Sunday morning I found myself moved into deep silence. The recent events of the world have grown profoundly horrific and unsettling. I found myself without words.
So I went inward. I simply grew silent for most of the day. I visited gardens at a monastery. I went online and watched a talk by Michael Bernard Beckwith – over and over again. That’s because he said something “sticky”.
He said to start each day asking myself: How can I share? How can I give? How can I radiate? This is a “return to sender” universe… everything we send out comes back to us.
I thought about where in life I want to radiate, share and give. And I quickly grew passionate with the discovery of where I wanted to be a greater provider in life.
The next morning, the very first thought in my mind was, “How can I radiate, share and give today?”. I witnessed how it softened my energy. I gave my silence by not telling someone what I REALLY thought about a comment he posted online that I found disturbing. I was reminded of the power of giving silence – especially when speaking up does nothing but stir the pot or poke the bear.
I’m seeing a lot of messages telling people to choose love, not hate. Today, I paused my work and asked myself, “How I can radiate love today? What act of love and kindness can I commit?” Ironically, an opportunity had just presented itself for me to extend help to someone I deeply disliked. I found my energy toward this person softening as I spent some time reconnecting and providing guidance to someone I had never anticipated speaking to again.
I wonder how many people stop at telling others to choose love in an online post, but don’t actually DO anything meaningful to demonstrate the very choice they are promoting.
Instead of telling other people how to live, why not BE the very thing we are trying to promote? Then we can share our story of what happened when we did choose love, so others can be inspired by our action – and not just by the two words we typed.
Although the world is feeling out of control, my world isn’t. And maybe that’s because I’m going inward and taking control. I’m looking at where I can be softer and kinder in my life.
This week, I know I am choosing love because I’m doing something different than I would normally have done. I’m welcoming what I would normally shut out. I’m choosing silence over self-righteous judgement. I’m embracing a greater circle of acceptance. I may not be able to change the global world, but I certainly can change mine.
If I want a more loving world, I have to create it – with my own hands first.
It was the first night of Whole Being Weekend, a spiritual retreat of hugging, eye gazing, singing, dancing and connecting with other beautiful souls. A band was on stage, some were lost in ecstatic, playful dance; others deep in mediation. This first night was about getting people relaxed and connected. The music shifted to an upbeat tempo and an announcer asked us to find a partner. The room burst into a flurry of people rushing to pair up.
As people swarmed around me snatching up their partners, I followed their lead and happily grabbed the first person I could. We playfully danced with that person for a moment and then were told to “find a new partner!”. Again, the room exploded with a frantic scramble of people delighted to find their next match.
But I was slow to part with my first partner because we shared a warm hug upon parting. As I scanned the room, most people were paired up. But one man was lingering on the fringe… clearly available to be chosen, but was awkwardly waiting. Maybe he was shy, or simply hesitant. Perhaps he felt like the new kid on the first day of school in a new country. He seemed painfully aware that he had yet paired up.
I made a mad dash to him, darting around pairs and jumping over cushions before landing before him with delightful eyes. I didn’t say anything, but everything in how I arrived conveyed the intended message. I CHOOSE YOU.
I wanted him to feel integrated, to feel valued, to feel like he belonged here. I didn’t pair up with him because he was the last man standing; I grabbed him because I saw a man who deeply needed to be reminded that he mattered. That he was worth choosing.
For the rest of the weekend, I made a point to make a mad dash towards the person standing at the fringe, the ones who looked like they weren’t sure they would ever be chosen. And during our minute together, whether it was dancing, singing, or eye gazing, I sought to embrace each person with complete gratitude, delight and unconditional love.
The ones who get chosen last might just be shy. But there might be something broken within them that makes them hesitant to connect. They might question their desirability, their appeal, their worthiness. I know the pain and awkwardness of being unchosen; the last one standing, the new girl, the only one raising their hand when asked, “Who doesn’t have a partner?”.
In Being Less Horrible to Others, I challenged myself to find something beautiful in everyone who passed by me – and it tremendously changed how I see people – and what I see in them.
It is so incredibly easy to pass over people as we seek out those who we deem most desirable. But the ones we want may not be the best ones for us. Sometimes the very thing you don’t want is your greatest teacher.
That weekend, the man who had yet to be chosen became an invaluable teacher for me. He reminded me of the tremendous power we hold in how we interact with others through small acts.
Choosing him with such delight may seem like a small act. But sometimes small acts have huge impacts (positive or negative!). Which is exactly why I’m learning that doing the small things with kindness and warmth matter so very much.
Yesterday Michael and I picked up six bags of trash around the neighborhood. As Michael climbed into a ravine to grab yet another discarded beer bottle, I heard him mutter, “Who would do this? Who would just toss this here?”. You could hear the disgust and dismay beneath his bafflement.
I used to ask myself that when I took my walks to pick up trash. Instead of feeling joy from cleaning up my neighborhood, I felt dismay and defeat when I saw more trash along the street the very next day. It made my efforts seem pointless.
But I would grab my pick-up stick and stomp out there to clean up the same areas I cleaned up the day before. I remember struggling to extract a sea of mustard packets out of a thicket of bushes and asking myself the very same question. What is wrong with the person who thought discarding mustard packets in a bush was a good idea? WHO WOULD DO THIS?
The answer instantly popped into my mind. Someone who is very broken inside. That made me pause. How we treat the external world says a lot about our internal world. Someone who is trashing the world is probably doing the same with their body, mind and spirit. We’re usually picking up liquor bottles, candy wrappers, fast food bags, cups of soda and cigarette butts. These aren’t signs of someone who is taking precious care of their body. When you respect (and love something), you treat it well. We have a tendency to trash or destroy things we hate or think very little of. The Outside reflects the Inside.
When I realized that the person who is recklessly discarding trash in this manner is simply someone who is broken inside, it drew compassion from my heart. Instead of being judgmental towards them, I began sending a loving and compassion thought their way as I picked up their trash. Sometimes I’d ask the energies of the universe to help guide that person to heal whatever led them to discard trash this way. This is my form of compassionate action. Send a loving thought, prayer or dedication and let physics do it’s magic.
For me, picking up trash isn’t just about cleaning up the neighborhood and taking ownership for the world I live in. It’s a way for me to infuse some positive impact on my neighborhood and people who travel through it. The problem isn’t that people are reckless with their trash. The problem is that we have people who are living out their internal pain in destructive ways and they aren’t getting the help and healing they need.
I don’t know who those people are, but I know some of them pass by when I am picking up trash; they see what I am doing and they avert their eyes. So I handle this “under the radar”. The best thing I can do is grant them compassion and positive thoughts and move about my day. Nothing good comes from infusing the situation with my frustration or anger.
My next challenge is to apply this concept when I encounter other kinds of “trash” – rudeness, anger, dishonesty, manipulation. Those things are just another form of people’s trash. Rudeness is purely a reflection of their internal world (it doesn’t have to do with you, so don’t take it personally); remembering this actually makes this a little easier to deal with. You can then observe it with curious eyes and not get emotionally roped in to their drama.
We are all broken in some way inside. Perhaps if we choose compassionate action over judgement, we will begin healing our way toward wholeness a little bit faster.