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Where everyone knows your name…

A friend of mine has a simple spiritual practice.  Let me share it with you today…

Wherever she goes, my friend asks each person she meets to please tell her their name.  For example, she asks the name of the server in the restaurant where she is meeting me for lunch.  Then, whenever she interacts with that person, she calls them by name.  It’s her way of making the world a kinder, more friendly place.  

Most of us like to be called by name, after all. Being called by name is an acknowledgement of our person- hood, our identity.  When we call another by name, we acknowledge them as an individual, a person who is important.  Thay are set apart.  They become important, recognized, seen.

Probably my friend will not change the world with her practice.  Our spiritual practice – no matter how important it may seem – does not have the power to change the world.  What our spiritual practice does change – who it changes – is us.  That’s the real power of our practice, that it slowly, powerfully changes us. We are shaped, in our being, by our practice.  What we do, then, we do, ultimately, for ourselves.  And its power is in its shaping of us, those who practice, into kinder, gentler, more loving human beings.  

And that is something the world, this one world of ours, needs – desperately.  We have to trust the outcome of our practice to One who is greater, more wise, more powerful.  And so, the very act of our practice invites us to trust.

Our practice, our service, our giving – given from us, given to us.

And so, without speaking her own name, my friend is opening the world- her own little world and the world of others.  One name at a time, this is her gift – her practice – to the world, for the world.

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I am not I…

 

 

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“I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.”

Juan Ramon Jimenez

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The Wisdom in Waiting

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I’m not a person who likes to wait. Maybe you’re like me, maybe you’re not like me. I like things decided, things all wrapped up, nice and tidy, the edges clean, all the details taken care of. I like closure. “Holding things open for awhile” doesn’t seem to work well given my temperament.

I’ve noticed that some folks are better at waiting than others. When I sent a Christmas gift to my sister last year, she actually waited until Christmas morning to open it, although she knew it was something she really, really wanted. When she sends a gift to me, she always makes sure she writes in large letters, on the outside of the postal package: “DON’T OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS!” She must remember, from a long time ago, that I don’t like to wait.

In my years of working with people, I learned that some people are better at waiting than others. Some people like to hold all the options open, open, open – and open! – just in case another option presents itself. And some folks like to make up their minds and go with it. I’m in the second group, for sure. When I’m ready to check out at Target, I scan the lines, looking for the shortest one. How much stuff does the person ahead of me have in their cart? Oh no – as I’m scanning the lines, a couple of other people get into the shortest line ahead of me! Now I have to look for the shortest line, again.

Most of us, culturally, don’t like to wait, I think. We’re so accustomed to our google search coming up fast that we get frustrated if it takes a moment, if the computer hesitates in its search. Communications are getting faster and faster – how much faster can it get than text messaging? Plans for a rendezvous after work used to take hours – even days – to get on everyone’s calendar. Now, plans can be made in an instant.

We don’t seem to have more time, though, do we? As fast as communication and transportation are, we simply don’t have enough time for everything. We feel more and more rushed, all the time.

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I want to suggest that there is a wisdom in waiting. To suggest this is actually counter-cultural for a fast moving people!

If we want wisdom, I think we have to wait. A life unfolds in its own time, its own pace. The infant who is crawling has to take many steps that include falling on her butt before she can take her first walking steps. As much as any child wants to grow up, the years of childhood must be lived. Each moment is another moment of creation, the ongoing creation of a human being.

I still don’t like to wait, but sometimes, waiting is the only action I can take. It helps me to think of waiting as an action. I can breathe, right down to the soles of my feet, when I’m standing in a long line. I can notice the people around me, even chat with the person behind me. I can complain about the long wait while I’m chatting!

That’s what I can do when larger things are at stake. I can breathe, I can enjoy the view, I can meet a stranger, I can savor the living of this moment, this moment, this moment, and this moment…

Sometimes, when we wait, something new, something completely unseen before, arises. Some new information arrives. Some feelings that have been buried come to the surface. Something is learned. Some part of us begins to trust more deeply.

To wait is practice, spiritual practice. Some things will never be changed, even if we charge in to change them with our most inspired plans. But if we wait, some new wisdom may emerge.

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Give Generously, Receive Generously…

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This is one of life’s great secrets – and I’m going to share it with you, today!

To receive generosity from others, all you have to do is to give generously. That’s it. That’s the secret, and it truly is one of the great secrets of life. The secret is yours to share now, too.

The secret of generosity is something that is needed by our communities, right now. And you can begin, right now.

This morning at 8:05 AM the door bell rang. My husband and I were expecting a rep from an service company . Sure enough, the rep arrived at the appointed hour! I heard my husband ask the name of the young man who was going to set up a new system for us. I heard them exchange names. Later, I heard my husband ask the young man for the name of his supervisor. He wanted to call to let the company know what good and careful service we had received. A short time later, we decided against the service, and the company rep packed up the boxes we’d had in our front hall for a couple of weeks. Then he left.

As soon as he left, I heard my husband dialing the number of the supervisor. He left a message, mentioning the name of the young man who’d come to our place, and giving a positive report. My husband didn’t need to do that, but he did. I like that about him. He’s a generous guy.

He told me that he’s been learning that when you give generously, it comes back to you. But he did it just because it’s a simple thing and it feels good to be generous. Isn’t that enough?

I had a lot of energy this morning so I started to go through my closet, to finally take out some things I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I’m in the mood to get rid of having so many “things,” lately. I took 3 large paper bags filled with my stuff out to the car and drove directly to the American Cancer Society store in the neighborhood, where I parked my car at the curb and emptied my car of the bags full of stuff. I had a couple of loads, and I waited for a moment to get a receipt. When I came back out the door and onto the street, a meter attendant from the city was in his vehicle, idling right next to my car . I stopped. I looked at him. “You’re giving me a ticket?” I asked. “yes,” he nodded. “I was stopped here to donate,” I said. He got out of his car and I explained. “You were donating?” he asked. “Yes.”

He let me go without a ticket!

As I drove away, I was thinking about how magical and mysterious life can be. It all depends on our focus. My husband’s generosity seemed to have mysteriously rubbed off on others. It is a sunny beautiful day, and as I drove away, I was taken with the simple kindness of the ticket-giver.

Were the two events connected?  I don’t know that.  In one sense, I’m sure they were not, at all.  But as taken with generosity as I was, I took them to be connected.  It’s about perspective.

We all can be generous to those we know well and love. That’s easy, well… easier…! But generosity just for the sake of generosity is another thing. It’s a kind of magic.