My brother-in-law is a police officer. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with him, understanding the perspective of a man who wakes up and goes to work at a job that actually might claim his life. A job where he is trained to look for the threat in every situation … to not be fooled by the perceived good. He told me once that he can notice his heart rate rising the moment he gets in his car and heads to work in the morning — his body preparing for the unknown threats of the day.

Most of us don’t have jobs that can actually kill us, but it sure feels like it some days. The truth is, our jobs might better be compared to that of a fireman, running to situation after situation putting out the myriad of fires that sprout up throughout our days in the form of mini (and not-so-mini) crises. Our alarm doesn’t go off, our kids are running late for school, there’s traffic on the way to the office, a co-worker calls in sick on the day of a big presentation, the PowerPoint clicker won’t work, our office on the East Coast is snowed in, a big shipment fails to arrive … we put out fires.

With these fires comes a surge of adrenaline, a call to action, and the sensation of purpose and duty. We feel important as we’re called to solve what others can’t, or won’t. We experience a sense of accomplishment for a job well done. Our peers recognize us, appreciate our efforts, and applaud our results. When we go home at night and are asked about our day, it’s these fires and our extinguishing of them that we discuss. It was a long, hard day, lots of things went wrong, and we worked diligently to fix them — all the ingredients of a “good” day’s work.

In the course of running from fire to fire, many other things occur as well — we just don’t notice them. Busy rushing around solving and fixing, we overlook so many other events and experiences that take place throughout our day. Meetings that go better than expected, calls where solutions are arrived at with ease, a good meal, hugs from our children, smiles from strangers, steps we take without falling, thousands of breaths, waking up in the morning. All of life’s little victories that we fail to celebrate while attentively surveying the horizon for a fire to put out.

When we fail to give equal weight to experiences we deem easy, good, or successful and focus only on those we deem tough, bad, or failures, we create a subconscious tendency toward the negative because we don’t allow ourselves enough payoff for the good. By focusing only on the fires, all of our self-worth comes from the experience of overcoming hurdles and not enough from the moments in which we achieve the same results with relative ease. Not surprisingly then, we find ourselves in a constant stream of hurdles, challenges, and dramas.

To appreciate this concept, take a moment and look at the examples of small successes listed above. Now imagine how you might react if the opposite happened: a difficult meeting, a call that went poorly, a horrible meal, yelling children, “the finger” from a stranger, a slip-and-fall, the inability to breathe, not waking up in the morning. All of these experiences would be sources of varying degrees of drama in our lives. They would get serious attention from us. And yet when the opposite occurs, when something positive happens, we hardly notice because we’re too busy looking for a crisis. So we find more crises and wonder why our lives are so challenging. Meanwhile the little victories are playing out all around us, just beyond our sight line.

This is where the practice of meditation comes in. By training ourselves to disconnect from the drama as we sit and breathe, we become aware of the truth beyond our daily story and we open a window to see more of life as well. What we practice on the meditation cushion transfers into our daily lives and we begin to see the good around us through the fires as we practice letting go of our tendency towards the negative. As Guru Singh asked me once, “Are you ready to see the good … and live your life in such a way that no one ever feels sorry for you again?”

This week I invite you to open your eyes — and your heart — to go beyond the ups and downs of the crisis-driven life. Make time to breathe, to see all the good around you, and to celebrate it with the same emphasis you place on the hurdles. Pause as you go through your day and notice the subtle beauty in a stranger’s smile, a good meal, or an effortless meeting. Teach yourself to appreciate these gifts by giving them your attention, gratitude, and grace.

Big hugs of love,

  1. I have found in my daily meditation practice that it is easy to meditate when I’m relaxed and things are going well. It’s much harder when the fires occur. This week that was especially put to the test when two deaths occurred on the same day – one my friend’s father who I knew since childhood, the second a 14 year old boy who died suddenly and tragically while at my son’s school. While we didn’t know the boy it is every parents worst nightmare to think about the death of their child.

    Meditation was harder as a sea of emotions flooded me. However, it allowed me to step back from the drama playing out in my life. And it allowed the goodness to flood through. A stream of happy memories came to me if my friend’s father, of the talks and adventures we had together.

    The second death I’m still processing. It’s harder to accept something so devastating. Focusing on the good in life helps me appreciate just how very lucky I am. We have a chance to enjoy life. We shouldn’t waste it. And while his death was horrible at least he lived well when he was alive. He embraced the spirit of living and experiencing. And in that was the reminder to enjoy the time I do have with my kids and really be present while I am, not to worry about anything else but just live and love in the moment.

    Thank you for helping me on my journey. My perspective on life has slowly been changing as I am letting go, purging the focus on the bad and looking to the good to light my way.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    Faith, hope and love. Kathleen

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you for sharing so vulnerably. These are the moments when our meditation really becomes an act of self-love. Death can be so frightening on many levels. It’s a stark reminder of the impermanence of physical life … and that can be really scary. Be kind and gentle with yourself — as if tenderly holding the heart of a small child in your thoughts, the child in you. You’re not alone Kathleen. Big hugs of love, Jason

      • Thank you so much for your kind words and support. They mean a lot to me. I will take your advice and put it into practice today.

        Big hugs of love from me too, Kathleen

  2. wendy st. john-devereaux says:

    hi, Jason
    as always, this was a great post to read, and to think about.
    meditation has become more important in our lives, as we realize how busy we are every day–it has become a real haven of rest and love for us

    we are continuing to work on what I call our 3×3 program—–in which we do 3 things every day
    we find 3 positive things to meditate on
    then we find 3 things that make us feel good, or make us happy in some way
    then we find 3 things we would like to see happen in the future—and we visualize them and project their energies into a
    future time, where we will meet up with them

    I must again thank you for being an important part of our lives, through your wonderful blog—there is always so much here that we can relate to

    peace, love, and joy xxoo
    wendy and ian

    • Jason Garner says:

      I love that 3×3, so simple and yet proud in its obvious impact on your life. Thank you for reading and sharing. Big hugs to you and Ian – Jason

  3. Awww my heart goes out to Kathleen… you girl! (We’re friends!) Today I will try to see the good in this somewhat gloomy day…..I’ll try to focus on the positive.

Leave a Reply