I’m grocery shopping on a Saturday morning.
It’s crowded and I’m behind two elderly ladies who are walking slowly. I want to go faster. I feel anxious. But I keep frustration at bay. When the lane clears, I will get past them. Besides, someday, I, too, will have white hair, age spots and arthritis. They are cute. Are they sisters?
Suddenly, someone sighs heavily behind me. His cart dashes passed me and then passed the ladies, to our left. He is a very fit and tan man in his thirties. Swiftly, he parks his cart in front of the glass doors, reaches for yogurt and throws it into his cart. He scurries out of sight.
How dare he! He could hurt someone! What a menace…
My indignation softens. I actually feel sorry for him. He’s in some kind of pain which manifests itself this way. If he was happy, he wouldn’t act that way.
Choosing to see him in this light, my anger dissolves.
Taking a good picture with a manual camera requires forethought, patience and careful calibration. You choose what you take a picture of – that is, you choose what you focus on.
You also choose what you focus to think about. There is new scientific data that shows people who choose to meditate and/or think positively have increased plasticity of their brains. That is, they have strong external and internal networks in their brains. External networks light up when people think about external tasks and internal networks refer to matters that “involve themselves or emotions.”
Buddhist monks meditate and direct their minds to think compassionate thoughts and positive reflections. They purposely think this way.
Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who ironically, suffered a brain hemorrhage. It (temporarily) disabled her ability for language and logic. With that, she was left with a dominant right hemisphere brain: creativity, intuition and imagination. She was happy. She was completely present and non-judgmental. All her thinking (and worrying) ceased. She had no negative thoughts! As her left brain recovered, she made up her mind (haha) to never go back. She chooses to think happy thoughts and to be blissful.
How do you do this?
Bolte Taylor says, “When you find yourself thinking negatively, it feels bad in your body. As soon as you feel it happening, think about something else!”
No longer mine – can’t carry you anymore,
you’ll stumble, fall and eventually – soar,
As your path widens and grows long,
I realize how I was so very wrong
You take your steps while I watch
Your self-determination can be dreadful
yet entirely convincing
It’s fast becoming apparent
that your flubs and whims aren’t errant
You don’t own reasons for my heart breakin’
for I never “owned” you, in that, I was mistaken
We are all so busy with life: our work, family, and hobbies. My job is very noisy. I’m a teacher in an elementary/middle school and the hallways are filled with children yelling and laughing from very early morning until late afternoon. My students and I have lively discussions and then there are meetings after school. My fellow teacher (and friend!) and I are also sponsoring the school talent show – another boisterous endeavor.
When I get home, my husband and I discuss our day, my kids practice violin and tell us about their day. It’s all good, but…it’s challenging – to say the least – to get some quiet time. And I LOVE, love, love quiet time.
In addition to walking my dog after work and walking in middle of the day, I have started mini-meditations. In mini-meditation, I focus on my breathing. This might last 60 seconds or three minutes. I also meditate for 8 minutes in the morning right after waking.
Eckhart Tolle suggests the mini-meditations throughout the day in order to incorporate it as part of your “real” life and not as a compartmentalized portion of one’s life.
It makes sense.
I’ve noticed that since I’ve started this practice of incorporating space into my day, I am experiencing spontanenous moments of peace within chaos. Where I used to feel anxious or stressed, I feel calm and centered.
When I worked at a startup company years ago and things got stressful, my supervisor would wail, “We’re just set up to fail!” She cried real tears once, when it looked like we were going to miss delivering our McDonald’s Kids’ Meal prize on time.
The deadlines were tight and stringent. “We’re set up to fail!”
There was a bug in the system. “We’re set up to fail!”
The art department misunderstood the engineering department. “We’re set up to fail!”
In actuality, she meant, “I’m afraid we’re going to fail!”
In the end, the entire startup did fail. But our department never did, we simply met our goals with a lot of stress. The constant cry of the “sky is falling” unnerved the team. Projects that could have been accomplished with fun and enjoyment were, instead, completed in solemn urgency.
Isn’t this what many people do at work and life? Aren’t a lot of people motivated by fear? Fear of failure, fear of losing money, fear of losing face.
People can be motivated by fun and awe and still get it done.
The Holocaust, by witness accounts (and primary source documents) was the most horrific act on humans by humans during the bloodiest, deadliest, most costly war in all of history.
As we observe this day, I invite you to make a difference: Show kindness all day. Substitute a kind gesture for all the moments you would normally express impatience or intolerance. Just try it for several hours or, better yet, the entire day.
Don’t honk your horn.
Don’t raise your voice.
Help someone load their car with their groceries.
Hold the door open for others.
Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive thru.
Smile at every person you encounter.
Speak up for the weak and oppressed.
Negative thoughts are pollution. Detoxing will benefit the people around you. Practicing love could become permanent!
Our guide informs us about American history and politics, sprinkling jokes and anecdotes as the bus rolls from one museum to another.
He’s always smiling with a light in his eyes.
On Day One, he asked me how to pronounce my name. Ever since then, he has called me by name (voice booming with cheer) when he addresses me.
He loves his job, you might surmise.
He loves his life.
Undoubtedly, you’ve met someone like him. Always smiling, never complaining. Joyful.
It’s an attitude that pervades his life and affects every person he meets. The common cold… the flu and attitudes are all contagious.
What are you spreading?