I tripped on a crack in a sidewalk the other day, fell on my right knee and right elbow, rolled to my side…and nothing bad happened! No broken bones, no bruises, no swelling. I stood up, walked home, checked for the next few days. Nothing happened.
I did think of several friends my age who had tripped in exactly the same way and who had suffered broken bones, sometimes surgery. I felt such gratitude for my good fortune, at least at that moment. It could have been otherwise.
I do have a practice of noticing as I go through my day the bad things that DON’T happen. I almost tossed an envelope with a check in it into the recycling. I almost misplaced an important phone number in a pile of papers; if I hadn’t noticed, I wouldn’t have found it for weeks.
Bad things DON’t happen all the time. The car cutting in front of me on the highway didn’t knick my bumper. The precious cup, gift from my brother, didn’t smash as it fell off the counter onto the kitchen floor. My neighbor spit out a hard piece of candy rather than choking. The lump in a friend’s breast was just a benign cyst, easily drained.
Paying attention to the bad things that don’t happen means that we are paying attention, and noticing the miraculous ways our lives are supported by life, moment by moment, all day long. That can build a sense of trust in the overall benevolence of life that can be a much needed resource when the bad things do happen.
1. At the end of the day today, reflect on your day and write down three bad things that could have happened, but didn’t. You didn’t slam your finger in the car door when a gust of wind suddenly blew it shut. You can even imagine what could have gone wrong and didn’t – leaving essential files at home rather than bringing them to the meeting. You’re simply training your mind to pay attention and notice.
2. Begin to notice what might go wrong yet doesn’t as you go through the day every day. This is not to encourage catastrophic thinking, but simply to train the mind to notice the good fortune we experience all day long, that often doesn’t register in conscious awareness at all.
3. Pass this exercise along to two friends, then share at the end of a week of practice what all three of you have noticed, and how your experience of yourself and your life might be evolving with this practice.