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A Grievance or a Miracle? You Choose.

By David Simon, M.D.

The first line in A Course in Miracles goes, “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle.” The difference between a life of peace and purpose versus one of grievance and alienation is the ability to embrace day-to-day happenings without resistance or regret.

Reality is a selective act of perception, which is the result of attention and interpretation. Whatever we put our attention on grows in importance to us. Our habits of interpretation ensure that tomorrow turns out just like yesterday. For example, you go to the park with your best friend, and while you are sitting on a bench, a woman walking a Golden Retriever strolls by. You, having been raised with Goldens, focus on the dog, which elicits memories and feelings of safety, playfulness, and comfort. Your friend, who never had much personal experience with animals, owns a women’s boutique clothing store. She focuses on the outfit the dog owner is wearing. She doesn’t like the clothing style of the woman, so as a result of her specific attention and interpretation experiences a completely different set of emotions – those of irritation, disapproval, and displeasure. Although we usually do not recognize it, our attention and interpretations determine our state of comfort or discomfort. How we exercise our attention and intention is the result of choices we make. Because these choices are mostly unconscious, we do not believe that we have a choice. But we do.

Try this exercise. First read through the instructions and then follow them.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a deep full breath and then slowly exhale. Now bring your attention into your heart. For the next few moments, consider all those things for which you can feel grateful. Allow your heart to fill with gratitude for the people, experiences, lessons, opportunities, abundance, and gifts that have come to you throughout your life. As you choose to put your attention on gratitude, notice the sensations of well being that are generated in your body.

Now take another deep breath and release it. Again, bring your awareness to your heart, but this time consider all those things for which you may feel some grievance. Recall those situations, circumstances, events, and relationships that created pain, frustration, and disappointment for you. As you fill your awareness with grievances and regrets, notice how your body responds with sensations of discomfort and distress.

Now again, take a deep breath, and with your attention in your heart, once again fill your awareness with gratitude, considering all those things for which you can feel grateful. Again notice how your feelings change as your inner dialogue shifts

Notice that you can consciously reorient your attention away from those things that create turbulence in your mind and body to those things that create gratitude and peace. It takes a little practice, but you can do it.

Our inner and outer worlds are mirrors to each other. If my inner dialogue is one of complaint and regret, I am most likely to create those responses in my world that reinforce my interpretation that life is difficult and painful. If I consciously remind myself of the miracles that are unfolding around me, I will spontaneously generate a mindset of appreciation that orchestrates its own reinforcement in the outer world.

Take a few minutes before you go to sleep each evening and review your day, noticing those circumstances that generated some turbulence for you and those in which your needs were met. Make a commitment to take advantage of opportunities to resolve conflicts and experience the gratitude for another day in which you could see the world through your unique perspective. When given a choice between a grievance and a miracle, choose the miracle. It’s more fulfilling and enjoyable for you and those around you.

David Simon, M.D., is the co-founder and medical director of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad.