“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”
Have you ever considered just exactly how lucky you are? You and I are both very fortunate indeed. We happen to live on a planet where the conditions were just right so as to evolve life – including you and I.
This is the so-called “Goldilocks effect”. A planet has to be just the right distance from its star so that it receives just the right amount of energy – not too much, not too little – so that it allows liquid water to exist, an atmosphere to form, and a number of other conditions to exist so that life may emerge and evolve. Recently, scientists have been discovering more and more planets out in the universe that appear to be in this opportune position. The vast majority of planets are not.
When one stops to consider all the multitude of things that had to go just right in order for our earth to be in the right spot for the potential of life, followed by all the various events that had to happen just the way they did so that life actually sprang forth and evolved and then for the process of evolution to bring forth humans with their ability to have self-awareness to consider this chain of events – it’s mind-boggling! Just consider the fact that even after life and evolved such that dinosaurs ruled, it was only a devastating asteroid plunging into the earth causing the dinosaurs’ extinction that allowed small furry mammals to flourish. Our distant mammalian ancestors thrived and evolved ultimately into all the variety of mammals that exist today – including humans – thanks to that chance asteroid collision.
The fact that humans evolved and that you and I can consider that evolutionary path in this moment owes a lot to an infinite string of good luck. Now, you might believe that somewhere along the way this luck was aided by a God or alien beings, but even if we were – I call that good luck too! Either way, you and I are really lucky to be here.
Yet, our luck continues! Even beyond all the chance events that led to the evolution of humanity, consider all of the actions that had to line up just perfectly for you and I to be where we are right in this moment. All of the relationships that brought all of our ancestors together to allow our parents to exist had to occur just as they did. Our parents had to meet – well at least there had to be a meeting of their sperm and egg at some point no matter how it occurred. The pregnancy had to go well. You had to survive childhood. Illnesses came and went, yet you healed and continued. Various close encounters occurred along the path of your life which if they had gone another way, you wouldn’t be here. Consider how you feel when you hear about others dying in accidents or with illnesses and realize that could’ve been you–but it wasn’t!
Yes, you and I are pretty fortunate indeed. Now that’s not to say we haven’t had life events which were less than what we would’ve chosen. We have all had some pain, some challenge, some struggle along the way. There may be things going on in your life right now which are not what you want to be experiencing. Losses of jobs, decreases in income, ending of relationships, illnesses and disease, deaths of pets and loved ones and similar events occur to all of us. There are certainly a lot of things going on in our collective world–war, poverty, climate change, population issues, and so on that may cause us consternation. Yet these experiences don’t negate how privileged our lives ultimately are.
I admit that when we are in the middle of one of life’s downturns, they can be depressing. It’s hard to feel lucky when you’re in the midst of one of these experiences. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, when we look back upon those events with some passage of time and some personal growth, we can usually see that there was a gift we received in the midst of the challenge. The bad has good when we can ultimately see it.
I recall a number of years ago my feelings when my first marriage ended. I was upset and depressed. I felt like a failure. I was embarrassed. After selling the new home that my first wife and I had built together with all its luxury features and then finding myself in a small, old rented duplex, I remember lying on the bed crying my eyes out over the pain I felt. How could I be living in this crummy place all by myself? I could see no gift in that moment. Yet a year later, I remember looking at my duplex with a sense of joy – how close it was to the park, how quickly I could get to work, how easy it was to clean, how much freedom I had to do as I chose each day. In that moment, I was realizing the gift from the same experiences that a year before I had pointed to as evidence of my pain.
Now, years removed from these experiences – with a new home and new relationship and other life changes that have brought other gifts that could’ve only occurred by my moving through the pain of divorce, including writing this– I see what a gift that time was. So much goodness in the present has sprung up directly because of the pain of the past. Yes, I’m lucky. You are too. It’s all in how you look at it.
How do you choose to look at life? As the joke goes, are you a half glass full or half glass empty kind of person? Do you see things as going from bad to worse or do you continuously have a feeling of optimism? Somehow or another, each of us – in spite of any negative current situation – would be served by living with a sense of gratitude for life.
There are many ways to build more thankfulness into our lives. Most of us are familiar with the technique of keeping a gratitude journal – take 10 minutes each night before you go to bed and write down everything you can think of that you are grateful for. When you awake in the morning and before you get out of bed, stop and take a few minutes to feel and sense gratitude for this day. Throughout your day, step outside of the busyness of the moment and reflect upon what you’re thankful for right then. The technique is unimportant. It’s the direction of your attention that is.
As Oprah Winfrey said, ” What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” I know this may sound very strange to you – airy fairy kind of stuff, but no matter…it’s true and the benefits of developing gratitude are being recognized in more mainstream ways.
Srikumar Rao has taught for the Columbia business school in New York and the London business school in England. The college professor still recalls his frustration one day with a student’s question and his judging the student’s abilities. When he later discovered that the student was working two jobs while attending classes, Rao’s heart opened in compassion. He later stated, “I should be grateful.” He realized in that moment that one of the purposes in his role as professor was to ignite the passion of his students. This shift ultimately resulted in a class Rao developed around creativity and mastery where he focuses on the importance of fostering gratitude and authoring books like “Happiness at Work”. He also found a renewed sense of purpose in his own life.
As Rao writes, ” Life is short. And uncertain. It is like a drop of water skittering around on a lotus leaf. You never know when it will drop off the edge and disappear. So each day is far too precious to waste. And each day that you are not radiantly alive and brimming with cheer is a day wasted.”
So are you radiantly alive and brimming with cheer? Do you see the gift of your life every day? I love my life. I love living in this world with all the great experiences that it brings me. I love my family and friends. I love my physical comforts. I love the beauty of the earth. I love my personal freedoms. I love my country and I love the world.
The bottom line is this – you are “at choice” in every moment of your life. You get to choose whether you see life is a struggle or as a gift. You get to choose how you react to every experience in your life. You are not a billiard ball getting whacked by a cue ball and having to go in a specific direction. You get to choose your reaction–how you see your life in every moment. And then, that choice reflects back to you the future events in your life. Maybe not immediately, but it does bring them about eventually if you stay focused on seeing the goodness. Yes, your consciousness creates your reality.
You’re going to read a lot here about directing your thoughts, words and actions in the direction in which you would like to move your personal life. You will also hear me mentioning frequently that we all play a role in the manifestation of the vision for our highest collective life on planet Earth. I recognize that your worldview may cause you to argue against your thoughts having such power. You may have read about the “law of attraction” and considered it a bunch of bull. After all, haven’t we all thought about something really hard and then not experiencing what we thought about? Each of us can probably come up with plenty of personal examples about how this can’t be a “law” because you’ve seen it apparently broken many times. Gravity is a law, you think. It always works.
Maybe it would be better if the “law of attraction” had been called the “theory of the power of consciousness” or something similar. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to point out that back before the 20th century, many would use the word “law” for what we now term a “theory”. It could be that the distant origins of the recognition of the power of our thoughts may be why it became labeled a “law”. Tyson also points out that by something being labeled a theory, it calls us to continuously check its validity as the best explanation for what we are experiencing. We still call evolution a theory even though the evidence is overwhelming that the theory is correct. Using the word theory allows us to be open to the possibility that our current understanding will be enveloped by an even greater understanding in the future.
Now I happen to believe that there’s overwhelming evidence in support of the creative power of our thoughts. If you don’t believe that there is, go stop and read about the placebo effect and really consider what is happening. Every time a new drug is tested before coming to market, that drug test has to take into account the power of the individual’s mind to affect change in the body absence of any real medicine. Every drug test recognizes that some people will effectuate healings and physical changes simply because they think they will based on taking something–including the sugar pill which one group gets. Drugs have to be found statistically more effective than placebos to come to market. Scientists like to explain this healing power away by labeling it the “placebo effect”. It’s like if we label it, we put it in a box and think we understand it. The fact is science really does not understand how it works. Yet any scientist who’s truly honest about it, will admit that there is some power in our thoughts that can direct changes in our physical body.
Even beyond the placebo effect, there have been a number of other scientific tests such as on the power of prayer in healing that have indicated positive results. Yes, I realize there are some that have not. But like any good scientific theory being approached by a good scientifically open mind, there should be continuous testing on the theory’s validity. Unfortunately, the potential truth of the power of the mind challenges some scientists’ view of the world so much that giving any credence to the theory would place a crack in their belief system that they simply cannot accept. The result is a closed mind.
For now, I simply ask you to consider having an open mind – what if it’s true? What if my thoughts have power? How can I check it in my own life? On the outside chance that the effect is real, wouldn’t it be better to focus my thoughts and intentions on positive things – on how I would like to see life? Once again, you’re at choice.
Whether you believe that your thoughts have power or not, we still are at choice as to how you’re going to show up in life. Are you going to be focusing on the negative or the positive? Are you going to be seeing yourself as a victim of negative circumstances or someone who is living an extremely fortunate life in spite of certain circumstances? Have you ever considered how lucky you really are? You are, you know.
Personal exercise: Stop reading for a moment – look up and gaze around the room. Consider your life in this moment – your health, relationships, possessions, intelligence and so on. What are you grateful for? Where you see the gifts in your life? Take a couple minutes to reflect upon that and then return to your regularly scheduled life.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!