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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The gift of you

A lady once had a precious necklace around her neck. But, forgetful as we can all be sometimes, she forgot that she had it on and thought her necklace was lost. She looked for it everywhere but could not find it. She called friends and family members to ask if they knew the whereabouts of her precious necklace, but none of them had any idea where it could be. At last one of her friends suggested for her to feel around her neck to find out if, perhaps, she was wearing it? She felt around her neck and, indeed, found that the necklace had been there all along. In the days after her frantic search, the lady's friends and family members called her to ask if she found her necklace. She admitted to finding it, because to her it was as if she had lost it, even though it had been with her all the time.

Just as it is with the precious jewelry of the lady above, so is it too with our self. We often forget our most important gift, our self - which is always with us -, and seek everything we need outside. We ask friends and family members, mentors, colleagues, supervisors, gurus, and others to advise us about issues to which we could actually find the best answers by turning to the jewel inside.

Many people are skeptical about this notion of an inner guru. That is because they have been programmed so well and so long to rely on everything and everybody else for counsel, that they no longer believe they harbor the capacity to develop insights. Some of them visit the inner fountain at times, and then forget about it again, as they get caught in the demanding quests of life. Others may initially turn inward and find answers, but then get influenced by an externally focused environment, upon which they promptly lose touch with their core.

Nevertheless: all the awareness you need in life resides inside of you. A good way to reconnect with this inner wealth is through meditation. Meditation is not a religious process, but more a psychological one. And just as well as we have been psychologically conditioned to think that insight and awareness are external treasures to be chased continuously, we can psychologically recondition ourselves to understand that they reside inside.

Sir Ken Robinson, one of the most brilliant critics of our education system, gives a funny but telling example of a little girl who is drawing something. When her teacher asks her what she’s drawing she says, "I'm drawing God." The teacher says, "But no one knows what God looks like!" Little girl: "They will in a minute."

There was a time you were like that little girl, with a similar connection to your inner awareness and imagination. You can restore that connection and rediscover the path to your inner fountain and its abundance. Try it. It may be an enjoyable journey!

The gift of breathing

"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies".~ Erich Fromm

You may have heard people say that we only value something when we have lost it. That is very true. But there is one thing that's so critical, that we no longer exist once we lost it: our breath.

Day after day, we are so busy undertaking all kinds of "important" actions, that we take the things that really matter for granted. Breathing is one of those things. How often do we simply take a moment to focus on our breathing? And yet, it is the one thing that distinguishes us from death. But because we have been blessed with this gift from birth, we don't think about it too often. We rarely value it, until there is a moment when we get in trouble and cannot breath. That moment can be a minuscule one. Just a few seconds. When the air is cut off, we suddenly realize that all those appointments, living standards, desires, special someone's, positions and possessions don't really matter. When our breath gets cut off, we are ready to sacrifice all those "important" things to get it back.

There is a touching story of a man who suffered from asthma. He just met a pretty young lady, and they were getting along very well. Yet, about a week after they met, while making plans to go to the movies, he got a terrible asthma attack. It was so severe, that his friend realized she had to do something drastic. She stopped a passing car and explained the problem. As they raced to the hospital, the young man’s breath stopped completely. However, his girlfriend was not planning to let him slip away, and she performed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) onto him over and over again until they reached their destination, where he was rushed inside and placed on a ventilator. By giving him her breath, he stayed alive. They are now happily married and have a family. It would not have been possible without sharing her breath in those critical moments.

Breathing is possible through the air around us, and we all know that we would not survive if that was gone. The earth, our common home, harbors the right amount of oxygen and the perfect temperature to provide us with the conditions to stay alive. But that, too, is something we don't consider often enough. Instead, we mainly focus on things that disrupt our peace of mind, such as trying to own a more advanced car than our neighbor, or wear a more expensive dress that our friend, or acquire a higher position than our colleague. We want to impress, and we are filled with the ambition to do so. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it does not become such an obsession that it entirely disrupts our joy in life. It is critical to regularly keep the bigger picture in mind, and the funny thing is, that the bigger picture is captured in the modest things. But without the basic conditions, which we all share and need, there would be none of our daily strife.

So, here's to the gift of breathing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The gift of our time

When we're young, and even in our middle-aged years, we get so busy that we tend to lose sight of the real important things in our lives, because they seem so simple. We become so absorbed by new people, projects, plans, purposes, and promises, that we forget all the old ones that made us who we are today. And sometimes it takes an unexpected event to regain our focus and realize what should really be our priority.

There is a story about a young, successful man, who had moved to another town to increase his career chances in life. He also had a wife and son, but, like most young fathers and husbands, he did not spend a lot of time with them, because he was always doing something that was either important or urgent. One day his mother called and told him that their old neighbor had passed away. The young man was quiet for a moment, then admitted that he honestly thought the old man had died long ago. Well, this wasn’t the case, and the mother was hoping he would be able to come over for the funeral. But the young man stated that he was too busy. His mother talked on and started reminiscing about all the things the old neighbor did for the young man when he was a little boy. Gradually the past started reliving and the young man realized what a major role the old neighbor had played in his childhood, especially after he lost his father. Images that he had long forgotten returned to his mind: the neighbor teaching him to create and repair little things, to make his own kite, to fix his bicycle tire... And while his mother was still recalling how nice it was of this old neighbor to try and play the role of a semi-father in the young boy's life, the young man felt his heart melting and said to his mother that he would attend the funeral after all.

The funeral was small and insignificant, and as the young man was driving his mother home, she suggested to visit the old neighbor’s house one more time. Everything was the same, except for an old box, which had consistently been the center of his attention as a little boy. He had always asked what was in that box, but the old neighbor had only smiled vaguely. Weeks later, as life had regained its hectic pace, a package was delivered to the young man's office. It turned out to be the box from the neighbor, which he had left to the young man. The antique box, a beauty in its own right, contained a wonderful gold watch, in which five words were engraved: “Thank you for your time.”

These 5 words changed the young man's perspective on life. He suddenly realized how much their time together must have meant to the old neighbor, and what a valuable gift time really is. We allocate our time to projects and things that later seem so futile in the larger scheme of things. Let us consider that, be grateful for the time others give us, and carefully consider which dear person we withheld the gift of our time lately. Then, let's do something about that!

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