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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

Inner Divestment & Positivity

Oh, blessed rain! On the porch earlier this morning, the sound of rain dripping from gutters, the quiet of a holiday morning when people are not rushing off to places… a favorite line from Mary Oliver comes to mind:

“Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning! Watch now how I start the day in happiness, in kindness…”

A word has been bubbling in my mind for the last few days: “Divestment.”

I received an email from Bill McKibben and 350.org (a great organization) celebrating the fact that Obama had “given a shout out” to the fossil fuel divestment movement.

How powerful divestment can be – it helped bring an end to apartheid, and perhaps it could change our strong dependence on fossil fuel.

But where I have been reflecting on the incredible power of divestment is in my own attention.

What are the “inner fossil fuels” from which I could stand to divest?

Aspects that were at times beneficial, even necessary, but are clearly no longer life giving?

How much stock do I still hold in, say “judgement of others?” “inner critic?” in “what would so and so think about this?” or “if only I had, (or hadn’t) done this….”

What are the seeds that I’m watering in the moment to moment-ness of my life?

Erin has mentioned before the image that neurologist Rick Hanson gives of how our brains are hard wired to greet negative experience like velcro and positive experiences like teflon.

Which, when there are saber-tooth cats around can be very useful, but perhaps not so supportive for health and well being in our modern times.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a research psychologist, in her book, Positivity (a book well worth exploring) describes a mathematical equation around human happiness and well being.

Through vast amounts of hard scientific research she discovered that a ratio of experiencing three positive experiences to one negative one brings about a turning point in terms of our longevity, well being, health, creativity, and our ability to connect, among many other things. An excerpt:

“Positivity opens us. The first core truth about positive emotions is that they open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and more creative.”

“Scientists have shown that because positive and open mindsets produce exploration and experiential learning, they also come to produce more accurate mental maps of the world.”

Writer and researcher Dr. John Gottman came up with a 5 to 1 positive to negative ratio for couples as the tipping point for relationships to thrive. 5 times of openness, appreciation, laughter, awe, magnetism for every one of those, “I can’t believe you did that…again!”

Certainly not the ratio I grew up with watching relationships on sitcoms.

If I actually pause, and take that ratio in, I have some tenderness in my heart, noticing how rarely I have seen couples with that ratio in their interactions.

Erin’s Nana and Papa still have it in their 80s. (Perhaps theirs is more like 10-1.)

I feel immensely grateful that Erin and I share a ratio heavy on the positivity side.

Of course, we still have the regular moments of habitually contracting around what the other did or didn’t do, but our baseline is one of appreciation, openness, celebration of the other.

We celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary on July 1st and 2nd, (we had a private and a public wedding and celebrate both) – so I have had time to reflect on, and appreciate our unique journey together :)

It is so easy for positivity to seem Pollyana-ish, but it is not.

Positivity is how poet Mary Oliver greets her mornings, it is what is coming out of research and neuroscience labs as important for human well-being, and it is what Rumi saw in Shams’ eyes.

With that, I would like to offer a Hafiz poem that I shared a few weeks back (because with any of the Persian mystics, if you are really receiving them, their poems will often hit harder the second time than the first, and more each time after that.)

I offer this poem with the invitation to wonder into your current investment profile – where are you squeezing drops from the sun, and where are you dragging behind the camel, waiting for the next fart?

Wishing you Independence and

life giving investments,

Carl

Cast All Your Votes for Dancing

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.
I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.
But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.
You can stay that way
And even bloom!
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter.
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear,
From the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.
You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom
And Love.
Whenever you say God’s name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!
O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter
And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
Now, sweet one, be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!

-Hafiz

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