Profound Puddles in Your Life

Tell me, have you fallen lately? I don’t mean this literally. I mean, have you taken a step that you thought would lead you forward, only to find you missed your goal completely, and maybe landed in one of life’s puddles.

When I was in Junior High School, I went out for the tennis team. It was going to be a stretch for me to make the squad, but I thought it might be good for me. Well, that’s not entirely true. My parents thought it would be good for me.

When I got there, seven other guys were waiting for the coach to arrive. We lined up and were assigned to four courts and told to volley with a partner. The coach watched us for a while, then asked us to gather around for his decision.

I’d made the team, he told me. I was pretty enthusiastic about it, that is until I discovered everybody who showed up made the team.

Over the next couple of practices, we all played against each other to establish our ranking. The top ranked player was number one of course. When our names were posted I scanned down the list. There I was, I’d been assigned as player number eight. Well, nowhere to go but up, I thought.

Every day after school we’d head out to the courts for practice and matches. When the weather was great, everything went along nicely. But often the courts would be full of puddles from our frequent rain showers, and we’d be forced to push the water off them, using long poles with wide flat rubber heads. They were supposed to clear the surface. They didn’t and we would have to do our best to play around the more obstinate puddles.

I don’t know if you’ve ever played tennis on a court with puddles, so I’ll give you some insight. When a fast-moving tennis ball hits a puddle, it skids wildly. There is no predicting which direction it will travel and it’s a rare thing to be able to return the ball back over the net. Not only that, striking a soggy tennis ball is like hitting a grapefruit.

Fortunately, practices were short those days.

As a side note, I eventually moved up to number six, but never played against kids from other schools, since only the top four played official matches. Actually, this was okay with me.

Over the course of my life, I’ve discovered that the tennis court is not the only place that has puddles.

The puddles I’m talking about now are those that potentially await us all. The death of someone close to us, an intense physical challenge, a financial set back, a string of endless arguments, the loss of a job, an accident, or the end of an important relationship.

They don’t happen every day, but you never really know when they’ll appear. Some days I feel surrounded by them. And some of them are quite deep.

Maybe you’ve stepped in a few yourself.

So, what do we do when confronted by life’s challenging puddles?

We have a lot of choices. We can swear at them and blame everyone and everything around us. I do this occasionally, even though I know it isn’t helpful. In those weak moments, I try to give myself some slack. I try to stand as far away from my circumstances as I can and be an observer, hoping the distance gives me better perspective. If I am kind to myself, I can see more clearly and often find some value within the experience.

Other times, I am able to adapt to the puddles I fall into. It’s not that I enjoy them, but I don’t resist them as much, which makes it a lot easier on me. I try to accept that difficulties happen to everyone and that there is almost always a pathway out. I try to shift my thinking away from my anger or resentment and toward solutions and growth. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a lot better than remaining in the puddle.

On my best days, I go inside myself. I rest for a while and slow down. I remind myself that everything that happens in my life is there to serve me in some fashion if I’ll only take the time to look closely and listen to my heart. Finding the beautiful message opens my world and allows me to release any unhelpful thoughts.

When I do this, I don’t mind running along and jumping in the puddles.

Mistakes

This is actually not a story about gardening, but it may seem like it at first.

Imagine that you have a large piece of property and want to create a garden and fill it with all sorts of wonderful vegetables. You think to yourself, what steps do I need to take to make this happen?

Knowing what you want to plant and when it would be the best time to get started would be helpful. So too would knowing how to prepare and fertilize the soil and fence it in properly so all of the animals in the area don’t eat your crop before you do.

But, I believe one of the very first steps would be to consider how big you want your garden to be. Once you’ve decided, you could measure the plot outline and place stakes at each one of the corners. And, maybe you’d want to string a line between the stakes so that you can get a better idea of the scope of your garden.

Cultivating the soil and planting your seeds might come next, however, I suggest you consult a real gardener or farmer for the best methods.

For my purposes, I’d like you to imagine that you’ve done all of the prep work and have begun planting your seeds and suddenly realize, that despite your best efforts, you don’t have enough space for everything.

Imagine what your reaction is to this situation.

Are you angry with yourself? Do you berate your lack of forethought? Do you feel like giving up?

Or, do you shift and focus on solutions? Do you think to yourself, all I have to do is move two of the stakes, so I can fit everything in? I’ve just made a simple ‘miss-stake’.

That’s all it really is…you’ve placed the stakes in spots that don’t work for you, so you pull two up and relocate them and then everything is okay again. Simple.

I really love the idea of…simple.

Imagine now that we’re talking about life and not a garden.

You want to experience or create something in your life, so you go about doing the things you believe will make it real for you. But, you know that there are things you don’t understand and that there will be challenges you’ll need to overcome.

You are human and part of that is making mistakes.

No matter how controlled, no matter how intelligent or careful or thoughtful you are, you will make mistakes. You’ll set something up, put something into motion, relate to another person, organize, plan and yet, you’ll make mistakes.

The good and wonderful news is…that’s okay and is to be expected. In fact, I believe, all mistakes lead us in the direction we truly wish to go. That is, unless we allow them to define us and our actions, so that we lose faith in ourselves. Rather than seeing our mistakes as taking away from us, we have the choice to shift our perspective and open to seeing mistakes as redirecting our path toward our best self.

When we shift our focus, we change the course of our lives. There is no more failure or need for negative thoughts about our self. We can see that each mistake offers us an opportunity to find a new and better path. We can be grateful for the insight brought into view and simply change the location of the stakes in our lives.

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Joyful

Do you know the TV and magazine ads that promise to help you deal with physical issues you might be experiencing? No matter what problem you have, there’s a drug or treatment that offers you help in managing your symptoms or condition. I’m very glad that this type of assistance exists and it’s wonderful to know that when you need support, it’s available to you.

The last time I saw one of these ads I wondered, is there some kind of pill or treatment for ‘conditional happiness’?

You may be wondering what this is.

Here are some of the symptoms. Do you create certain criteria that must be met BEFORE you can be happy? A list of items to check off, otherwise you think happiness can’t be experienced. Do you find yourself feeling happy and then wonder how long it can possibly last? And then, sure enough, it falls away. Do you wonder how it is even conceivable to be happy, given the state of the world? You want to be happy, but you feel so much stands in your way.

I’d like to propose a radical idea for you to consider.

What if we shifted our perspective? What if we all were designed to be happy? Suppose your core nature contained everything you need to be happy, and that buried deep within you, there is a place of perfect peace. A place you can draw from any time you need or want to.

While I’m thinking about this, I’m considering my choice of words. Maybe ‘happiness’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps, ‘contentment’ would be better. No, contentment feels limited, sort of like settling for something.

How about ‘joyful’? Yes, I like that word. I like opening it up to see that it means, filled with joy. What an awesome concept. I want to be filled with joy.

So, let me start over.

What if we all were full of joy by design? What if we came here to this earth with the capacity to feel joy no matter what we encountered. What if we believed that joy was our very nature. I love the way that feels.

Is this possible for you to conceive? I hope so.

Imagine what the world would be like if we believed that joy is a fundamental part of us, centered deep within each of us.

How would this change things?

Ahhhh, isn’t that the real question?

One important thought comes to me. If I truly believed that I am filled with joy, and that it is always accessible to me, I could see things from a very different perspective. I could allow joy to flow through me and embrace it with delight.

On seeing a person by the side of the road asking for money because they are homeless, I could open my heart and spirit and let my joy overflow. I could open my window and share from my abundance and watch as my joy spread into another person’s world.

I could look around and see the beautiful turn of colors in the leaves. I could get lost in the aroma of fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven. I could glory in the connection with others who share this world with me, like you. I could reveal joy wherever I looked.

Rather than living according to what I see outside of me, I could live from my center of joy. What a wonderful choice to have.