The Tiny Black Dot
Jeff Keller


During some of my presentations, I take an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of white paper and make a little black dot in the middle.  Then I show the sheet to people in the audience and ask them what they see.  The majority will say that they see a black dot.  Very few, if any, will tell me that they see a white sheet of paper with a tiny black dot.

We tend to look at our lives in very much the same way.  We have our health, enough food to eat, a job that pays the bills and allows us some leisure activities, but we don't focus on that.  We don't appreciate that.

Instead, we concentrate on the tiny black dot - the 10% in our lives that we don't like. . . or the things we wish we could change.  By concentrating on the 10% that represents our problems or things we don't like, we develop a negative attitude and feel lousy.  Plus, there's a universal principle that comes into play: we attract what we think about most.

By focusing on what is lacking in our lives, we create more experiences of scarcity.

Think about your life.  Are you paying too much attention to the 10% that isn't what you want it to be, as opposed to the 90% that's going well?  I'm not saying we should ignore our challenges or things we'd like to change.  But if we paid a lot more attention to the 90% that IS working, we'd have a better attitude and we'd get better results.

When it comes to your job, do you concentrate on all the positive aspects of your position, or do you gripe about your salary and your co-workers, or the fact that someone else got the promotion you wanted?

What about the basic necessities of life?  Do you feel gratitude every day for the food you eat, the clothing you have, the roof above your head, or do you take all of these things for granted?  Worse yet, do you complain that you don't have more?

And let's not forget your body and your health.  How much time do you spend thinking about what IS working?  Your body is a miracle, make no mistake about that.  There's nothing "ho-hum" about your body and its day to day operation.

Albert Einstein once said that there are two ways to live your life:  one way is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle.

Most of us walk around with a ho-hum attitude about the miracle of our bodies. We treat this amazing creation as if it's no big deal.

Consider this:  your heart is only the size of a fist and yet it pumps blood through your body.  Every day, the heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood and beats about 100,000 times.  That's just in one day.

In one year, that amounts to 36,500,000 beats.  And in most cases, the heart just keeps on beating 36,500,000 times a year for many decades.  Stop for a moment and recognize the enormity of this miracle.

And, of course, you don't have to change any body parts or beat your chest manually to keep your heart going.  It automatically beats and sends the blood through your body with no effort on your part.

Now, let's consider your brain.  The brain and spinal cord are made up of many cells, which include neurons.  There are about 100 billion neurons in the brain.  100 billion!  Neurons are nerve cells that transmit nerve signals to and from the brain at up to 200 miles per hour.  Isn't this amazing?

Of course, your ears. . . your eyes. . . well, I could go on all day about the miracle of your body and how we take it for granted.  Just one final example to drive the point home.

When you get a cold and have difficulty breathing for a few days, I bet you'll often tell everyone that you are congested and don't feel well.  When the cold clears up in a week and your breathing returns to normal, you probably don't say:  "My breathing is perfect today! I'm able to get all the oxygen I need!"  Why does it make sense to complain about your breathing for the one week it is impaired. . . while failing to acknowledge the other 51 weeks when your breathing is full and healthy?

Stop taking this incredible body for granted.  Appreciate all the things that ARE working!  You're a walking miracle, and part of an extraordinary universe.

Some of you may feel that ignoring the black dot is not the answer--and that you need to focus on the  black dot to improve certain conditions in your life.  Well, if you choose this route, here are three strategies you could use:

1.  Worry about the black dot.
2.  Complain about the black dot.
3.  Take some proactive steps to eliminate or reduce the black dot.

The only strategy that makes sense is #3.  Yet many people select strategies #1 and #2, which only makes them more miserable.

Be brutally honest with yourself.  Are there any areas of your life where you're ignoring the large white sheet and seeing only the tiny black dot?  Do you see the faults of those at work or at home, and seldom affirm people for their positive contributions to your life?  If you're like most of us, you have an abundance of blessings, yet you're often blind to them.

If you've been staring at some tiny black dots recently, take responsibility for that.  And recognize that nobody is forcing you to keep your eyes on the black dot.  You've developed the habit of focusing on the negative and your life (and the lives of those around you) will be greatly enriched if you start to shift your vision toward the white sheet.

You have a choice.  You can keep staring at the black dot and telling others about all the things that are wrong in your life, or you can begin to appreciate your many blessings.  Sounds like a pretty easy choice to make, doesn't it?

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A friend's son was in the first grade of school, and his teacher
asked the class, "What is the color of apples?  Most of the children
answered red.  A few said green.  Kevin, my friend's son, raised his
hand and said white.  The teacher tried to explain that apples could
be red, green, or sometimes golden, but never white.  Kevin was quite
insistent, and finally said, "Look inside."  Perception without
mindfulness keeps us on the surface of things,
and we often miss other levels of reality.

Joseph Goldstein
Insight Meditation



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