It’s a very powerful choice, the option we’re given each day, about where we direct our energy and attention.
At its heart, it seems to be a matter of how we might choose to shift and raise our emotional tone.
This is the daily gift, the one already bestowed, that we needn’t earn or search for or figure out how to “get”. It’s waiting in each day, hour, and moment, in unlimited supply. The limits arise from how we might overlook, dismiss, or ignore it. This may be the root of the very definition of ignorance.
Yet the mercy is that even when we forget, overlook, or ignore, we can begin again, as many times as we like, or need. And the grace is that the more that we do, the more that practice seems to help us reach for the kindness of this option more quickly – to want to reach for it, even when the pull from inner insistence, demand to be right, tug at us especially hard. It can feel like an act of empowerment to choose this constructive response over allowing those other reactions to run wild like a pack of unruly dogs.
Why does that old pull succeed in snagging us at all? The answers are typically the usual suspects. Firstly, it will bring some sort of pay-off – some degree of pleasure, certainly, and also, some element of pain can be a pay-off, too, because it’s more fuel for the story we’ll tell ourselves about it, and the identity we’ll start to spin and weave around that.
Oh, the sweet freedom of stepping into the mid-air spaciousness of not choosing any of those old, misdirected habits, those premature conclusions based only on past experience. The lower end of the emotional scale has one agenda: let’s wallow in what it means to be miserable, and let’s be right. And, perhaps, an even bigger agenda: let’s avoid facing the reality of the matter at all.
Eroding into a negative and displeased emotional tone is usually about either resisting or running away from emotion that arises, rather than actually meeting it and feeling. Like waves that are going to wash up on the beach of life, feelings will come, and bring with them an energy and a momentum.
When I don’t invest in a lower emotional tone, don’t buttress and reinforce it, shrug it on like a cloak, take it up like a duty or a sentence, there’s an inner vision, a spirit of faith just waiting to reach toward the lift and propelling joy of a higher one. It gives energy rather than taking it. It feels wonderful, like a favorite memory. It’s always a possibility, as long as some story, some made-up figment that’s never been real, isn’t allowed to convince me otherwise.
I must remind myself that the human world offers very little reinforcement for this; often, none. But I am well capable of remembering what does — and of asking for help when I forget.