Sharon Salzberg

‘The tendency for most of us each day is to focus on life’s problems. More often than not, we find ourselves lamenting the prickly patch of our long-term relationship rather than stopping to appreciate its strengths; the moments of incredible boredom at work seem to outweigh the interesting aspects. We’re wired with what’s called negativity bias — an evolutionary instinct to look out for threats so that we can escape them unharmed.

But we can learn to work with negativity bias. That doesn’t mean that I think that we can all just flip the gratitude switch on. For better or worse, that’s not how life works — and in fact, gratitude is definitely not automatic for me. To this day, even speaking as someone who encourages the practice, I have found myself thinking at times that gratitude can seem like a glorified form of denial, a way of papering over problems by posting inspirational quotes to social media, by labeling everything in life “a blessing.”

But each time that dismissive instinct kicks in, I encourage myself to remember that being grateful doesn’t mean I have to keep a gratitude jar that counts my blessings. It just means I can reset my thoughts, just like in meditation, and choose instead to gently settle my attention on something positive. We don’t erase the pain — it’s still there — but we can broaden our perspective by opening to our pain and also opening to things other than the suffering we feel.’ (from Instagram)

There are two thoughts here that I often try to reflect in my teaching: how evolution has set us up to be the way we are, and how usually a sense of broadening rather than choosing is a way to liberation, as in the recent bell hooks post.


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