Let’s try an experiment.

Let’s try an experiment. Make a list of what brings you joy/ fun. Without too much thinking jot down what opens you to joy and leads to fun. 1) The birds at the feeder, morning, noon and dusk. 2) Chuck whistling. 3) Poppy running full speed over the hills. 4) Norah (my 5-month-old grand niece) laughing. 4) Hearing the UUFM choir sing. 5) The first crocus. 6) The return of the eastern phoebe. 7) Seeing bald eagles close to home. 8) A warm hen’s egg in a cold hand. 9) Dusk, sunset. 10) A rollicking talk with a friend. 9) A newborn calf wobbling after its mother. 11) The unimpeded Milky Way. 12) A story of someone overcoming adversity. 13) Old Maxi Cat in a game of chase with young Freja. 14) When a hidden connection reveals its truth. 15) Fireflies undulating over the meadow. 16) 10 foot bluestem. 17) When UUism saves someone’s life … 18) Looking at Chuck’s drawings … 19) A night fire with a coyote and owl chorus … 20) When communication is clear and loving …

Title the next list grief/sad and proceed. 1) My neighbor shooting coyotes. 2) When my mother feels forgotten. 3) When people I care about fail to seek common ground when they share similar visions. 4) Allowing the petty to obstruct big dreams. 5) Moments of impatience when Chuck can’t recall something we have agreed upon recently. 6) A cruel remark. 7) The cutting down of a grand old tree. 8) When I get travel anxiety. 9) A society that fails to care for its children, the elderly, racial inequality in prisons … 10) When an LGBT teen kills themselves. 11) Whenever anyone kills themselves because of isolation, fear, treatable depression … 12) When anyone loses a loved one, friend, partner, spouse, mother, father, cousin, pet … 13) Poorly funded schools. 14) Gun violence. 15) Pollution. 16) Loss of songbirds and the wild. 17) When people do not understand anxiety disorders and brain damage; lack of empathy. 18) Perfectionism that kills the spirit. 19) Collapsing the richness of diversity into a thinness of possibility. 20) Poverty mentality, the sense that we do not have the resources, the will to do more than we are doing …

Wow! What a difference between how I feel after completing the first and second lists. I should have started with the second one, because now there is a pain in my back, a heaviness in my heart, I don’t feel like moving … When I finished the first I felt the possibilities of spring in my bones, a lightness, an eagerness, ready for what comes …

What we focus on makes a difference in our individual and shared lives. If we focus on what we can’t do, what has gone wrong, the losses, forward energy sinks into inertia. When we focus on what brings a smile, cheer, warmth, goodness, then the feeling that we can do more rises. This is not to imply that the practical, a hard look at reality is worthless, but it does suggest that if one does not turn toward what brings joy and a sense of fun it is very difficult to move forward.

Optimism does not come naturally to most people, but it is a skill that one can develop. It enables one to refine the way they use their energy and resources that create more possibilities for success. Becoming proficient at being positive, expert at enjoying, fine at having fun, expands the capacity to be fully in the world. It is much easier to face the problems and challenges of life with a supple and reliable capacity for joy. Progressive faith fails if everything is reduced to limitations. Confidence in what is possible generates hope and increases the chances for good things to happen. Experiences of sadness, loss and failure provide opportunities for wisdom to root but to make them a dwelling place is to ensure despair. It is what we make out of our suffering that counts. Liberal religion asks us to find meaning in whatever happens and to position ourselves towards the bright side of hope.

Michael

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