Does your happiness seem far away?

Your reality is a reflection of what’s going on inside you – the average of all your thoughts and attitudes.

So if it seems like your happiness is far away: be it relationships, wealth, career or anything; or if it feels like there are weighty obstacles to your desires, these obstacles and this distance are a perfect reflection of the resistance within you.

If you have doubts about a major purchase you might be tempted to make the purchase anyway. But the doubts won’t be resolved by action alone. Instead you’ll find new reflections of doubt in your fresh circumstances.

If you think you can make a relationship happen through effort despite obstacles, know that the obstacles are reflecting resistance already in you. Trying to change the circumstances will just bring the resistance out by another path.

If wealth seems always out of reach it’s not the external distance that’s the problem but the internal resistance in the form of thoughts about wealth, value, economics and so on.

Use the reflection

The good news is that we can use the reflection or manifestation to understand and ease our resistance.

If it seems like there are no jobs for people like me, or if the only jobs for which I am qualified appear soul-destroying in their awfulness, that’s just a reflection of my thoughts about money.

Someone like me doesn’t deserve easy money.

The cost of obtaining money is just too high.

Money requires sacrifice.

Yet I’ve had jobs that were objectively easy, and did I enjoy them? No. I created and focused on aspects of the jobs that kept alive the feeling of sacrifice or struggle.

If the job was easy, I spent every day fearing that I’d be called to account for not accomplishing enough.

I balanced out the easy money by feeling untenable guilt and unworthiness.

Close the gap in yourself

Instead of struggling to change the reflection or manifestation, work on resolving, soothing, or otherwise improving the thoughts you focus on.

Struggle and action will only move things around, they won’t change the underlying cause.

Whatever distance or obstacles appear in your reality, the real gap is not between your present circumstances and your desired outcome; the real gap is between your thoughts and your desires.

Work on closing that gap, simply by finding thoughts that feel better.

And when your thoughts actually change, then you’ll see that the distance doesn’t matter, obstacles don’t mean anything, and new possibilities arise without any effort on your part.

Divided minds

How can we be unaware of our own conflicting wants and intentions?

I want to feel good, but part of me doesn’t want to. Part of me thinks feeling good is pointless without the power and control and knowledge to protect oneself from others.

Momentum

I’ve encountered these internal divisions before but now I have a way to explain it.

There is no actual division, just momentum.

I have old thoughts about needing to be in control and how vain it is to feel happy without the power to ensure it. These thoughts have momentum, and they pull in a different direction from my new thoughts about happiness and feeling good.

These old thoughts were fairly intense, but momentum is just momentum. As I change my thoughts the new direction becomes stronger and eventually will dominate.

False premises

It can help to recognise that my old thoughts are based on a premise I no longer agree with.

I no longer believe that life just happens to us through circumstances largely beyond our control. Instead I think we create our reality, our experience through our focus and attention.

So while I used to think the best I could do was to develop self-control to resist the infringements of a hostile environment, now I think the best I can do is focus in the direction of thoughts and feelings that feel good, because this is the key to recreating my environment.

Don’t lose hope. Momentum is gradually dispelled and false premises are abandoned. It won’t all happen at once, but with persistence it will happen.

This blog post itself is an expression or reflection of the change in my thoughts’ momentum too. Feeling good has become powerful enough that the conflict with my old thoughts rose to the surface naturally!

Persist in feeling better! It may take a while but the change is inevitable. And then you will get to experience the joy of focusing with a unified mind and thoughts.

Happiness Day 28

Fear of being positive.

Why are we afraid to be positive? It’s because we don’t want to get our hopes up only to be disappointed.

This fear can set in on all kinds of subjects: money, relationships, housing, jobs, etc.

But this is also a sign that we aren’t applying the principles correctly in these instances. Because genuine positivity is not fearful, nor should it feel like some kind of ploy or plot to improve our circumstances.

How it works

If I want more money and I feel bad about not having enough, how should I address this desire, these thoughts, and negative feelings?

Many people approach law of attraction or positive thinking as a way to “get their stuff”. We take at face value that wanting more money and feeling bad is a “problem” that will be solved by getting more money.

But from the Abraham-Hicks perspective the actual problem here is that I am focusing on something unwanted (not enough money).

Paradoxically, the reality of not having enough money is a symptom of focusing on an unwanted reality, not the cause.

Feel better

Many people are too caught up in their own desperation and try to use these principles to change their circumstances, rather than changing their focus.

But if you can’t change your focus your circumstances won’t change either.

The problem is that thoughts like “I don’t have enough money” feel bad. They feel bad because they conflict with the perspective of our own inner being (God) who is always offering us an abundance of love, appreciation, and blessings.

The whole point of what we prosaically call “positive thinking” is to align ourselves with the perspective of God, our inner being, and enjoy the fruit of that alignment.

How do we do it?

On the subject of money we can do this by paying attention to how we feel, and the thoughts, words, and perspectives we are focused upon.

Thoughts like “I don’t have enough money” or “money is so hard to come by” feel bad. So as a first step, try to find thoughts that feel less bad.

In the past I’ve sometimes felt like I don’t have as much money as I want. It’s seemed like money is not as easy to come by as I would like.

Small adjustments to your words have great implications. Absolutes can be made relative so that instead of “not enough” we say “not as much as I would like”. Negatives are made positive, so “hard” becomes “not as easy”. I’ve also added words that make it less definite: “sometimes” instead of an implied “always”; and I’ve made the statements a matter of how I’ve felt, or how things have seemed, rather than unilateral declarations of objective truth.

From there it is easier to feel a little better:

I would like more money. I would like money to come more easily.

This is infinitely softer and better-feeling than my initial bold insistence on how bad things are.

I would love it if money came to me easily. I would love it if money just came into my experience whenever I wanted it.

I would love to spend time working on my projects. I would love to spend time hiring the people I need, buying the materials I want, paying for the work I want done.

I love the idea of having the best people with the right expertise at my disposal, and the highest quality tools and materials available to me.

I’ve gone off on a good-feeling tangent! And the point is that I changed my focus from thoughts about money that felt bad, to thoughts about money that felt less bad, then better, and finally thoughts that feel good.

This is the way to apply positive-thinking principles: not as a vain attempt to change one’s circumstances in order to feel better — yet plagued by the fear that change will not come; but as a direct, reproducible, and immediately successful change in focus towards better-feeling thoughts.

Happiness Day 25

Telling your new story.

We all tell a story about ourselves, our whole lives, and each subject in them.

These stories are just collections of thoughts, and our thoughts create our reality.

But stories carry their own momentum, have their own quirks and flow, and narrative structure.

For example, we don’t like stories where the characters suddenly change without cause.

We love success stories, but we expect a certain “then I hit rock bottom” third act, as if hitting rock bottom justifies the eventual success.

Let me tell you why I’m here

In our own lives we tell the same old story over and over again, to ourselves and anyone who’ll listen.

The story can be a happy story or a depressing one, but it usually justifies where we are now, and in retelling that old story we keep it alive.

We keep the story consistent quite easily, because each time you tell it (or part of it) you feel a certain way. And this feeling becomes so familiar that you reject things that feel “different”.

Telling a new story

Most of us tell our old story because we believe it is true, and we think it is delusional or dishonest or weak to pretend otherwise.

But the truth is that we can look at any situation in hundreds of different ways. And while some of those might be too great a stretch for us, others are not.

We can start by softening the story just a little.

“I’m just so tired all the time!”

You could soften that to:

“I’m tired more often than not.”

That’s still not going to feel good but it’s softer than the old story. It might feel just a little less bad.

Soften it further and it might be:

“I’m more tired than I’d like to be”

Soften it further:

“I wish I was less tired!”

And then:

“I’d love to have more energy…to do things”

Opening up to positivity

These statements are not only progressively softer but they also quietly draw in more positive words like “I’d like”, “I wish”, and “I’d love to”.

They gradually shift your focus away from the unwanted thoughts about tiredness and steer in the direction of what you do want.

That last statement might even get you thinking about why you want more energy, and what you’d like to do with it.

Do it yourself

The real benefit lies in doing this for yourself. Reading my statements probably won’t hit the right notes for many people.

It’s an individual thing, and the choice of words and even the overall approach is important for you to discover for yourself.

But as you get better at telling a new story, you’ll be amazed at the things you can retell and soften and shift.

Things that you might have viewed as the leaden burden of your life so far can “turn out” to be the source of all your inspiration, enthusiasm, and love of life!

Redirect your attention

Each day take attention away from thoughts and things that feel bad and give attention to thoughts and things that feel good.

In time you will no longer have any bad feeling thoughts in your mind or things in your life.

In time the redirection of your attention won’t be from bad to good, but from good to better.

Always finding better feeling thoughts no matter what the circumstances or conditions around you, even the most unpleasant thought can be soothed and even the happiest thought can expand further.

In time your whole existence will be one of joyfully keeping up with the expanding happiness within you and around you.

Choosing how we feel

Having the attitude that “everything is perfect exactly as it is” feels good.

For melancholics in particular it may be an expression of providence: the knowledge that all things are working towards the good.

If all things are working towards the good, and we know it, then it follows that everything is perfect exactly as it is.

Not perfect in the sense that it is complete, but perfect in the sense that we are where we are meant to be, everything is as it is meant to be.

This isn’t a question of judgement or assessment, it’s about attitude and feeling.

If you have the attitude of recognising everything is perfect as it is, then you will feel that everything is perfect as it is.

And by contrast, if you don’t feel good, you must be thinking or believing that not everything is perfect.

We see this reflected in the story of the fall of man. Genesis tells us of everything God created “and God saw that it was good”.

Everything was good, and the first humans lived in paradise, right up until the moment they accepted the serpent’s contention that things were not perfect after all.

The first humans heeded the serpent’s doubt, and that was the cause of their fall.

False beliefs as choice

If we don’t feel good, then we must not be thinking that all is perfect as it is.

For years I sought to identify such thoughts and correct them. Talk myself out of my fears and worries and doubts.

But although it can be helpful to change such beliefs, it isn’t necessary to convince ourselves that they are false, or to try to work out the truth.

Otherwise there is potentially no end to all the little beliefs that would need correcting.

Instead we can view these bad-feeling thoughts not as the cause of our unhappiness but as reflections or elaborations of a bad-feeling focus.

For example, a depressed person can come up with many negative thoughts that match the feeling of depression and hopelessness.

These thoughts aren’t necessarily stored up in our heads, rather we uncover or create more and more of them to match our depressed focus.

Sometimes changing a belief or thought changes our focus as well, but it’s not always the most effective way to feel better.

By contrast a change in focus will always cause us to feel better (or worse depending on what we focus on).

It is possible to recognise that when we don’t feel good, we are harbouring an attitude of doubt or fear instead of an attitude that everything is perfect.

With practice we can actually change our focus from a bad feeling state to a good feeling one, without having to argue with or analyse or reprogram our thoughts.

Before thought

In the Abraham Hicks material, thought and “vibration” are used interchangably. They might just as well have used the word “spirit” but that it is too loaded with preconceptions.

Our verbalised thoughts and beliefs are expressions or elaborations of the “vibration” we are focused on. We translate this vibration into thought, and it is further reflected in our feelings and then our external circumstances.

An analogy from the Abraham Hicks material is that of a radio dial that controls the frequency our radio is tuned to. If you change the frequency (vibration) you receive different signals (thoughts).

Learning to control our focus in this way is superior to trying to argue with ourselves or debate our thoughts in hopes of shifting that dial. You could petition a classical station to play more jazz, but it’s more effective just to turn the dial until you find a station where jazz is already playing.

Choosing to feel good

I initially struggled with the idea of ignoring things that feel bad, or getting off difficult subjects.

My negative feelings were heavy and persistent, so I assumed I needed something equally firm and concrete to dislodge them.

But feeling good is light and easy. You don’t need to dislodge or destroy bad feelings, just stop focusing on them and they’ll dissipate.

I’m coming around to the idea that I don’t need to prove to myself (or others) that everything is perfect as it is, because this attitude just feels really really good.

I don’t need to logically or even illogically convince myself that fears and doubts are unwarranted, because I’ve gradually accepted through experience that it feels much better to feel good than to feel bad, and it seems that I can choose to focus in ways that feel good rather than feeling bad.

So whatever issue seems to conflict with “everything is perfect exactly as it is” can be deactivated. I can simply focus back on perfection and ease in the same way that I can relax a tense muscle.

We are the ones who determine the contents of our own minds by virtue of what we focus upon. For most of us this is only a theoretical control, but with practice it can become actual.

The ideal is to be able to feel good, find relief, soothe ourselves by choosing where we focus, and thereby create a happier and more fulfilling reality for ourselves and become part of a happier and more fulfilling reality for others.

Can you be too positive?

No one has ever accused me of being too positive.

But I’m hoping that will change as I make more progress in my journey from cynicism to optimism happiness.

Last night I swept away some old beliefs that had sat like a deep chasm across my inner landscape.

My prior attempts at being more positive were hitherto hemmed in by that old negativity — I was convinced of a threatening malice in my world, and of my own powerlessness to defend against it.

Now that it is gone – now that I’ve ceased to keep it alive – the relationship between my thoughts and my feelings and subsequent experience of life is clearer than ever before.

It is obvious now that I should focus on finding thoughts that feel good, rather than struggling to control or manipulate external circumstances – since the existence (and my interpretation) of those circumstances hinges on the quality and direction of my thoughts.

So how do we change our thoughts?

The mechanism is obscure, but we do it all the time. We constantly reach for, and accept, thoughts about everything, but we rarely exercise our ability to hold back and be selective about the thoughts we accept.

Reflexivity: thinking about thinking

Today the weather is hot, and the first thought that comes to mind is that the heat is unpleasant.

But I don’t have to stay with the first thought that comes to mind. I can choose one that feels better: it’ll be over soon. The sun is so beautiful. It’s great beach weather. I love how variable the weather is here. I’m so glad we don’t have terrible heat-waves anymore. I love how bright it is outside!

You can tell for yourself which thoughts feel better, and how much better they feel.

If you choose a thought that feels better instead of one that feels worse, you have successfully changed your thoughts and hence your feelings, and hence your reality.

So far so simple.

But what might happen in the midst of choosing a new thought is that you find yourself thinking about this process itself.

You might think: this is stupid, you can’t change anything just by thinking about it.

Or: this is hard work, I don’t want to have to do this all the time.

What’s happened is that choosing a more positive thought has brought out of hiding higher-order thoughts or beliefs.

And it turns out that these higher-order thoughts or beliefs also determine how you feel, and hence your reality.

So try as you might to feel better about the weather by changing your thoughts, if you have higher-order thoughts that say positive-thinking is a load of wishful thinking and self-delusion, you will continue to feel bad and nothing much will change.

The good news is that you can change your thoughts about positive-thinking itself just as easily as you can change your thoughts about the weather.

So can you be too positive?

Hence the title of this post: the idea that you can be too positive, or that being positive is a superficial attempt to delude oneself, these are themselves beliefs or thoughts that determine how you feel, and hence your reality.

There is no such thing as “too positive”, because the thought of being “too positive” is not a positive thought.

If you think there is such a thing as “too positive”, you are, by definition, being too negative.

Learning to feel better

It’s been a while since I last posted. We’ve been a bit preoccupied with our new baby, and some days my ability to put words together seems to have deserted me entirely.

In the meantime I’ve been working more on positive thinking, and experimenting with how changing my thoughts can change my feelings and my whole experience of life.

Thoughts that feel good

Being interested in mysticism and spiritual traditions gives me a different perspective on this stuff.

But in a way, thinking about God, ultimate reality, metaphysics and so on becomes just another interesting topic that I can feel good about.

It’s very easy to feel good when thinking about the divine being that underlies all reality, and ultimately the metaphysical implications of (good) positive thinking material seems easily reconcilable with my own understanding derived from comparative mysticism.

So at the moment I seem to be relying on two processes or ways of improving my thoughts.

The first is to take that transcendent, divine perspective and see that “Everything is perfect exactly as it is”.

The point of this is that if you appreciate everything as perfect, you get better at doing that, whereas we usually focus on the problems and irritations in life, which means we’re highly practiced at finding faults.

The positive thinking stuff points out that if we practice finding faults then we’ll continue to find more faults, create more faulty situations, and fail to see how situations are actually perfect for us.

But if we start looking for things to appreciate, we become more skilled at finding things to appreciate, creating appreciable situations, and increasingly fail to see faults and obstacles in our lives.

Typically we avoid doing this, because we assume that reality is a fixed, objective thing “out there”, and our experience is more or less an accurate reflection of that reality.

I used to think this as well….or at least, I acted as though it were true despite my broader theoretical understanding.

But in the past few months I’ve proven to my own satisfaction that it isn’t true at all.

I’ve found that if I change my thoughts – my actual thoughts – on a given topic, I feel differently about it, and mysteriously my experience of that topic changes in ways that I would have thought defied reality.

In brief, things have gone better, because I changed my thoughts in ways that made me feel better.

Obviously I don’t mean that I simply told myself falsely optimistic things and tried to believe them. That doesn’t work.

Thoughts that feel better

What I’ve been doing instead is identifying the thoughts that I genuinely think about a particular topic, and stating them as clearly and as negatively as I fear them to be.

When I do this, part of my automatically comes to my defense, as if bringing those negative thoughts into the light of day shows how incomplete and unwarranted they are.

Sometimes the negative thoughts have turned out to be excessive… For example, thinking “I can’t work out the answer to this problem!” makes me feel bad, but if I think “I haven’t been able to find the answer so far…” then I feel just a tiny bit better about it.

This “tiny bit better” isn’t enough on its own, but at the same time I can choose to take it as evidence that the process works.

It provides evidence that I am able to improve my mood by focusing on more positive thoughts.

That thought in itself is more positive too, and gives me a feeling of hope.

And since I now feel a bit better, I have access to other thoughts that feel better still.

“I haven’t been able to find the answer so far…” “but I’m working on it now with a new approach and a better understanding”, for example.

Again, it’s not a case of just saying stuff that sounds better, if it doesn’t actually feel better then it’s not going to do anything for you.

The whole point is to feel better, after all.

A practiced skill

So I’ve been using these two basic methods: finding thoughts that feel better than my current thoughts, and focusing on a transcendent sense of appreciation, that “everything is perfect exactly as it is”.

The latter works because I believe it on a theoretical level, so it too is an example of focusing on better-feeling thoughts. The reason why this alone is not sufficient is simply that I don’t spend every waking moment on the subject of metaphysics and divine reality.

As my skills increase with practice, I find I’m gradually closing the gap between this transcendent view that everything is perfect exactly as it is, and my views on a range of other subjects.

I’m now much more aware of when I, or other people, focus on things that make us feel bad.

Now that I have the choice to feel better, it’s so much more obvious when I instead focus on the negative.

I’ve also found that I have more of a tendency to look at things according to how I feel about them, rather than the “reality” that is supposedly informing those situations.

For example, if I’m worried about how a brewing process is going, whether I made the right choice with my recipe, I once would have sought reassurance by going over the procedure and revisiting my decision-making process.

Now I’m more likely to notice that this worry doesn’t feel good, and become conscious of where I’m putting my focus. Am I focusing on not screwing up the brewing process and the many ways it could go wrong? Well no wonder it feels bad. Why not focus instead on the final product and wonder how good it is going to taste?

Again, this is not a case of wishful thinking, it’s a deliberate choice to change my focus, emboldened by the knowledge that the resultant experience is far far more malleable than we imagine.

Telling yourself “it doesn’t matter, how you think won’t change the outcome” is simply not true.

Be good to yourself

Underlying all of this is an intention or decision to feel better, and to put feeling better at the forefront of your concerns.

That’s one of the things that struck me when I examined some of my negative thoughts….before I even thought to rebut it or provide counter-arguments, I was struck simply by how cruel and unwarranted the negative thought was.

If someone said your most negative thoughts to you, you’d be taken aback by the hostility and apparent malice or lack of empathy within them. But we tell ourselves these things all the time.

That’s why the choice to feel better and make that the measure of your thoughts and focus is such an important first step.

Fear of getting it wrong

I’m continuing to clarify my understanding of the process.

So to start with, let’s assume you’re unhappy with aspects of your life. Initially you think you are unhappy (feeling) because of these unwanted aspects of your experience (reality). This itself is a thought.

Then you encounter some positive-thinking material, which claims that in fact you’re misunderstanding cause and effect. The material claims that it is the direction of your focus that is causing you to have particular thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

“Direction of your focus” is admittedly vague, because it’s describing something that is prior to thought, feeling, and experience, and is (I suspect) something that does not of itself have recognisable qualities or attributes apart from its effects.

It’s a little like consciousness. You know you are conscious because of the objects and experiences that you are conscious of. The eye cannot see itself, the knife cannot cut itself.

The material I’m using (Esther Hicks/’Abraham’) suggests that we can and should assess our point of focus on the basis of the ensuing feelings. In other words, if our aim is to feel better, then we should focus on thoughts (or the energy prior to thought) that causes us to feel better.

I’ve outlined elsewhere why I think this is a reasonable thing to do, even to the extent of downplaying the “realism” of our thoughts in favour of how good we feel.

The problem is that we tend not to focus in a way that feels good. Even when we read this material and agree with it, we still find ourselves feeling bad, focusing on things that make us feel bad, and then all too often feeling worse because we’ve “failed”.

The emotional quality of thoughts

Our thoughts aren’t merely descriptive, they are also emotionally salient.

Two people might think “life is a struggle”, but one feels bad about the thought while the other feels excited and motivated.

Likewise, I can think “my feelings are my own fault/responsibility” and feel demoralised by it, or feel empowered by it.

So although “false” beliefs can have negative effects, so can “true” ones. Cynical and depressed people can easily wedge themselves between seemingly unassailable truths about the world, and the path out of that cul-de-sac might look like self-deception or delusion.

Sometimes these issues arise in philosophy…like if a coach tells an athlete “you can do it!” when he thinks they can’t do it, but suspects that the encouragement will motivate the athlete to perform better…this kind of scenario isn’t really captured in a simple binary of true/false.

A question of focus

Going back to the process in question:

The suggestion is that we’re mistaken about cause and effect. The suggestion is that our point of focus determines the thoughts we have, their emotional quality (our feelings) and our subsequent reality.

Personally, I’ve always approached religious/spiritual systems through the lens of “what am I doing wrong?” Yet ironically the implication is that this negative focus keeps me stuck exactly where I have been stuck, on the impression that I must be doing something wrong, with the corresponding effects of this negative focus.

Typically the teachers of this material advise that it’s not necessary to fully understand how these things work, but in my case I’m inspired by the thought of understanding the mechanisms at play.

That said, the same principles apply to my attempts to understand it: focus on the negative, on how little I understand and the sense of struggle….or focus on how much I’ve already understood, how enjoyable it is to work it out and put it into practice, and how exciting it is to still have puzzles to solve.

You can’t get it wrong

Which brings me to the principle or observation that “you can’t get it wrong”, which is especially pertinent to me given my focus on “the problem” and “what am I doing wrong?”

You can’t get it wrong, because cause and effect is driven by your focus. You get to choose what you focus on, so if you are experiencing struggle and strife, that is entirely the product of your focus. You’re getting exactly what you’re focusing on.

That doesn’t sound very comforting to me, and likely not to you either. But there’s a little more to it.

Struggle and strife and other forms of negative experience build within you a more powerful desire for the opposite. So even if you continue to focus negatively, you aren’t “failing” or “losing”, you’re experiencing a stark contrast that adds to a proportionately powerful desire for something much better.

In a metaphysical context where true harm is impossible, there’s not anything to be afraid of ultimately.

There’s not a single spiritual system worth its salt that invokes fear as an ultimate motivator or death or evil as a metaphysically powerful entity. Existence itself is divine, so what are we afraid of?

Of course “getting it wrong” might be a particular sore point for me and not for you. Different experiences produce different desires, but there will be an analog in there somewhere. Maybe it’s “losing control” or “failing” or “being useless”.

Redefining the problem

If we go back to the start and refrain “let’s assume you’re unhappy with aspects of your life”, we’re now in a slightly better position to see that there’s nothing wrong with that.

Nothing wrong with being unhappy?

That sounds paradoxical, and maybe it is. Maybe the paradox will resolve itself such that you’re no longer unhappy because you’re now realising that everything is perfect and there’s no failure here.

Or maybe you’ll “forget” the paradox and go back to being unhappy in your focus for a while longer.

You might even decide “yes! I have to resolve the paradox!” and throw yourself into a state of unsatisfying struggle.

Ultimately, the direction is positive. Whether you’re going negative and building up your desire for something more, or you’ve had enough already and are changing direction, the ultimate end is a positive one.

God, happiness, participation and transcendence

Transcendence and participation.

Those are two modes by which the divine is described relative to the world, everyday life, our ordinary reality.

Transcendence means that the divine is totally distinct, separate, and apart from reality.

For me this corresponds to the sense that there is nothing in life that approaches the meaning and significance of the divine. Not even close.

Participation means that although God transcends the world, the things of this world still participate in his being and his perfection to varying degrees.

There are different ways of defining participation, but for me this corresponds to the sense that emotions like love and joy are closer to God than emotions like fear and anger.

God may be transcendent, but things are still either closer to, or further away from him.

This is significant because people who grow up with a strong sense of the divine may, like melancholic idealists, end up disparaging the world as falling short of the divine in every possible way.

The world doesn’t have enough meaning, joy, purpose or love in it.

And our sense of divine transcendence keeps us locked in this perspective, because the gap between it and our everyday reality seems just too great.

Can we close the gap?

I believe we can. This is implied in the statement “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you”.

It doesn’t negate or diminish the things of this world, but puts them in their rightful place.

My recent discoveries of the relationship between thoughts and emotions and my experience of reality show that the melancholic despair of finding meaning in this world is particular and individual.

The divine is not alienated from everyday life, nor is it withheld in isolation from our daily experiences, our emotions and our thoughts.

We participate in the divine not only in prayer or meditation but also in our thoughts throughout the day, the thoughts that shape how we feel, how we perceive, and what we experience.

The strictly transcendent view of the divine is very much “hiding a lamp under a bushel”, or putting new wine into an old wine skin.

But sorrow and misery – or rather the thoughts that create those feelings – are unlikely to dissipate just because we spend time thinking about a transcendent God.

Those thoughts need to extend to the aspects of life where we suffer or mourn or are frustrated, bored, angry, weary and need rest.