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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

How to Trust Goodness in the Face of Life’s Tragedies

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One of the most difficult times to attempt trusting in goodness is during or immediately after a tragedy when our thoughts and emotions wrestle with the apparent absence of any goodness at all. Nevertheless, it is precisely during such times that we may long to trust that goodness is present. Might we be able to walk through our challenges with more courage if we had a deep-seated conviction that goodness is available, despite our difficulties?  Possibly. But, trusting in the presence of goodness takes practice, as it does in any new skill. When done regularly, it can develop into a lifelong habit. Don’t wait until tragedy strikes to begin developing the habit of trusting goodness. 

Consider getting started now with these suggestions:

Break the habit of not noticing

Unexpected events in our lives, such as tragedies and emergencies, have a way of drawing our attention to what is going on. When this happens, our thoughts become so focused on dealing with life’s calamities, that we stop noticing what ordinary goodness may be present. It takes a resolute personal commitment to carve out time to notice goodness. A simple practice might be to take time each day to list such ordinary things as a warm bed, a loving pet, the kindness of friends, or family. It may seem impossible for a traumatized mind to redirect thinking in this way, but in time, the practice will anchor you to a world view in which you become inclined to notice goodness.

Have confidence in your ability to be generous

There is nothing more sweetly restorative than connecting to other people through generosity. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; indeed, when we are suffering, even a smile may seem difficult to accomplish. Nevertheless, generosity brings people together and can have the effect of changing our emotions by reuniting us with something innate, restoring, and beautiful: our goodness. A practice that is useful to me when I need to remember goodness, is to send greeting cards to my friends, acknowledging the goodness that they bring into my life.

Make a date with nature

Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tracked the effect of a 90-minute walk through a quiet, natural setting. Subjects showed a decrease in brooding on negative aspects of their lives. The results of the study suggest that access to natural spots may be essential for mental health in a rapidly urbanizing world. A beneficial practice to boost confidence in goodness is to make a date to sit or walk in a garden, or in nature, with no agenda other than to just be present there. The effects of being in nature include a reduction in stress and fatigue and an increase in happiness and creativity.

Keep practicing

My workout partner was told by his doctor that he should start meditating for increased wellness. My friend asked me if I could provide him with a short bullet list of some key ideas about meditation so that he could decide if it was a suitable practice for him. His request was partly tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at the contemporary taste for fast and effortless answers that many people have for even the most deep-seated questions, such as how to trust goodness in the face of life’s tragedies.

I explained to my friend that real progress in meditation comes from doing it, and that he could no more experience meditation by reading a bullet list than he could expect to learn how to play the violin by studying a blog article. So it is with something as radically transformative as trusting in goodness. It takes careful attention, and it comes with practice. It takes moment-by-moment awareness, and a steadfast willingness to turn your attention in a direction that seems counter-intuitive to your reasoning mind. As author Allan Lokos wrote, "you must practice a practice for it to be effective."

Edward Viljoen, author of Ordinary Goodness, The Surprisingly Effortless Path to Creating a Life of Meaning and Beauty

photo by Renatto Mora, unsplash.com

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