if not physical, dependence on alcohol, drugs, food, competition for social status, excessive consumption, and over identification with one’s ‘tribe’. Preoccupied with the material side of life can corrupt any vision of the spiritual.
Exercise focusing on positive experiences
One way of combating these problems is the 15 minute exercise of noticing the positives in your day. Here are some instructions.
1. In the evening, sit down alone comfortably in a quiet place with paper and pen.
2. Reflect on the day’s events; what you did, who you spoke with and what was said, where you were and what you saw.
3. For each of these remembered ordinary moments, pause and consider anything positive. Were you touched by anything good about the experience? Perhaps it was a fleeting or subtle moment when you felt pleased or impressed. May be you were even caught by a beauty of the situation.
4. There would have been what was negative mixed up in what was positive. But write one sentence for each time about any positive aspect.
5. When you have finished reread your list.
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind.” (Ashley Smith)
Benefits of recognising the positive
Looking for the positive each evening can have an accumulative beneficial effect. But to gain this benefit you need to make an effort.
“You need to stop. Wake up. Be more aware. Be conscious and recognise that something good is happening.” (William Bloom)
When you are searching for positives you are likely to feel watchful, more relaxed and better humoured. Try to be mindful of how your mood has changed. Surrender to the experience. If it feels uplifting then think of it as a moment of spiritual connection even if it lasts only a few seconds. It is not true that spiritual experiences are only rare and intense. A positive experience can be common and ordinary such as simply a feeling of uplift from a chance conversation, a brief flash of insight, or a moment of laughter.
As you start to take more notice of good experiences, you are likely to want to search them out. And so many people actively seek some connection with the wonder and energy of life through the natural environment. They find the ambience of some landscapes takes them into a different mood and they become more sensitive to even a whisper of magic. Others hope to find something essentially good and wonderful about life in a friendly crowd or in intimacy with their loved one, or when caught up in a team of fellow workers in full and creative flow.
A relevant Swedenborgian maxim is ‘influx adapts itself to efflux.’ In other words, inflow into the mind is proportional to outflow of the mind: perception from a higher level is proportional to the mindset of the observer. If you look for something you are more likely to notice it. But if you are resistant to the possibility of seeing the spiritual, you will be blind to it.
“Seek and you will find” (Jesus Christ)
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems