This story originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, 2/20/16.
How do you see life? Do you look at it as a series of struggles to overcome? Or do you view life with wonder and focus on the small and big moments that bring you joy and passion and love.
It’s funny how our frame of mind shapes our world, how when we expect bad things to happen they often do, and how when we expect things to turn out for the best we are often right. The old saying appears to be true: Life is a mirror and it reflects back to us what we think into it.
“You find what you look for: good or evil, problems or solutions.”
The above quote from John Templeton sums up the intimate relationship between our state-of-mind and the state of the world around us. Within each day and within each moment, we have the opportunity to look at life in a positive light or to put on dark-tinted glasses and see life as dreary and foreboding.
I know that for some, life is hard. They struggle with addictions or illnesses, are in soul-crushing relationships or have trouble keeping a roof over their head or food on the table. But if you don’t fall into those categories and still see life as a downer, it’s time to take a fresh look.
We can all expect, in the words of the Dude, to face “strikes and gutters, ups and downs…”—but many of life’s difficulties come from putting our own negative spin on events or failing to see hardships as learning experiences that prepare us for future growth. I bumped into a short poem by the talented young writer and yogini Sara Courter who reminds us that our past experiences shape us into the people we are today.
You’re so hard on yourself.
Take a moment.
Marvel at your life:
at the grief that softened you,
at the heartache that wisened you,
at the suffering that strengthened you.
You still grow,
Within each moment of each day, we have the opportunity to turn things around. To view our own lives as noble undertakings in which we are active participants in doing what is good and right for ourselves and those around us. In the words of John Templeton:
We can see ourselves as patient and considerate. We can think of ourselves as focused and strong in all circumstances—strong with the ability to reach out a loving hand; strong with the ability to speak the right words, to take the right actions, and to become an unshakeable tower of strength, love and light.
The power resides within us to change the way we view the world, to become these beacons of strength and love and light. It’s not something anyone else can do for us, it’s something we must do for ourselves—and it starts with having the right frame of mind. As Templeton says:
You can complain because rosebushes have thorns…or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. It’s all how you look at it.
I recently published the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel. It’s available at Amazon.