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I have deleted all news apps off my phone. Being a news junkie and wanting to be an informed citizen this was not an easy decision but I had fallen into the habit of checking news apps any time I had a spare second. The result? Anxiety. Fear. Anger. Cynicism.
I realized that our 24 hour news cycle is not about objective information but predominantly offering opinion and personal analysis. And what sells is disaster, disagreement and division. The barrage of negative news (and check out any news site… by far the majority are stories negative) started impacting the lens through which I viewed every second of the day. I regularly felt my heart rate increase, my body brace, and my breath go shallow. I would get irritated with my dog and snap at my kids. I realized that to consonantly immerse myself in the malaise of darkness is not being responsible or being a “realist,” it is only looking at part of the picture.
The fact is we are also surrounded by wonder, blue sky, blue birds, miracles and there are small acts of kindness and compassion all around. We are immersed in beauty and, in the words of Gerard Manly Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Without effort, the gravitational pull of fear and darkness draws me in but it takes work to cultivate a lens of gratitude and optimism. I do not deny the suffering in the world but through cultivating optimism I know it’s not the whole story. In fact, I genuinely believe that love wins, light wins… and when that is metabolized, the world looks like a very different, and even friendly place.
Andrew Newberg, MD, neuroscientist, says something humorous in his book How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain that offers some insight for us. Newberg notes that our view of the world (that is whether we think the world is either a complete disaster or an unbelievable miracle) does not need to be accurate for spiritual development—but rather our worldview does need to be optimistic!
At Second Breath, we talk about the power of paradigms and how helpful a “friendly universe” worldview can be for our spiritual awakening. Interestingly, our brains are wired to be pessimists and constantly warn us of the constant danger in our lives. This mindset creates anxiety and even depression in many of us. However, Newberg suggests that we can “prime the optimistic pump” in our brains and shift our perspective from one of dread to one of hope and thereby radically alter the quality of well-being in our lives.
Our Featured Practice on the app this week is called “Remembering Optimism” and it invites us to do this “priming the pump” work by trusting in God’s grace. Click below to access the app and try it out.