June 19, 2009

The High Cost of Discouragement

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable. — Madeleine L’Engle

It’s so easy to fall into the discouragement trap.

But the rate of return is poor.

After all, the holes discouragement digs surround us, so it seems. An opportunity we sought runs into a dead end… the deal we thought had closed falls apart… the relationship we believed in turns into a major disappointment. All such events leave holes into which we can stumble.

If we choose to let ourselves be distracted by them.

Here is where our practice of attention ultimately serves us, or ruins us. By choosing to give attention to what serves, we de-select the option marked “give up.” But by focusing on the hole, we trap ourselves in dissolution and despair.

Granted, it takes energy to keep the eyes forward and up, does it not? Gravity tugs at us always, either grounding us or pulling us down. The choice to ground and act requires an injection of energy supplied by faith and gratitude.

Attention is thus a two-edged sword. Want more joy and success in your life? Focus on serving the greatest good. Want discouragement? Focus on the hole at your feet.

For as soon as you focus on the hole, you’re suddenly in it. When all you see are the walls of the pit, it’s easy to forget to look up at the light.

If you find your attention wandering into the hole called discouragement, step back. Raise your eyes. Look up. Breathe. Then bring your attention to that which serves.

You will wonder what all the discouragement was about.

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