‘Always look on the bright side of life…’
Who can forget the group of criminals, crucified at the end of Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian’, cheerfully singing and whistling,
‘If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle
– that’s the thing.
And…always look on the bright
side of life…’
There are indeed times when looking on the bright side of life is just plain ridiculous. Yet, as Jon Kabat-Zinn often says to participants in his MBSR courses, most of the time there is actually more right than wrong with us. This is not to gloss over suffering and challenges which are real and painful. However, just as mindfulness is about acknowledging the difficulties we face, it’s also about recognising the resources and gifts which are available to us in any given moment.
Some of these resources are external – perhaps we have friends and family who care for us, or we live in a civil society which is relatively stable, or we have food and shelter to nourish our bodies and protect us from the elements. Just these basics are more than hundreds of millions of people around the world are able to enjoy right now.
Then there are our internal resources – our gifts, wisdom, resilience, good humour and warmth. I’ve worked with people in hospitals or residential care who had lost almost everything, and yet they would smile with warmth when they saw a little kitten or young child come to visit. If we think about all the people we’ve met in the last few weeks, chances are that most were fundamentally friendly, decent and resilient. Not many people are completely cold and bitter. As for ourselves, we might have made a few mistakes in the past month, perhaps didn’t always cover ourselves in glory, but nonetheless we probably were often thoughtful and kind, and it’s likely we made some good choices along the way.
So there’s a lot to be said for looking at the bright side of life – perhaps not always, as the Monty Python song reminds us, but almost always!
Weekly practice idea:
Write down three external and three internal resources which you feel are in your life right now, and set an intention this week that you will notice times when you are drawing positivity and strength from these.