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Resistance to Taking in the Good

Eddie Grassi, Point Lobos CA August July 29, 2018

Do you remember the last time you refused something really good? While it may sound counterintuitive, people do it all the time. We resist the opportunity to take in the good.  Even though it is all around us, like low hanging fruit, we may have our reasons not to accept it.  The invitation to let in the good isn't always a given.  For instance, you feel you do not deserve to be happy or that you are not worthy to receive its benefits.  Or maybe you have doubts about happiness because of past experiences in which the idea of being happy did not work out so well.    

Another idea you may hold is that this stuff about happiness just doesn't work; it's a sham.   You may think to yourself, "no way, not trying this junk.  It's a waste of time."  There's also the thought that you already are happy so there's no need for more.  All of these possibilities can make you feel resistant.  And guess what? That's totally normal.   

At one time or another, I had all these thoughts and feelings.  I was that skeptical person who always resisted and rationalized my decision.  It was just safer; I couldn't fail at what I didn't try.  Now when I look back, I think underneath I was afraid that it might hurt to go through this process, despite the fact that it was about being positive and happy.  I knew that sometimes focusing on happiness can also evoke unexpected feelings of sadness and anger because to be happy, can sometimes mean an encounter with unresolved sadness and anger.  Sometimes, you are just not ready to do that kind of work.  Then again, when will you be?  

In my journey, I came to accept all of this as resistance to change, not suddenly overnight.   The resistance hung around: Why change myself? I'm already happy.  It was much much easier to prescribe, recommend and suggest others try it.  Just not me.  I was okay.  That was my thinking for a long time.  And it needed to be corrected. 

I can't say what opened my eyes to change but change I did and for the better.  

People helped me open up to the possibility of being fully actualized.  There was also a book I came across. I started reading a book called Hardwiring Happiness.  This book had a profound impact on my life.  Though it wasn't the only thing that helped me find true happiness, (I have many people to thank for that including my wife and family, mother and father).  In the book,  the author claimed that a simple technique called taking in the good or positive could radically change my brain for the better.  Defensively, I thought, "Yeah, right.  Not fooling me."  

Then I read further about this idea of taking in positive experiences could do things like build lasting confidence and calmness.  That appealed to me greatly.  In that instant, I promised myself I would try it out wholeheartedly, exactly as explained.  As I read more, I learned that happiness equated with peace, love, determination, kindness, wellness and more.   Happiness wasn't something abstract that you just felt, it was all these other qualities.  Rick Hanson calls them inner strengths.  I thought wow, my tank can definitely use more of them.

I did exactly what Rick Hanson said (or at least tried to), which is to just notice anything positive in my experience or thoughts and fix my attention on it.   "Rest your mind" on it as he says.   

Flashback two months ago.  My day started with telling myself I would just open my awareness to anything that was positive or good, no matter how big or small.  I will admit, the idea seemed a bit contrived but I went with it.  I remember deciding I needed to go for a run and so I left the house and began running my usual route to Lake Merced.  

I noticed the customary things along the way; the pine trees, the hillside, the cars driving along, the paved cement path, the blue sky with fog making its way inland.   All of this had a different look though, as if I were seeing things in greater detail and color.  The world around me seemed to be more vibrant, living and immediate.   And that's when I realized I was taking in the good.  My senses came to life like I hadn't felt in a long time.    Suddenly, I was alert and aware of something more in my existence then myself.  The feast afforded me by the all the splendors of nature was waking me up to a gratitude I hadn't felt since I was a child.

This I think was what Emerson tried to convey in his poems- that life is happening all around us and we can celebrate we are part.   I took more than the recommended 30 seconds to internalize this.  I just wanted to stay in this feeling of revery as I ran past trees, blackbirds in flight and hillside rocks and roots exposed and ice plants, weeds growing wild and windy.

I am not here to say that I had some epiphany or earth shattering experience when I tried it.  I just felt a deep sense of gratitude at being alive, a member of such beautiful natural creations.  

To turn this into an inner strength, I kept it in my awareness for quite some time.  Replaying it in my mind, I also tried to link it with a new determination I felt in trying to take in the good.  Crucially, these two experiences, one of gratitude and the other of determination, went from being states of mind to traits of mind because I did something extra with them.  

Now as I write these lines two months later, there is an increased awareness of gratitude within.  I want to keep growing it and other strengths like determination and calmness.  I know that this experience of gratitude has been hardwired into me, changing the neural structure of my brain which in turn has changed my mind.   

It's good taking in the good.   I hope you try it too!

Eddie Grassi


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