Lens polishing

A great lens: see green, feel joy. Green is a reminder for me to be grateful for plants.

Claiming creation is the hardest step for most people to take. Even in healthy people there are often subtle, hidden pockets of victimhood tucked away in areas of their personalities.

Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, Conscious Loving

Once, I played a very dark song for a friend, who remarked that David Berman (the songwriter), was looking at life in a dysfunctional way. In fact, shortly after writing this song, Berman hung himself.

I believe that some lenses lead to more joy, aliveness, love and engagement with life, while other lenses lead to despair, loneliness, anger and the like.

We can all use some lens polishing. This is a big function of meditation, psychotherapy, and introspective practices of all stripes. We accumulate dirt on our lenses as we walk through life. It is helpful to bring this dirt to light, so we can wipe our lenses clean.

Here is running list of lenses I aspire to adopt. By writing them down explicitly, I hope to make it easier to remind myself of them.

Here goes nothing:

  • Life = a canvas on which to paint. This is in contrast to the victim mindset. Even in dire Viktor Frankl-esque circumstances, we have the ability to create meaning. And in less dire circumstances, we have a whole lot more power to craft our worlds than we give ourselves credit for. A major impediment to claiming this freedom, I think, is fear.
  • Life = a classroom. All of life’s moments — painful and pleasant alike — have something to teach us. There is no good or bad. It’s all a classroom.
  • Life = inextricably interdependent. In college, after reading “The selfish gene” I subconsciously bought the idea that life is dog-eat-dog and the point of it is to “win,” which means, in evolutionary terms, to have as many offspring as possible. But there would be no humans without bees, trees, mushrooms, insects, predators…The whole earth is one big ecosystem. The people getting awards on stage have farmers and bees and mushrooms to thank for their accolades. The countries getting powerful because of colonialism and extraction will, one day, realize that this path will lead to ruin. We have to start thinking like one big earth team, not a collection of competing individuals.
  • Love = something I can create within myself. Sharon Saltzberg said something like, “If I want more love in this conversation, maybe I need to bring that in.” We can train our minds for compassion and lovingkindness.
  • A relationship = something we create; it’s an ecosystem, a garden. Just like we can work on a garden to bring in beneficial insects and compost, we can work on a relationship by bringing in attention, quality time, and working on ourselves.
  • An activist = a pixel. No one activist can “save the world.” We can though, show up and move the needle a little bit in a positive direction.
  • A person = a collection of parts, with a wise true nature, not an essential quality (e.g. an asshole…). When we see someone as an essential quality, for example all good or all bad, we can just as easily do that to ourselves. To paraphrase Whitman: we are large, we contain multitudes.
  • Similar to the above, every moment = a field of paradox. Multiple things, contradictory things, can be true at the same time. If I sleep poorly and feel tired, in the same moment, another part of my body can feel good.

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