When my stepson was little and we were in the middle of a board game or just outside in the backyard, he would stop, look at us and say: “Isn’t this great?!” with a huge smile on his face. Then he would turn back to his activity. He announced that this moment, right in the middle of whatever we were doing, was splendid. Even though he asked it as a question, he already had answered it with the look on his face.
As I approach a really full week, I am going to stop every once in a while and take a breath and declare “isn’t this great” and see if my face follows.
When I was making a major decision in my life, I had a dramatic dream. I was in prison and somehow I flew out over the thick walls and I saw that the room only had three walls.
This is what a hairpin turn is like in our lives. It is a complete turnaround that allows us to discover that we are not the prisoners that we think we are.
Often we worry about the many things that could happen as we keep facing all that closes us in to other possibilities. When we trust in the goodness of our heart’s intelligence, we can, in faith, turn around and move toward the freedom we seek.
Our newspaper has a little section called “The Good Stuff” where people write in about some act of kindness bestowed upon them. I asked the editor of the newspaper how people respond to these stories and he said: “People love them!”
This morning a grandmother reported that she was in a Subway with her two little grandsons and after they ordered, she realized she did not have her wallet. She was embarrassed. Then a nearby woman—a stranger–stepped up and paid for their lunches. Our hearts do enjoy these instances of generosity.
Many times I automatically focus on what is wrong instead of what is right with things. What if I found “the good stuff” in the meeting rather than complain about what I thought were the weaker ideas? What if I found the “good stuff” in the rebate procedure (like getting $50. back) instead of grousing about the complicated process?
What if I released my automatic focusing on what is wrong with things? Perhaps then I will have some “good stuff” for our local newspaper.
I was walking over a footbridge in a park. In the distance I saw a little girl, perhaps five years old, with a man who was probably her father. They were sitting on the edge of an empty stage under a pavilion. Nobody else was around. I watched the girl run to the middle of the stage but constantly look back over her shoulder to see her father. Finally he turned his whole body around to face her. She began to dance. He applauded and laughed. She ran to him and jumped into his arms. They delighted in one another.
How might we do this more often with one another? Just watching, laughing, connecting and applauding with abandon?
This is where the journey of the heart takes us.
Someone left a message for me to call back. She said she wanted to discuss with me an offer I had already refused. I got irritated. I had already made up my mind. I did not want to do what she requested.
This reminded me of an experience with an aggressive salesperson who insisted on selling us an extended warranty. We said “no” four times. We almost left the store but, frankly, we did not want to weave through the traffic to get to the next place for the purchase.
Perhaps my irritation comes from my own ambivalence about making decisions. I second guess myself and wonder if the “other” choice might have been the better one. Maybe this appliance will break down in the next three years. Then I think of a counselor who gave me some good guidelines about many decisions we make each day. She called it “wanna.”
When we have looked at all sides of an issue, and it is a close call, she recommends just doing what you “wanna” do. This is: trusting your gut for a clear sense of what is right for you. Then we make the choice and repeat it to others over and over—if necessary.
I was walking through a park when I heard a bullhorn in the distance. When I turned a corner, a man was talking about the race that was about to begin and the cause it supported. As people stretched their legs, he talked about the research they were doing to find a cure for a particular kind of children’s cancer. As I walked along, I saw groups of people wearing different colored tee shirts. The blue team’s shirts said “Jason’s Bluebirds” and the green team’s “We love you, Casey.”
The teams began the race together but then all the colors got mixed up as the race progressed. Along the road where they ran, markers were set up every hundred yards with messages like: “We miss you, Toot Toot” or “For our brave Dennis. Love, Mom and Dad.”
There were hundreds of people joined together by something beyond their control doing something within their control.
Even when seemingly helpless, we do have choices.
I walked into a sandwich shop. I had been there twice before and each time I stood in a long line to place my order. But, on this third time, a young girl about eleven years old stood in line in front of me with her Dad. She slowly turned her head to each wall and then up to the ceiling and then to the floor. She elbowed her Father and, without words, he opened his backpack and handed her a camera. She walked up to the wall and took a picture of one of the signs. I had not noticed it before, but it was most interesting. She took a picture of the napkin holder and again I could now see that it held a unique design.
When they reached the front of the line she ordered with confidence “The Titan on white” and took a picture of the sign with the sandwich description above the cashier’s head. She had scoped out this place and had recorded what caught her eye. She was curious, engaged and observant. She was present to the potentially boring or even irritating moment. She helped me become present as well.
I wonder: Do I help others come into the present moment by my own presence?
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 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.