“Everything you see is a shadow of what you do not see,” the little slip of paper said, my prize from the fortune cookie.
Usually, I detest the fortunes that come out of these hard horseshoe shaped cookies. The lotto numbers are always unlucky. I’m irritated that they often do not tell the future but instead are non-fortunes. Like this one. Observations about life, character, and perception. Rarely do I get what *I think* is a fortune: something that tells me about the future.
This non-fortune did give me pause. It can’t have a literal meaning. The air is not casting a shadow all about Mt. Sopris – I see it because there is literally a huge double-peaked mountain stately rising over this part of the valley. Yet I think about my own choice to see things as realistically and positively as I can and how that brings abundance in my life.
There is a long line in the grocery checkout which delays me and gives me a chance for me to play a game on my phone I enjoy.
My children whine which is annoying and a signal to me that I need to spend more time with them so that they don’t seek my attention through whining.
The strawberries I planted died, wasting the afternoon I spent digging up rocks to put them in the ground and gives me a chance to spend an afternoon in the garden planting them again, or something else in their stead.
I fell off my bike and scraped my knee, hurting myself badly and giving an offering of blood and tears to the earth. It ruined my pants giving me the opportunity to get better ones. (Ok, I still am struggling with this one. I prized those pants.)
This reflection is not a plea for the power of positive thinking. It an invitation to consider the world in the balance, to think about what we first see and what is the opposite of what we see, the shadow.
Psychologically, humans are wired to complain first, which is probably an excellent survival mechanism: the food gathered here isn’t that great. Let’s sail the ocean and see if there is better food elsewhere. Altering perception to see things in the balance can increase our sense of abundance, move us past the typical, evolutionary first reaction.
If we go through the world with a balanced attitude in the every day, it will allow us to feel sad when extraordinarily terrible things actually do happen. Like when our loved ones are dying from cancer, when we honestly do not have enough money to pay rent, or when we have lost what we love the most. Often complaining distracts us from these fundamental sadnesses. May those days be rare for each and every one of us and may we each give each other the space to be profoundly sad.
But to complain each day without considering the balance robs us of the capacity to be sad when it is time to be sad and to be joyful when there is cause to be joyful.
Notice your automatic response to the world. When something happens, what first comes to mind? Is it a thought that helps you survive, or is a thought that helps you flourish? What do you need right now? What do you see, and what is its shadow?
And how can we get fortune cookies to actually predict the future, or at least better lotto numbers?