November 04, 2011
We're reading Jan Chozen Bays's How to Train a Wild Elephant at the Tricycle Book Club. At the beginning of this week we posted one of the mindfulness practices from the book, "Gratitude at the End of the Day," and today we're following-up with the "Deeper Lessons" to be learned from that exercise. If you have questions or comments for Jan Chozen Bays please join the discussion!
Our mind is magnetically attracted to the negative. It drags up difficult memories and chews on them, over and over. It keeps trying to change the outcome. “If only I had said that, then he would have... ” The past is gone. We cannot change its outcome, except by changing ourselves, and that can only be done in the present. The mind thinks up dreadful things that might occur in the future. “What if the economy collapses and there isn’t enough food and people come to our door with guns...” The mind thinks that it is doing its job, protecting us from danger, but it is actually making us more fearful and tense.
The mind says, “Who cares about the positive things that have happened or will happen. Positive things can’t hurt you. My job is to think of all the possible bad outcomes.” The news media know this. This is why most news stories have a negative content: “Watch out for this new danger!” “This terrible thing is happening right now, or could happen at any minute!” These are the kinds of stories that the modern mind wants to read, and it makes the body buy, read, or listen to them. However, this obsession with the negative can become pervasive, creating an anxious and depressed state of mind. What we expect, namely suffering, becomes what we actually get, a sad self-fulfilling and self-created prophecy.
The practice of gratitude at the end of the day is one antidote to this mental habit-pattern of disaster mongering. This exercise helps us bring to light the many positive and supportive occurrences of the day. It turns the mind stream in a positive direction. People who practice gratitude-at-the-end-of-the-day regularly find that they become able to see the up side of almost every event in their lives.
To transform the unhappy mind, turn it toward finding even one thing it can be grateful for.