Things Are Looking Up

Imagining that things are getting better, that we are slowly, steadily progressing toward a more peaceful world can be inspiring. Looking to the barbaric practices of the past such as burning people at the stake, or state supported slavery, then comparing those practices to positive developments of the present, such as increased ability for global, instant communication, which facilitates awareness and resistance to terrorism and oppression creates a strong sense of progress.

Of course the opposite is also true. If we look at the modern day machinery of war, and compare it to the brutal, but small scale, hand to hand combat of the past, it may seem that things are getting worse. Whether you think things are getting better or worse, if we are progressing toward peace or self-destruction, depends a lot on where and how you look.

How you feel also influences where you look. Where you look influences how you feel. If you feel lousy, you will imagine a lousy future and find evidence to support that. If you feel good, you look at all the good in the world and find evidence to support that feeling. It also works the other way around where a good feeling is rendered lousy by learning bad news and a lousy mood is obliterated with happy news.

Without knowing the future or our future we don’t know if things are getting better or worse. If we pay attention to the present moment, we can see if we feel bad or good. We can see if we are thinking of ourselves or others. The problems of war and oppression fundamentally hinge on shared beliefs about self and other. If we are looking down, at our phones, computers, the road, we are more prone to think of ourselves. If we look up at the sky, the moon, the ceiling, a work of art, the birds, Juliette on the balcony, we may forget ourselves for the moment and engage with the world. Looking up opens your mind. It makes you receptive to the world. Whatever you may be thinking, looking up changes you awareness. Try it. Look up at the ceiling or the sky. Take in the world.

This Is Your Brain on Zen


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