Sometimes we take actions that, in the moment, we thought were right and good but later we learn that there might have been unhappy consequences to those actions.
Some of us who tutor thought it would be a great idea to have some garden beds near the apartments where we tutor the children. We bought the plants, borrowed and purchased some tools and tried to galvanize the families around our good idea. The children used the rakes as swords and dangerously chased each other. The apartment owners were mad because we used their spigots to water the beds. The parents were looking for work—not looking for another chore. The project was not a success.
When the volunteers came together, though, and debriefed about this project, we did find our way. We realized that we did not ask the families or the children about gardening. We did not ask if they liked tomatoes or wanted to water at night. Even though we had good intentions, we made a mistake. But we made the “right mistake” when we learned from that failure.
If our intention is in the right place, we can withstand the wrong choice. . . but only if we are willing to learn from the experience.
We had some out of town visitors to The Servant Leadership School and I invited them over to our house for a simple supper. I made a “fragrantly spiced” lentil soup and put it in the crock pot in the morning. By noon, the lentils were still crunchy. At 5PM they were still too chewy. I went to the internet and learned that this sometimes happens to lentils.
I was tempted to rush out and get some take-out, but the soup smelled good.
I let go of my anxiety about being a “great cook” and shifted to some creative action. I pureed the soup and threw in some carrots and lemon. Of course, as usual, the conversation at dinner counted much more than the soup.
When I let go of having a perfect soup and leaned into the dynamic of being together, the dinner became delicious on several levels. When I release myself from impossible standards I can relax into what is most important—the moment.
A woman who had attended one of my workshops e-mailed me and we arranged a time to talk. She burst into my office and gave me a long hug. Within minutes she was pouring out her story. She was a cancer survivor, and that experience left her determined to live each day—each moment—fully.
Although she liked her work, she was feeling restless. She said “the spark is gone” and she was concerned about this dullness. She wanted that sense of “edge” and “excitement” once again. I offered some helpful resources from The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro such as books, classes and people who might be of service to her.
Mainly I told her that this “restlessness” is a great gift to her. She smiled and I could see she was making the shift from concern to curiosity. She was accepting “what is” in her life and, as a result, she was beginning to turn things in a new direction.
Suzy, our ragdoll cat, repeatedly moves away from something that does not exist. She will be at my feet, barely purring, and then she will suddenly flit her head to one side and glide her body into some seemingly safer place. I try to woo her back but she travels to my closet for safety.
I recognize myself in Suzy. I will be humming along during the day and then my mind picks up an anxiety about something in the future. I get my mind swirling around as my mind wanders in a circular fashion. What if I cannot figure this one out? What if he disagrees? What will they think of me? I try to find a closet like Suzy.
When I become aware of my fear of the future, I am half way home. Then I can shift my mind to curiosity rather than concern and trust rather than stress. I clear my mind and bring my attention to the expansive potential of staying present to the moment—and smile as I watch Suzy pad away.
A person close to me is interviewing for jobs. After we talked about what they might ask on the interview I told her that in servant leadership we talk about how important our worldviews are in times like these. If our world view is that “the universe is friendly” then we can relax into knowing that if this works out then “good” and if it does not work out then “good” as well. The Quakers call this “door closing” and “door opening” and trust either way. Under it all is the sense that we are held by the presence of love—no matter what happens. This is the hairpin turn way—moving, with intention, toward that which is meaningful in our lives, and having faith that all will be well.
Last week I attended a meeting at a local university. The moderator asked if anyone was doing anything “interesting” in the community and I felt led to mention the work of a micro-financing group. A woman came up to me after the meeting and told me that Mike, another executive director of a local nonprofit, was working on this same issue. I smiled because I had a meeting with him that very afternoon—about a totally different topic. When I saw Mike, he told me about the progress of his group and invited me to a meeting the next day to compare our findings. Even though I couldn’t be there I assured him that someone from our group would attend. As it turned out, the one person who could go was the perfect representative for us because her father had made a significant impact on Mike’s nonprofit.
Within 24 hours, our two groups found out about each other, shared information and already had contributed to each other’s knowledge. I felt a nudge and communicated an idea. This led to a connection which, in turn, has the potential to benefit many in our community.
When we relax, let go, and follow the intelligence of our heart’s wisdom, something new emerges. . .without a whole lot of effort.