I’m blessed to live five blocks from the ocean. Sometimes as I’m waking up in the quiet of early morning, I can hear the waves. They sound like distant avalanches, coming down in a rhythmic procession.
This morning I woke up at 5:00 a.m. with a sore throat. I lay there alternately feeling sorry for myself and trying to envision healing energy soothing my throat. Then I noticed the waves. They were barely within earshot; I had to completely still my mind in order to hear them. They captured my full attention. After a few minutes I realized I hadn’t been feeling the sore throat at all. The waves had become my reality.
Where our attention goes, our reality is. I’m learning (painstakingly) to corral my attention and direct it toward the good stuff. When the mind rolls into its rut of self-judgment or poor-me or isn’t-life-hard, I’m learning to recognize that as suffering. And learning to transform the suffering by focusing on something else… like good deeds I’ve managed to do, or magical moments with my nieces, or Ellen Degeneres dancing.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The Kingdom of God, the wonders of life, are always available. But are we available to them?” Shifting our attention from gloom and pessimism to wonders, delights, enthralling ocean sounds, is a skill worth cultivating. Maybe the wonders are barely within earshot, but if we get quiet and make ourselves available to them, they make life a celebration.