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Stop Gritting Your Teeth and Start Looking For Gold

Updated: May 24, 2022

"I have been finding treasures in places I did not want to search, finding beauty where I did not want to look." - Suzy Kassem, 'Rise Up And Salute The Sun'.

I attended church yesterday. And although this may seem like an article about religion, that is not my intention. It’s really about a process which can help us all find a more rewarding life of compassion and possibility. It just so happens that it begins in church with a scripture.

My husband was the scripture reader. He had already told me what the scripture was about –Jesus feeding a multitude of people with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

I could feel myself gritting my teeth. Clenching and grinding. I noticed my thoughts. My thinking could be generally characterized as “bah, humbug.” A grouchy part of me wanted to point out the nonsense of such an occurrence ever happening. I was not looking forward to a message based on such an unbelievable scripture story. I was stressing myself out in dreadful anticipation.

However, my husband did a clever thing. He gave a little overview of the scripture and then, though I can’t remember his exact words, prefaced his reading by saying something like, “I’d like you to find something good, something interesting, something useful or inspiring in this scripture. Then I would like for you to share what you found later with a friend.

Uh oh, I was not prepared for that. My mind was all set to find things to scoff at, to dislike, to disagree with, to dismiss - see as unhelpful and irrelevant to modern life.

I decided to give the looking-for-the-good technique a whirl for two reasons. First, I know the research around our human (some of us more than others) tendency to take a negative slant on ourselves, on others, on life. Looking for the good seemed like a useful process to attempt to balance my negativity bias. Second, I decided to treasure hunt because it sounded rather fun. I was curious if I could find anything of worth.

What I experienced was rather mind-blowing.

The re-orientation not only allowed me to think about the Biblical passage in new ways, but the effect was more far reaching. I used the term “mind-blowing.” I’m not sure that’s the best label, but I’ll try to describe it further. It seemed as if my routine ways of thinking had become stuck in a rut and this process was propelling me up, out, and forward. It was wildly expansive.

Earlier that morning, I had been thinking about several people who were suffering in various ways - some emotionally, some financially, some physically. As I thought how their suffering might be alleviated – what options were available, everything looked bleak.

Somehow the work of re-orienting my mind to find treasures in places I didn’t want to look shook up my brain. To co-opt my husband’s dental lingo, the shift in my approach took the pressure off my temporal mandibular joint and relaxed my facial muscles (because I had stopped gritting my teeth in my mental effort to push back against the scripture.) My inner skeptical Scrooge could step aside as he was not presently needed.

Then voila, I was free to mentally treasure hunt through the miracle scripture and message. AND not only did I find various spiritual pearls, but also, surprisingly came up with some quite doable approaches for those other bleak life situations which seemed like lost causes.

John and I woke up this morning marveling about how a determined shift of perspective toward finding “a pearl” - looking for the good even in places we don’t want to look, can engage us and quite often reward us with incredible treasure.

There is a popular quote credited to self-help guru, Dr. Wayne Dyer, “When you change what you look at, what you look at changes. Now this could be a bit disconcerting, frightening even, if you’re a person who thinks you have a good handle on reality. But if you’re game for transformation, this can be…well…mind-blowing. We can start to see things, people, ourselves, situations in a new light with huge possibilities we had overlooked.

Psychologists and neuroscientists tell us we have mental filters which can blind us, block us, limit us. One way we can get around it is to engage our minds in new ways like – looking for the good, for the treasure, for the useful, and the inspiring and interesting. The approach can be especially personally transforming when we employ it with our most boring, irritating, disagreeable, stressful places, people, situations, and possibly passages of scripture.

How might we Journey toward The Good Life by shifting our focus, getting around our usual mental filters and looking for the good?

P.S. I am wanting to hear your thoughts, my friends. I believe we think better together. There is no comments section, but if you hit reply to this blog, your comments will come directly to me; no one else will see them. Feel free to “talk” back. With Love, June


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