I recently watched an interview with comedian David Spade who was asked how he dealt with fame.
He told a story about a time when he was at a sporting event and he was hot and tired. He did not want to deal with any recognition from the public so at half-time, he pretended to talk on this cell phone while facing a cement wall. Someone tapped his arm and he held up his arm as if to say “not now-can’t you see I am important and busy?!” Then the person spoke: “Hi David—remember me? I am Paul McCartney’s girlfriend.” David said his whole demeanor changed. He was no longer tired, irritable or hungry. When she asked if he could help her son get into his college fraternity, he announced with supreme confidence “Done!” Spade said he had no idea how to make that happen but felt compelled to “show off” for her.
We laugh at his confession—the pretending, posturing and pretentiousness. We laugh because we see our own humanity in his antics. Confessing and even finding humor in some of our ego-boosting ways gives us the room to move in another direction.
I was walking on a trail along the Mississippi River in a park situated between Saint Paul and Minneapolis. In the far distance I saw a person fishing. As I got closer I could see that he was an older gentleman with many bags piled next to him. I wondered if he might be homeless. Just before I was going to pass him, he jumped up and started shouting “Thank you! Thank you!” He pulled a fat twelve-inch fish out of the water. He beamed at me—with a toothless smile—and announced: “Dinner!” His gratefulness and uncensored enthusiasm moved me. He fished and received a meal—I watched and received grace.
I had a goal and a specific way that goal would show up in my life. I kept pushing for a young adult program in our community based on ones I knew about in two other cities. Nothing was happening. In fact, I kept getting push back.
On a Tuesday afternoon, I sat down and let go. I said to the universe: “I feel called to mentor young leaders. I thought this was a good idea but I am meeting resistance all over the place. Wrong timing? I do not know. So I let go and trust that if I am to mentor young leaders that something will reveal itself.” And the next day (I kid you not) the phone rang and a woman asked me to teach a graduate course in Nonprofit Management and Leadership for the local university. This offer was not anything I could have imagined—and yet it allows me to mentor young leaders.
When we make hairpin turns, we “put out to the universe” our heart’s desire and then we wait and watch to see what happens. Mystical, effortless, this is what happens when we trust our heart’s direction in leadership and life.
I attended a seminar on contemplation taught by William Meninger, a monk who leaves the monastery only a few times each year. He is nearly 80 years old, but he looks and sounds closer to 60. He glows.
He said that we need to intentionally invite beauty into our lives in order to counteract all the “anti-beauty” that bombards us each day. He commented that reading sacred texts or a good novel, looking at a baby, or perhaps standing outside under a clear sky all count. Then he encouraged us to pause and reflect, with our hearts, on this beauty.
Our usual response to beauty is a sigh or a “wow” and we feel glad and grateful for the experience. Yet we need to invite this awareness into our lives in order to be free of all that keeps us fearful and closed down.
Let’s notice, reflect and respond to the beauty alive to us this day.
Recently I have visited two different buildings that serve the homeless population. In one building, the floor-to-ceiling windows let in natural light to a large room. The wall colors are hues of mild green and light blues. A bookshelf full of reading material lines one wall, and in another corner there is a couch, chairs, lamp and rug inviting conversation. I relax when I walk around as I take in the clean, spacious beauty of this place.
In the other building, I am met with signs on the outside of the building door: “Do not ring bell over and over—we will come as soon as we are able!!!” and “Required Meeting: You must Have a Signed Excuse for Missing the Meeting.” When I walk into the building there is an old dusty plastic plant leaning in the corner, and piles of old magazines on end tables that do not match. I walk into the restroom and a sign says: “It is stealing when you take toilet paper!” I tense up in this environment and want to leave as soon as possible.
Both environments speak volumes without words. What does your space communicate about you? Often our outside space communicates something about our inside space—and actually changing our outside space, in some mysterious way, facilitates change in our lives.
Sometimes in my work I see the mood of resignation. A resigned person does not see the future as a place of positive possibility where her or his actions can contribute to make a different future. And sadly, often this person does not see how this mood of resignation impacts not only the future, but the present.
I talked to a mom about her upcoming summer. She is stressed about one of her girls starting middle school and how her part time job does not get them through the month. She said, with slow resignation: “I am doing the best I can. What else can I do?” I said one action we all can take—even when discouraged—is to learn something new. This learning can lead to a new future. I told her about a micro-finance loan for women who are interested in taking classes to advance their careers.
All of us can stay in the space of “same old, same old” (resignation) or we can always take one piece of action—learning something new. What is on your reading list this summer?
We were traveling on the hairpin turn back roads in Maine and at 2:30 in the afternoon decided to find a place for lunch. We turned off into a tiny town and saw a café with the door open but with a sign out front that read open from 11AM until 2PM. We peeked inside to hear a warm voice ask: “what is your name?” We told our names and that we were looking for something to eat but saw the sign that said they were closed. Betty, the owner of the café, said that they had been planting flowers all morning. Like a Mom, she asked: “what would you like to eat?” She made us a chicken salad sandwich with cranberries on homemade bread. We heard a few stories from the couple that moved there from Pennsylvania and the young woman who went somewhere else for college but who came back home to raise her family. Betty stayed open for us.
This reminded me of what Pema Chodran said– “staying open” to all situations and all people without closing down is a spiritual practice