The gift

iStock_000006416445XSmallI was scanning the online version of a local newspaper yesterday and I was amazed at comments from readers who, to put it mildly, seemed really angry (if not hostile) about the closing of a particular store in the city’s downtown area. It’s not what you think: They were angry because the store, in their opinion, catered to wealthy people and, as such, deserved to close. Yes, the logic is somewhat flawed.

It made me think about the opposite of anger and hostility. Could holding kind and loving thoughts make a difference in our experience and in that of others? We do know that people who constantly look at the emptiness of the glass (and embrace other limiting thoughts) have higher rates of depression and less health. And, conversely, we know that people who are positive, reinforcing and who express joy spread it to others. (Here’s a post about that.)

As I thought about the comments on the store’s closing, I was tempted to add my own to the ones already there. I would write about how such criticism of the store or others (regardless of their financial conditions) really didn’t better mankind much at all.

Instead, I went in a different direction. What if we thought about our lives as giving to others without regard to status or wealth? Those who are given lots share with those who don’t have. And those who have less share their gifts with others. Each of us has a gift to give.

What if you had a gift to give someone: a gift that you knew was beautiful and would bless others.

What if the person wasn’t ready to receive it? Would you withhold it because you fear it would be rejected and you along with it?

But what if the gift had to do with the Universe unfolding to someone and nothing to do with you?

And what if the gift–even if not acknowledged–would remain what it was, ready to come to life in the way a dormant flower or plant awakens in the spring? And what if it might, at some point in the future, be recognized for what it was?

And what if that gift was love?

Dialing back the noise

I caught the first faint glimpse of fall a couple of days ago. Unlike winter which announces itself with the first big storm, or summer when the first really hot day says “I’m here,” autumn is a time that whispers. “Something’s different,” it inkles, “but you’ll have to carefully look and listen for it.”

iStock_000007706240XSmallIt was only after slowing down and letting the moment sink in that I realized the shadows were a bit longer and the foliage more pronounced than it was the week before. Tiny, almost imperceptible wisps of oranges and yellows and reds painted the leaves. In a few days they would riot with color.

All of this seemed more obvious after listening to a speaker earlier in the week. He was bemoaning the fact that there was “too much noise going on” in his life to think clearly.

Does that ever happen to you?

As I was sitting at my desk reflecting on the speaker’s message, I mentally paused to listen to “my noise.” I’m often a multi-tasker so it’s not unusual to have the television news on, streaming music coming from my computer, and a Word document open while I’m answering email.  (And, if this could go on while taking a shower, it would be even better!)

All this startled me enough to turn off the television and the streaming audio, and to close the Word document and my email. I closed the cover of my laptop and sat in total silence. After a minute or so, I became aware of the gentle rustle of tree leaves outside my window. Then I heard a bird call out and another one answer.

The fact is that the trees didn’t just start rustling, nor did the birds just begin singing. Both had been going on imperceptibly, but “my noise” was masking it and keeping the quiet mental insights from being more easily heard.

Author and speaker John Maxwell has an interesting take on the topic. He says we need a “place to think our thoughts,” and suggests finding a quiet location, away from the bustle of our lives, to do so. I like his idea, but without such a place, is it possible to quietly reflect? Truth is that “quiet” is less a locality and more a state of mind. The “place to think our thoughts” can be anywhere we choose to be.

As a result, I’ve renegotiated my morning routine. No television news rehashing the same stories over and over in the background. No streaming audio. And no Wording and emailing, just quiet time to reflect, listen, study and to find joy in the moment.

The difference is amazing. I still get all the news I need (and them some). I still enjoy music. And I find myself less inclined to head to the email program even if a computer voice tells me I have new mail. (Maybe I should turn that feature of all together…)

This quiet time helps me do my work more effectively. And now it’s much easier to reach out to others during the day—plan-fully and in a much less frenetic way.

Traveling light

baggageLast week was a travel week and, as is often the case, the adventure took me through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest, if not one of the world’s most sprawling, terminals. Getting from one concourse to another requires an escalator trip into what a recorded voice informs you (quite dramatically) is The Transportation Zone. The long descent puts you in front of an automated subway system that whisks you to another terminal. Then, you take another escalator up to the gates.

While leaving The Transportation Zone I couldn’t help notice that nearly everyone was carrying something—not a particularly penetrating observation because, after all, it is an airport. There were backpacks, shopping bags, boxes, messenger bags, luggage of all sorts.

Travel requires lots of stuff, I concluded.

Even if we’re not traveling, it’s amazing what we carry with us: wallets, purses, briefcases, backpacks. I used to have a co-worker who joked that her extra large purse contained one of everything imaginable, although I never tested her on that.

And what about what we “mentally” carry with us everyday? Perhaps you hold memories of those you care about, or that extra burst of happiness from the raise you just received.

But do you ever bring anger, impatience, hurt, or jealousy along? This “baggage,” as some refer to it, often consists of the events or issues that no longer serve us, that tie us to the past even when we’re trying to live in the present. Disappointment, judgments, self-righteousness, hatred,  and condemnation all require effort to carry on a daily basis.

The story is told of two monks returning to their monastery. They were traveling on foot and came upon a beautiful maiden who needed to cross a muddy creek. The senior monk offered help, lifted her on his shoulders and the three travelers set out for the other side. The monks parted company with the woman and continued their journey to the monastery. The younger monk was silent, in complete disbelief that the other monk could have so easily forgotten his vows. Finally, he could stand it no longer and angrily addressed the elder monk. “How could you have talked to that woman, much less carry her across the stream? This violates our sacred promises,” he cried. The senior monk paused, then quietly said, “I put the woman down after we crossed the creek. It seems that you’re still carrying her.”

We’ve all crossed many muddy streams and carried our own maidens with us. Some of us have gently placed them safely on the side of the creek and have continued, in freedom, with our own journeys. But sometimes putting the maiden down isn’t easy, as the younger monk found out.

So, what maidens do you still carry?

What baggage could you leave behind?

Travel light. Carry love!