Recently I started a course based on the principles of positive psychology, the goal of which is to develop tools that will change the way your brain responds to negative and positive stimuli. In his book "Hardwiring Happiness" Rick Hanson compares the way negative thoughts stick with us to Velcro, and the way positive responses quickly fade, like Teflon.
Although It’s widely accepted that having a positive attitude is beneficial for our physical and mental health, I’m skeptical. There is a voice in my head that objects when I try to put a positive spin on something that I experience as negative, saying:, "Don't spit in my eye and tell me it's raining".
As is so often the case, the clay provided me with the ‘Aha’ moment I needed to understand and actualize an authentically positive attitude. It’s not about trying to convince myself that what is a drag is really not a drag. It's about finding a way to look at it that is genuinely positive.
An example of this is when a serving piece that I recently made cracked in the kiln. "Oh no!" was my first reaction. But a minute later I saw that with just a little polishing of the broken edges it could be a set of three—and a far more interesting and versatile presentation. This was admittedly serendipitous because it broke into 3 neat rectangles. But even if it had shattered I could have chosen to see the broken shards as components for a mosaic piece.
I may not always be instantly ready to change directions, but like anything, it gets stronger with practice. This episode taught me that I can choose to approach circumstances I can’t control with a positive eye, without being naive or disingenuous.
In taking my cue from what is, instead of what I would like it to be I am practicing being open to the Divine cues that Hashem sends me all the time, and surrendering myself to them. And that my friends, is a beautiful thing.