FINDING GOODNESS IN THE MIDST OF DIFFICULTY – DAY 3
Spring: bulbs and blossom all bursting into glorious life. Birdsong, blue skies, barbecues and…well, compost.
How can compost be considered ‘Goodness’?
It amazes me how autumn leaves, garden debris and all the kitchen peelings morph magically into soil: new life. If making compost is smelly, dirty, tiring hard work, then spreading it over the beds and pots is even more so. And yet the process usually brings a huge sigh of satisfaction. An inner glow of work well done. Of effort and reward. And, if I’m honest, a bit of pride. Over the years I’ve noticed how I am perfecting the art of composting.
This is known as Mastery.
Mastery, like Gratitude and Acts of Kindness, are a source of goodness. Research shows that people experience higher levels of contentment and wellbeing when their lives include activities that give them a sense of pride, satisfaction and accomplishment.
If this triggers Eeyore-like despair at the lack of opportunities in your busy life, don’t worry! Mastery doesn’t have to mean becoming a Grade 8 pianist. Mastery can be as simple as noticing the sense of satisfaction at fixing that dripping tap, watering the house plants or finishing a pile of ironing.
And that’s the trick. It’s the noticing of the glow of achievement which makes the difference. Experiences of Goodness (EoG) need to be installed into the tissue of our brain. Unless we dwell on the ‘sigh of achievement’ and allow it to soak in, we will miss it altogether. Noticing moments of everyday mastery helps to balance our natural negativity bias (see Day 2 of this course).
Today’s invitation is to count up how many little tasks naturally arise in your day that might give you a pause to sigh the EoG sigh, then smile (that helps with programming the brain, too), and give yourself a pat on the back. The more of these moments we take, and the longer we spend taking them, the more it becomes our second nature. And as the EoGs build up over days and weeks, it grows the good inside us.
Like making compost: it takes some time and effort, but the result is worth it.
Mary Oliver: The summer day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around
with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
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