Are you open to the possibility that...
- Something awesome can happen to you today?
- The obstacles this pandemic has created will cultivate your greatest strength?
- The person who upset you didn't do it on purpose, they were just tired?
- An awesome day can follow a rough morning?
- There's beauty in the mundane?
- Positive change, in any area of your life, is possible?
- We can appreciate all moments, even the not-so-great ones?
- There's someone you can be of service to today?
As I typed out these questions, I was reminded of a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace that I come back to often, This Is Water.
In it he expresses how the recent college graduates haven't yet had to drudge through difficult days, day in and day out. In the speech he offers a lot of wisdom on how one can take drastically different meanings from the exact same situation.
The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop.
and then goes on to say...
It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.
Our default mode of thinking typically doesn't help us flourish. We have an ancient brain that is best designed to do two things we rarely if ever have to do anymore, fight or flight. Therefore we have to become conscious of the mundane and choose. Previously in the speech, DFW spoke of the traffic jam he was driving in due to all of the large, gas-guzzling vehicles in his way. Now...
The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.
Or the advice he offers when one is quick to judge who someone is and what they must be like based on how they look.
But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
It just depends what you want to consider.
And how can you expand your considerations and possibilities? I’ll offer three simple steps.
- Take a deep breath. Drop into your body and create space from whatever your natural, unconscious reaction may be.
- Ask yourself: can I be 100% certain that my perception of reality is correct here? Can I be absolutely certain that my first reaction is wholly accurate?
- Having acknowledged that we can never be 100% correct, consider other possibilities. Consider that whatever is happening is actually positive, that whatever happens contains beauty.
Be open to the possibility.