Positivity: It’s your choice

Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. –Ecclesiastes 9:7

Dear Members & Friends of the SF Swedenborgian Church,

We all know that life is full of challenge and struggles, and there is no one among us who can claim, “I have no concerns whatsoever!” Does this mean that we must always be focused on our challenges and struggles? If we decided that we could not be happy unless we resolved all our problems, we would never be happy! After living about 47 years, I am pretty sure about one thing: our mind does much better when we focus on positive feelings rather than the negative ones, especially regarding oneself and one’s life. The surprising truth is that the ability and power to set one’s mood is actually within oneself (with some exceptions of mental illness and medical complications). In other words, what is filling our mind with negative feelings is not the challenging events happening around us, but the negative way we process them.

Here is a story from Zen Speaks which illustrates this idea:

There was once a poor farmer who discovered a priceless statue of one of the eighteen Buddhist Arhats (holy men) on a hillside in a forest. The farmer’s family and friends were all very excited about the find because the statue was not only a famous ancient relic, but also made of pure gold. But the farmer felt dejected and just sat around with a worried look on his face. So a friend of his asked, “You’re a wealthy man now. What are you so worried about?” The farmer replied, “I am worried because I still don’t know where the seventeen other Arhats are!”

Of course, the farmer never was able to find any other golden statues of the Arhats. Thus, he was never happy despite the fortune that came to him as a blessing. All the advice and reassurance from his friends and family was useless to him because he already fixated his mind on the remaining golden statues. What this ancient story reveals to us is an obvious truth about the mechanism of our mind. Like a computer, once you install one kind of operating system, it is very hard to change it to another operating system. Once we’ve set our minds on something, it is very hard to change course, even if we acknowledge that it is set the wrong way. Ideally, we would set our mind on a proper path to begin with, but since this is not always realistic, instead we can focus on and work toward a more positive mindset, despite the hardships of life. Ultimately, the most important truth from all religious wisdom is that you have the power to choose your outlook on life, whether it be negative or positive.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee