If I say 10 statements to you, nine of them positive and one negative, which statement will you play over and over in your mind?
You answered immediately, didn’t you? Of course you did :).
You know which will stick to you like velcro while the others slide off like a fried egg leaving a teflon pan. What you might not know is why.
This summer I heard an interview with Richard Rohr in which he said,
Negativity and fear and resentment and anger—attach like Velcro and imprint readily. They are addictive. It’s a strange attractor. It is the realm of the false self.
Positivity—joy, gratitude, etc.—is like Teflon, slides off readily. A minimum of 15 seconds savoring for the brain to hold it and imprint the positive experience.
In Eden, before doubt crept in, before fear and resentment became our bedfellows, joy reigned. Gratitude abounded. Beauty was the norm.
Negativity shouldn’t stick like velcro, love should. Joy should. Contentment should. Instead we have, the story of a broken inheritance from The Fall.
But did you notice the glimmer of hope we can fan into flame? The flicker where you don’t have to be more, or try harder, or become Pollyanna to fight back?
You know the birth of #DistractedByBeauty, but it’s fun to hear stories retold. Absorbed in my work on the back deck, I glanced up and noticed the pig planter sitting within inches of me.
Disturbed with my own oblivion, I paused. Was beauty really that close, yet I was so lost in tasks I didn’t create a little bit of space to be distracted by the beauty around me? I took out my phone, took a picture, and created the hashtag #DistractedByBeauty and for the past 14 months have been practicing this simple spiritual discipline.
Singlehandedly, it has been one of the most spiritually formative acts in the last year. I couldn’t have told you why. But after hearing that it takes, “A minimum of 15 seconds savoring for the brain to hold it and imprint the positive experience,” the lightbulb lit up in my brain.
It takes me, maybe a minute to notice something, take a photo, write short blurb, and tag it #DistractedByBeauty. Long enough for little velcro stubs to form and my brain to savor, hold, and imprint.
This is how ridiculous I’ve become, I notice hubcaps. A few weeks ago, as I got out of my car in the library parking lot, glancing at the car next to me thought, “Wow, look at the beautiful pattern the lug nuts make.” What?! Lug nuts making beautiful patterns? I find myself looking at the cracks on sidewalks wondering if there is a hidden treasure in plain sight. I look up at street lights in hope of unexpected beauty.
Herein lies the beauty—God, in yet another mercy towards us, invites us to participate in making our brains less teflony. He could raise the bar so high we all give up. Who has time to think about lug nuts for at least ten minutes? Or so low, our participation is incidental leading to anything we glance at or think about for a mere second boost our chances of the positive effect.
Instead, savor for 15 seconds and enjoy the after effects. Fight teflon brains with velcro strategies.
Why it matters.
I can become so discouraged by the many parts of the world out of my control, that I don’t engage with what is in my control. So, here is the invitation. For the month of September join me in 30 days of being intentionally #DistractedByBeauty for 15 seconds a day.
Like other spiritual disciplines, this one is open to personal adaptation. Ideas include:
- Participate by daily taking a picture and tagging it #DistractedByBeauty on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Take a moment to explain what drew you in, what it makes you think about, or who it reminds you of.
- Search for #DistractedByBeauty and slow down enough to look at the image. Savor the description.
- Choose a daily cue such as your morning cup of tea, laying your head on the pillow at night, or starting your car (riding your bike, paying the cab driver, or taking out your subway card). The trigger reminds you to take a few seconds and recall a positive comment, nature, kindness extended to you, or person in your life. Savor the memory.
- Print off this blank monthly calendar and chose a time each day to look around and then record something positive you see.
- Set an alarm on your phone or fitbit and take 15 seconds to savor the positive in your life.
- Invite family members, teammates, co-workers, or friends to join in the challenge.
15 seconds a day to a brain that is more receptive to the positive. What an invitation, eh?!
Are you up for the 30 day challenge against teflon brain?
Teflon, you are real, we know it, but now we are on to you!
P.S. Photo credit: Emily Smith