Okay. Up till now, we’ve covered the condensed version of something called Constructive Living. In fact, we’ve only covered the condensed version of half of it, because it’s a two-part philosophy.
The first half is based on Morita, a Japanese therapy that suggests simply acknowledging feelings while focusing on constructive activity is helpful in managing neurotic suffering.
Today we’re going to jump into the more reflective half of Constructive Living, which is based on naikan, another traditional Japanese therapy.
If I had to sum up naikan, I would say it’s about cognitively reconciling your debt to reality.
Or to put it more bluntly, it’s about getting over your first world problems already. Let’s get started.
Remember when we said “Life is attention”? And we talked about how your experience of life depends on what you choose to pay attention to? Here’s a little nugget I’d like you to chew on.
Our attention is naturally drawn to what is wrong, which constitutes a TINY, infinitesimal fraction of all the stuff that is going right (which we usually totally ignore).
What do you notice? The one time your alarm doesn’t go off to wake you up as expected? Or the 1,000 days it works perfectly before and after that? What do you pay attention to? The uneventful moments that make up most of your commutes, or the one day you’re running late and don’t catch every green light?
There are thousands of ways each day in which you are experiencing what Christians refer to as “providence” or “common grace.” A secular term might be “good luck” I suppose, although I don’t know if most people would see “everything worked as expected, and hundreds of people and things I’ll never know about all contributed to me having an absolutely normal day” as lucky.
You sleep on a mattress made from springs formed by someone else’s labor from metal, which was pulled from the earth by someone else’s efforts, and surrounded by fibers that you owe to everyone from the scientist who developed the synthetic material down to the factory worker who assembled it.
You probably can’t even count the number of people whose efforts went into providing you with your mattress, much less your breakfast, your alarm clock, the roof over your head, and the millions of other things you rely on every day without ever giving them a single thought.
Most of us walk around feeling bummed about what we think the world owes us. When the reality is, every day we receive more than we can possibly calculate, and mostly what we give back is a lot of complaining.
So, how can we retrain our attention to notice what’s going right? What would happen if we adjusted our perspective to be more consistent with reality?
More to come.
Edited to add this video, because CLEARLY, I should have included it.