I know what it’s like to be wowed everyday. To clear the shattered glass of life without fanfare more often than not, and to sense a resilience at my core that feels like peace. The good news is that we are all made of the same impressive stuff, made more clear at least to me when we share the cool stuff we see.
And since I’ve been quiet far too long, here’s a little share:
Not long ago I made two mistakes on a one-way street. The first was entering the street in the wrong direction. The second was not fully examining the reflection in my rearview mirror while turning around. I knew there were no cars, but what I didn’t see was a tall metal protrusion at the edge of the street that shattered the back window of my van as I backed up.
The crackling gash of glass into a web of ruin rattled the quiet morning. I flinched and my heart sped, but I felt calm, composed, and unruffled, and this surprised me.
I stepped out of the van to investigate any damage to the metal structure, and finding none, cleared the glass from the street and proceeded to my next business appointment, and then directly to a glass shop to order a new window. I then felt impressed to go back to the scene of the accident and find to whom the structure belonged and report it, which I did.
As I stood in my driveway and sucked thousands of shards of glass into my wet/dry vac, I marveled at my state-of-mind that morning. I also thought of how differently I would have told and lived this story from a younger understanding of life, and I felt deeply grateful.
At an earlier time, I would have likely stayed calm on the outside, and had a flood of feelings on the inside. Shame and self-annoyance for not being aware. Guilt for smashing a perfectly good window. Fear of legal repercussions and facing my actions. Anxiety in finding the “just right” repair shop. Avoidance of my business appointment altogether. Overwhelm at cleaning up the mess and taping the window with plastic.
In short, I would have driven straight home, called my mom and husband, and then slowly faced the task at hand while wading through my emotions and overthinking everything.
What was it then that made the difference for me that day between being rattled and reposed? Between feeling foolish and simply human? Between driving straight home in overwhelm and handling business straightway without fanfare?
What I have come to know through personal daily miracles like this one, is that the clearer we see where our emotions are coming from, the easier life becomes on the inside, and the wiser we navigate the world.
I’ll say more about that in a moment, but I share this story of the broken window to state the obvious fact that life happens. We live in a finite world with human frailty including our own, as well as abrupt edges we don’t often see until we do. Accepting my own and other’s humanity and realizing that no matter how hard I try, I cannot control this sphere called earth, has transformed my everyday experience into moments of peace that exceed my wildest youthful hope for a happy life.
This doesn’t mean I never fear, or that I always fully accept my blazing imperfections, or that I don’t cry with deep distress over my children because I want them to find joy. I suffer with great self-doubt at times, with disappointment, regret, sadness, hesitation, and the desire to put a paper bag over my head so nobody sees me.
The difference is, and this difference is the difference that’s made all the difference – I now know where my emotions are coming from every single time no matter what, and they aren’t coming from the finite world, an inanimate object, an event, or another person. They aren’t coming from a broken window, a lack of skill, my teenaged daughters, or even the antics of a portentous politician.
Our feelings come from a space within each of us through the divine gift of thought – a gift of infinite creation that came with us at birth.
What this gift means is that we do not experience the world directly. Yes, we may physically interface with life, but our feeling of life always comes via thought. My husband may well press his lips against mine, but it is my thinking in the moment about him that creates my experience of that kiss.
This understanding of the inside-out nature of life can be groundbreaking, but often doesn’t come as a single earthquake. As we keep looking to see, it tends to come as small tremors of insight that show up in real time and make us take note. Like during an ordinary day we’ll notice that our typical fears and sensitivities don’t look so real and we’ll snap out of them in a flash. Or we’ll notice ourselves gliding through an event that would have unsettled us in the past, and we clear that shattered glass with a cool calm that leaves us kinda wowed.
What are your everyday wows? Is your overall experience of life getting easier as you go, and what impressive stuff on the inside might make that difference?
I sometimes feel so inadequate, so average, so lacking in skill and smarts and so unqualified for the task at hand. I see brilliant and talented people all around me and I think, “Why should I write, or create, or speak or give that project a whirl when a million someone elses could do it better?”
But for some reason, I press my small, trembling, hesitant, and behind-the-curtain-loving-self onto the stage and grab that blasted microphone anyway and then I sing my heart out. It’s just what I do.
I refuse to believe the lifelong and persistent voices in my head that tell me I’m not worthy or qualified or that I don’t really belong here like other people do. I showed up on this earth to be a full participant, and I am not bowing out until I have opened my heart and spilled out all of my gold, small or great as it may be.
What I know for sure is that when I am quiet inside, a still small voice that is clear, calm, and filled with unbounded love rises from the deep and reminds me of who I truly am and who every other person is too.
And while I still entertain rude and noisy guests inside my head, I know the living voice of peace is waiting by my fire’s warm hearth, to show me what I’m made of, and to bring me truly home.
Ok. I think I can do this today. Cheering to all of my friends out there too. Let’s do this thing!
D J H
You are a miraculous creation of jiving jubilation,
a galaxy of melody who serenades the vales-
a mystic wearing neon shades outside his castle gate,
a patriot with eagle’s wings, a sideways figure eight.
An eyebrow dancing confidant, a full-moon wide awake,
a visionary heart so pure, it brims twelve-thousand lakes.
A pilgrim of the holy grail who waits on bended knee,
and tunes his soul to hear his call from grand eternity.
Have you ever dared listening to another person without much on your mind?
I recently coached a successful CEO who wanted my professional input on how to introduce an innovative educational program to his employees. As he walked through the door and sat across from me, a few thoughts raced through my head.
- A guy this successful will want cutting edge tips, tools, and a creative plan of action to leave with to feel like he’s gotten his money’s worth.
- I’d better also come up with some great metaphors, connective stories, and relevant references, so his experience is rich.
- His line of work is not entirely familiar to me. How can I effectively speak to his situation with authority?
And so forth.
Instead of giving my thought stream any real airtime, I decided to simply let each whim go as it came. In short time, instead of pretending to listen to this man while chatting with my ego, I just listened. Not to my own agenda, but to him. He spoke for a good fifteen minutes straight, and instead of sharing every thought that seemed relevant, helpful, or impressive, I let each one go as it arose and came back to him with full presence.
The quieter I became, the clearer it became that my job was not to find his solution; it was to listen deeply enough so that he could find his own.
At some point, an authentic question rose up and out of my mouth and I asked it. He paused, put his two fingers on his chin to think, and spoke until he began to spark with his own a-ha’s. They were small a-ha’s at first, and at first I wanted to jump in with affirming words and personal insights. Instead, I trusted for his own wisdom to settle in, and I waited for him to see it for himself.
I began to notice that the more I listened to him freshly with nothing on my mind, the more clear, direct, and simple my insights came, and so did his. So when he finally asked me a question about his own potential foolishness and credibility, I answered him with the five-word observation, “It seems you’re just curious.”
And that was it. What once looked to him like taking a nervous risk, now looked like a fun game of marbles. What once looked to him like pinheaded prattle, now looked like innocent inquiry and play. In the moment he saw it for himself, his “bonus package” of pluck and perception and how to proceed arrived, and he brimmed with mirth.
Now the tendency of course is to say, “Hey, that was cool. Let’s unpack what just happened in that conversation and turn it into a strategy.” As if the genius of true creative intelligence could be replaced with a gimmick, which alas, it cannot.
This is why the often showy practice of ‘active listening,’ like leaning forward, nodding, making eye contact, and paraphrasing every 30 seconds or so in a effort to appear like we’re listening, doesn’t garner rave reviews. Stepping off the stage long enough for another person’s wisdom to shine through, however, can reveal the whole presented drama for what it is. A creative expression of thought, costumed in a motley of emotion, and acted out in the theatre of life.
Could it then be possible that the quality of our emotional experience in any given moment is not a result of a particular set, scene, or fellow players, but is in direct relation to the quality of our thinking about these things?
Could it also be possible, that when we listen to life with a quieter mind, we may more easily hear the truth of our divine identity, and our potential for peace and creation?
I’m curious what might happen if we began to listen to our spouse, children, colleagues and friends without the need to fix, affirm, negate, prove ourselves, or set the world straight. It might be a relief to trade in the director role for a seat in the balcony, eating our popcorn of peace, and cheering for one another with brightened trust.
What would you just love to create?
I am assuming that since you are a human being and not a squirrel, that like me, you have talents, habits, and dreams you’d love to see materialize. Perhaps again like me, you have bookshelves bursting with help, friends at the ready with advice, and digital pins of images and articles for a lifetime of go-get-em inspiration.
And then there’s that voice inside your head. You know, the one with the spotty counsel, telling you one day that you’re the bees knees, and most of the others that you just don’t even have the “it” factor to boil a pot of water.
We’ll talk more about that voice in later posts, but for now, I want to share a little something with you about the humble insight, and how it is the single most powerful gift for lasting change.
insight = sight from within
A little story to illustrate:
When my husband Hugh was twenty and single, he found himself playing soccer in a dirt field with a teenaged boy in Cañete Peru named Mario. Mario kicked the ball with skill, holding his left arm behind him as he traveled across the hot dust to the goal.
After their first formal introduction and a spontaneous connection, Mario invited Hugh home for dinner.
Mario lived with his parents and his older brother and a younger sister in a home with a dirt floor, corrugated metal walls, and a cardboard roof. Their food came by gleaning the fields after the harvest, and since Mario had lost his left hand when he was a small child, his parents and older brother told him he was useless to help, and would never make anything of himself.
One night by candlelight, Hugh sat with Mario in his home and spoke to him in broken Spanish of what he saw about Mario’s divine nature, his infinite worth, and his innate agency to choose liberty in his life through the power God.
In that unplanned moment of sharing, Mario saw something about himself he never remembered seeing before, and even more keenly, he felt it. Beyond the words being said, beyond the limits of language and context, Mario glimpsed something new that also felt true – a simple, humble insight into his deeper nature and identity, which sparked a hope for a brighter life, and an energy to take real action.
My teacher Michael Neill once said:
“When a stick floating down the river gets stuck, it doesn’t need psychotherapy, it just needs a nudge.”
Despite years of pain and derision, that nudge of in-sight, that “sight from within,” was all it took for Mario to spring into action with a bold fearlessness he’d never known before. According to Hugh, when Mario glimpsed his true nature and potential, he began by taking a leadership role in his family. Instead of being the one who was picked on, he began to be the protector of his younger sister, a counselor and guide to his brother and parents, and a leader in his community.
He even created a plan to earn enough money to travel alone to another country in South America, and share with other people what he’d seen – and he followed through.
Just before Hugh stepped on the bus to leave for home, Mario took off his prized soccer pin from his shirt and with emotion, handed it to Hugh.
From the stillness, light will appear.
What intrigues me about this story is that it didn’t take a library of books, a stack of credentials, or a star-studded seminar for Mario to see something new that would change his life forever. And while Hugh pointed Mario in a fresh direction of thought, the insight didn’t come through Hugh. It came straight through Mario.
What I’ve found to be true is that we influence another most profoundly when we do not try to change them at all, but simply love them, and respond to them in each moment with full presence of heart. I have also found that it is through this quiet place of open stillness, through this readiness to listen and to hear what we’ve never considered before, that our humble insights will come. And when they do come, and they will, ordinary people like you and me will possess exactly what we need to actualize our most extraordinary dreams.
Now I have nothing but admiration for the clever squirrel, but we can realize our talents, habits, and dreams because we are human beings. As such, we are each born with an inner light, a wellspring of wisdom, an innate intelligence, a creative force, an agency to choose, and an infinite, unchangeable worth.
I’ve noticed for myself that the less I pay attention to the noise inside my head, the more space opens up for fresh insights to come through. And when that happens, I find myself creating desired habits, skills, projects, and goals with more ease and less fuss than I ever imagined. The fun part is that like Mario and his dream of a better life and world, insights by nature come with a bonus package of ideas, energy, and initiative to know how to proceed, to make connections, and to create that very dream.
To all ordinary creators and friends, a day of miracles and insight to you!