Love In The Present Moment

I’ve been wondering lately if it might be possible to find love and express love in everything I do.

I ask myself, is this what Yeshiwa (Jesus) and Buddha did? Is it what Mother Teresa, and Gandhi did? Does the Dalai Lama live this way?

When I ask myself this question, my first response is- no way!

No matter how spiritually connected I may feel at a given moment, I don’t think I could remain conscious enough to let love flow through me like this.

There are just too many triggers for me in life. I’m not even sure I could do this for thirty minutes straight. Could you? Could any but the most spiritually gifted among us?

So, I think to myself, maybe it would be a good idea to set my sights lower. Perhaps there might be a way to increase my awareness enough so that I could hold others gently in my heart and offer them some love, realizing that even if I couldn’t do it all the time, this would still be better.

But I suspect, even this would be very challenging, and this starts an inner dialogue. Part of me has already decided it is not possible to find or express love in every moment, so why try? This part of me is ready to let myself off the hook and I haven’t even begun.

Another part of me enters the conversation with this thought. If you only do the things that are easy, what will you ever accomplish in life. Are you not going to try? Are you that afraid of failure?

A third voice requests my attention. It’s quieter, but there is power in it. It asks me a simple question. What would it change for you if you could find and express love in all that you do?

I hear snickers in the background from the first two voices and then silence.

There is a peaceful momentary pause, giving me a chance to respond. Well, I thought, it could change everything for me.

I would be able to lighten up, to release my fears, to draw others into my world, to smile with ease, to open my heart, to give, to graciously receive, to hug with my whole being. A list flows out of me. A truly wonderful list. I can feel its presence and its power.

The first voice returns and speaks loudly, sure, this sounds very nice, but how do we get from (here) where we are to (there) where we want to be? Do we have to put on rose-colored glasses first?

The third voice takes no offense and offers soothing words and a question. Do you like treasure hunts?

We ask the third voice, where did that come from? It waits patiently until we answer.

Well, yes, we do.

Wonderful it responds. I want to share a secret with you. You knew it at one time, but have forgotten, so let me remind you.

One of the most beautiful things about this world is that we’ve hidden treasure everywhere.  Every single experience you will encounter throughout your life has treasure in it. Some lie on the surface and are easy to spot. Others are buried deeply and may require you to dig to find them. But each one of them is worth pursuing. They may at first seem dusty, but each will sparkle and shine once you polish them.

How do we find them we asked?

You find them by opening your heart and expressing love. The more you do this, the greater the love you will experience. It’s up to you and what you choose. Choose wisely, my love.

All the voices quieted but one.

I want to try, it said.

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Lessons or Experiences

From the folks I’ve talked to, there seems to be a consensus that school is focused on learning specific lessons. The expectation appears to be that the student does not know anything, so must be taught by the teacher. Further, it is assumed that the teacher knows what would be valuable for the student to learn.

The closer you are to educational systems, the more you realize that it’s all about the curriculum chosen. There is no way that any one teacher or any one student could know all things, so choices must be made and priorities decided about what to focus on in the classroom.

Inevitably, certain events and facts get lost in the shuffle. And then, there is the tendency to slant important details to suit whoever is in charge.

A glaring case in point was demonstrated to me during one of Maureen’s and my vacations. We visited Vancouver, Canada (absolutely gorgeous, by the way) and were fascinated to discover an enormous mural depicting a series of skirmishes that resulted in Canada winning a major battle against the United States. We looked at each other and asked ourselves, “Didn’t our textbooks say that we won that? We could have sworn they were quite specific on that point.”

Hmmm?

Well, no matter. I mean, it happened so long ago. What difference does it really make?

Perhaps, if it were an isolated instance, it wouldn’t matter. But it has ramifications far beyond which side actually won, because it’s unclear if there is a definitive correct answer, so what level of trust can you put in any of your lessons?

Along with many others I know, I come across events in my life and one of my first reactions is to wonder if there is a ‘lesson’ in it for me.

In school we are taught to learn our lessons. If we fail to do that, we’re told, we’ll need to repeat the class, UNTIL we’ve learned our lesson. This is potent stuff, unless you like summer school.

One trip there was enough to cure me. Who would want, after a very long school year, to spend the hot summer in a stuffy classroom trying to relearn a subject you didn’t like in the first place? No one, that’s who.

Here’s the real rub for me.

This whole idea of having to learn our lessons gets carried over into the rest of our lives. When faced with dilemmas and problems that don’t feel resolvable to us, I often hear people say to one another, “well, I guess you’ve haven’t learned your lesson yet.”

Beyond this not being the least bit helpful, it perpetuated the idea that there is one correct answer, and clearly, we’ve missed it.

I’d like to offer an alternative thought for your consideration.

Suppose there are NO specific lessons for you to have to learn. And, of course, this means there are no lessons you have to repeat until you get them right.

What if life is just a series of experiences? Simple experiences, without right and wrong answers. Without implications or attached judgements? Would that change things for you?

When I shift away from ‘lessons’ and focus on ‘experiences’, it makes a powerful difference to me. I can let go of worrying about getting life ‘right’ and open to the treasure inside of each of the experiences I encounter.

I admit that sometimes I have to dig deeply to uncover the treasure, but I’ve found it is always there waiting for me.

Perhaps if you give this shift a chance, you’ll find all of the treasure you are searching for. I certainly hope so.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 2 of 2

Note: Please see Post #58 for Part 1 of 2

On rare occasions, when the traffic is backed up, a conversation will occur between myself and my roadside friend. An exchange of words, about the weather, or what one sports team is doing or how their day has been.

I was even asked once how I was doing. This came from someone I happened to recognize, because he stands in the same spot and I pass by him quite often. He recognizes me too. He seems to be watching for my car and for me.

As it happened, I’d just given him an offering a few days earlier and I noticed a slight hesitation on my part, in reaching for the folded bill, as I approached him. For that single moment I wondered whether to give him another offering so soon.

I quickly decided that he was no less homeless than the last time I gave him money. The momentary delay on my part stayed with me all the way home. I have so much. He has so little. The disparity between us is so stark and yet a part of me wanted to hold back.

In the end, I made the decision I wanted to, but there was a lingering feeling I needed to allow into my consciousness. I knew something still needed to be brought into the light, if I allowed it.

Once in a great while the receiver appears angry to me. As they walk toward my car, their emotions reach me before they do. I feel a wave hit me. I wonder to myself, what must it be like to wait by the side of the road, dependent on the mercy and generosity of unknown folks passing by? How must it feel to be uncertain whether you’ll have enough money to eat, to have a safe place to sleep or be able to buy clothes to keep you warm? I try to lose all of my misplaced blame and suspicion and remember why I am here. I am here to be ‘kin’ (family) to others.

Usually, I am the only one in the car when these offerings are made. But, once in a while, others are with me. I find this changes the dynamic, even if it doesn’t alter the outcome. I wonder what they are thinking and sometimes we talk about it. They ask questions and I do my best to answer. I share with them that there are more men (82%) than women (18%) standing by the side of the road and that it must be scary at times, no matter who you are.

And, when asked, I share my favorite experience.

It happened in April of 2017, at the intersection of a highway off ramp and a major city street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Maureen and I were on vacation and were having a fabulous trip. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone standing at that busy intersection, but there he was. I wondered if I could get to my wallet fast enough and then saw that the light was about to turn red. Good, I thought, I have enough time. He started walking toward the row of cars we were in. Finally, he reached us and I rolled down the window and held out a folded bill to him. He took it and said, “thank you very much” (emphasizing the word ‘very’), then paused, and looking a little chocked up, stared into my eyes and said, “this is a sacred moment.” He stood there, maintaining eye contact, until I was forced to move forward with the traffic flow.

I believe I felt what he was feeling, a divine presence in the exchange, a roadside treasure for each of us to keep.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 1 of 2

It was a day pretty much the same as any other. I was in my car on my way somewhere, probably listening to music from a CD. The next off-ramp was mine, so I moved over and headed up to the light at the intersection.

There he was, standing there by the side of the road, waiting. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, but our eyes met and something happened.

I knew why he was there. He needed money. I shifted in my seat, so I could reach my wallet, and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. I opened my window and felt a gust of cold air blow by me and fill my car. I handed him the folded bill. His eyes showed some life and he spoke to me, “thank you, god bless you.”

That was over six years ago, but I still remember it. One reason is because I decided on that day, to be ready in advance, for the next time I saw someone in need.

It’s became a blessed part of me.

I’d like to share some of what I’ve experienced during these brief encounters.

When I pass along an offering, the responses I receive in return are a mixture of gratitude and well wishes for my day or evening or season, especially at Christmas time. I’m offered smiles and waves. I’m called, brother or sir or friend. And sometimes, the person places a hand over their heart and bows in my direction. Once or twice I’ve seen the individual cross themselves, which brings up something interesting for me.

I might have thought that someone who has no home, no money and few worldly possessions would have given up on God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every one of my 92 roadside offerings to date has said to me, “God bless you,” and I can tell that they mean it. God seems very much alive to them and their gratitude is both deep and sincere.

I’m sure that when some drivers approach a person by the side of the road, they might worry about how they’d spend any money given to them.

Personally, I simply don’t care how they spend it. It isn’t any of my business once the money leaves me.

I’m often told by the individual receiving my offering that now they have enough money for food or medicine or a safe place to sleep indoors out of the cold or the heat. I’m not naïve, I realize some of the money might be used for alcohol or drugs, but that is their decision. How could I possibly know what they truly need the most?

As of a certain point, I decided to boost my roadside offering. I now keep a folded $20 bill in the pocket of my car’s driver side door, where it’s handy for me to reach.

Often, when I hold the folded bill out of the window and they take it from me, they automatically say, “thank you, bless you”, then as they start to walk away, they notice it’s not a one or a five-dollar bill, but a twenty. As they turn back to me, their facial expression changes, their eyes twinkle and they take in a big breath and let it out slowly. A few times they’re inspired to say something else to me, like “really, thank you, thank you so much,” or “you’ve made my day,” or “you’re the man!”

Of course, I like hearing this, but what really matters to me and creates a spark in my life, is the connection I feel. That’s the real reason I do this. I want to see and be seen in this world. I want them to know they matter to me, even if it’s just for a moment in time.

And, for some, they clearly want what I want, a point of human contact. Something more than a line of cars passing them by. They want a brief, gentle touch, where they hold my finger, before pulling the bill away and placing it on their pocket. It’s not much, but it’s enough to know we’re here together in this world.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will be Part 2 of 2 of Roadside Treasures.

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Try Outs

As I grew up there seemed to be quite a few different opportunities to ‘tryout’ for things. Whether it was for a sports team, a musical group, a play or something else I might have been interested in.

One theme seemed pretty common to them all. They each created some uncertainty inside of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be any good at what I was trying out for. I wasn’t sure I’d get picked and what it would mean to me if I didn’t.

I might be terrible and embarrass myself. I couldn’t know for sure if I’d be welcomed and, I didn’t know in advance, if I’d stay with it or perhaps find, it wasn’t for me. Would I be allowed to quit, if I didn’t like it?

You may have experienced some of these same thoughts.

The fact is we’re always trying new things, sometimes because we want to and other times because we have to. If we’re sick, we have to try new medications. If our car dies, we have to find a new one. If we lose our job or give it up, we have to search for another. The list of new things we have to try or tryout for is considerable.

Interestingly, I rarely assumed that all would go well, that I would like what I tried out for or that I would be good, perhaps even great at it, or that it would bring me joy.

I wonder about that now. How much time did I spend thinking about the potential downsides? I believe the answer is, quite a bit.

And, I think I brought that attitude with me for much of my life. It sat on my shoulder during the college admission process and job interviews and some major life decisions.

I place no blame here. I realize we all absorb ideas and attitudes from our cultures. It’s pretty much a given.

Then one day something changed. I began to ask myself what was really true. Instead of allowing my standard responses to continue to guide me, I challenged everything. I became something of a rebel.

I shifted.

I opened to new possibilities. I started asking myself, what if I absolutely love this new thing? What if I change my idea of ‘success’, making it more about enjoyment than accomplishment? What if I learned to treasure the adventure and release my attitude that it has to lead to something tangible?

I began to embrace the idea that this life is mine. I get to decide what it means and what direction it takes. I get to choose which attitude to accept.

I found that I could let go of my tendency to believe I had to prove myself to others and recognize it is more important what I think and believe about myself. I am the one leading this life. I am the one with hopes and dreams.

I am not trying out for this life. I am this life.

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