Prisons (& Prisms) of our own Making

<January 2009>

I often write cheery how-to advice pieces about how we can each change our lives, be happy more or less routinely, & so on. Not everyone I know buys my advice or is a big fan. (Heh heh.) I’m guessing some of the people pretty close to me dismiss me disparagingly as some kind of mindless “Pollyanna.” Funny, since if I had to name one of my top all-time favourite movies, it would indeed be Walt Disney’s “Pollyanna” from the 1960’s.

I don’t think everyone understands what "being a Pollyanna” really means. It doesn’t mean being a naïve person who wears rose-coloured glasses 24/7/365 & pretends or believes that everything in the world is just grand; what it means is, one is aware that what we focus on expands, & that focusing on the good in all people & situations is liable to make life a whole lot more pleasant & the people around us a lot more cheery (& the world, maybe, a better place to be, even!).

Does anyone really suppose I’m not aware of the myriad horrendous, despair-making problems that exist in our world? Trust me – I am! I’ve been a problem-watcher & hopeful world-changer all my life. That’s what my dysfunctional childhood led me to, seemingly...

What I find I see around me, quite a bit, are people whose minds seem to have become their own prisons. They’re always living out of old scripts, replaying ancient (& more recent) hurts & grievances, & just generally making their own lives miserable.

Whatever turns you on, hmmm? If misery is your “thing,” you go for it; no skin off my nose.

If, on the other hand, you’re tired of the mind prison you’ve spent too much time in & you don’t want to be a ‘lifer’ there, turf out the prison & exchange it for a prism.

Borrow “Pollyanna” from your local library (or video store that has the “oldies”) & watch it. Let yourself be a kid for a bit, & enjoy the scenes with Mr. Pendergast & the prisms that brought so much enjoyment to Pollyanna & her fellow townspeople (even & especially the really grumpy ones).

Swear off immersing yourself in bad news all the time. Start focusing on possibilities instead of on problems & limitations. Think about light & goodness, not darkness & evil. Practice forgiveness. Learn to live “one day at a time.” Remind yourself often that everything isn’t all about you. Smile often, & sing, too – both are free & almost invariable mood-lighteners. Take up a daily gratitude habit. Start doing volunteer work & learn that a life of service to others brings enormous satisfaction to ourselves. Take a daily walk (no I-pod – instead, focus on Nature – sky, clouds, birds, water, critters…).

If you want to read some wonderfully helpful writers who can help you switch from prison to prism, go for it! I highly recommend Pema Chödrön, Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle – & I also recommend Louise Hay – especially her DVD “You Can Heal Your Life.”

I find this life we all lead a very circular sort of deal. It’s up and down & all around – like a roller coaster, or a merry-go-round. This particular little essay is as much me reminding myself of some things I need to remember as it is about advising anyone else. I happen to be going through some stubborn challenges of my own right now & I seem to need to re-learn some of the simple lessons that have helped me so much in the past, during other hard times.

Just like you, I’m making my way, moving ahead, one step at a time, one day at a time.

Far as I can tell, there’s no other way to do it!


p.s. I’ve said it elsewhere, and I’ll say it again now: read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. There is no bigger favour you can do for yourself – I mean it!!