Have you perfected the art of spending money, choosing the perfect party dress, starting a diet, tweeting, posting and text messaging even while you drive, cook, or play with your child?
Believe it or not all these things take practice and if you are really good at any of them you must be ‘putting in’ your time!
When children want to learn something -when they are ready- they just practice. They put in the effort effortlessly… while learning to ride a bike, to kick a soccer ball, to swim, to play an instrument, to hula hoop, to demonstrate friendship; when they don’t want to learn something – most likely, when they are still not ready – they experience it like hardcore labor. The same goes for us adults. Sometimes, we too may not be ready – emotionally, spiritually, physically – however, as adults we are able to: STOP, BREATHE, REFLECT and DECIDE. And, this is sometimes necessary in order to grow up in the right direction; necessary because as we grow into grown ups, we are more and more conditioned to feel adversity and fear towards more and more things… including things that should come natural to us, things as basic to our true nature as love, kindness and compassion…. sometimes knowing this type of pureness takes effort and even courage… it often takes practice.
Releasing myself from expectations, the need for a special reaction, the desire of a particular result: this is what I have been focusing on these past years. This what I have practiced and re-practiced, and although I still stumble once in a while, it is something that I am now able to carry out on a daily basis while speaking kindly, preparing special meals, offering a helping hand or listening ear, making personalized birthday cards, accepting differences in others.
However, while I was writing these very words, evaluating my progress and feeling particularly PROUD about all these acts that I am able to do unconditionally, something suddenly hit me – although important, I have been limiting much of my ‘practice’ to the very things that I enjoy doing… things that instinctively and therefore effortlessly evolve from my very nature. I enjoy being kind and cooking for others. I find pleasure in helping and listening. I love making heartfelt gifts. I have never had any problem with differences.
But, how about all those things that come less than easy to me, all those things that require effort and conscious thought and actual practice?
If the good things I normally do are easy and practically innate WHAT HAVE I REALLY BEEN DEDICATING MOST OF MY TIME AND ENERGY TO EACH DAY? What do I need to decide to practice even if I still feel a bit hesitant?
It is all this stuff, all the stuff that we regularly practice doing that counts. Whether for habit or conformity or even actual desire, this is what we are gonna get real good at. This is what we are going to start excelling in…
LIKE IT OR NOT.
So, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the situation and ask myself:
What exactly have I been practicing up until now?
I practice kindness, in the ‘traditional’, uncomplicated sort of way; that is, the type that doesn’t require too much practice, the type we are taught from an extremely young age – full of thank yous and your welcomes, bless yous and good mornings, opening doors, pushing in chairs, sweeping our crumbs off the table at Starbucks after breakfast, bringing our empty tea cup to a friend’s sink, helping someone with their coat… a kiss hello and a hug goodbye, a polite smile while entering an elevator. I excel in all these things and I am able to do them absolutely effortlessly!
Yet, if I want to be brutally honest (and for the moment, put aside the practice of telling myself some of those little, white lies that I so like to believe), up until now too much of my time and concentration has been dedicated to the practicing of such things as idle ‘action’, barely recognizable indifference, ever so subtle acts of greediness and separation… self consumption, passiveness, and for as much as I work against it, that horrendous, four letter word: FEAR.
If it is true that whatever we practice in our daily lives is what we will get really good at, become pure experts in, then we should actually take the time to think about what exactly is it that we want to become good at.
I would love to learn to spontaneously hug a stranger, encourage my daughters to give away their stuff, make an uncomfortable and long phone call to someone who needs it, truly acknowledge a beggar on the street.
Unconsciously, many of us have already earned our Ph.Ds in caring excessively about money and material things, instigating unnecessary stress or drama at work and at home, displaying ingratitude, succumbing to neediness or close-mindedness, using improper language, transmitting fear to loved ones, drowning ourselves in our own arrogance, hiding behind our monitors, accepting abusive situations, maintaining unhealthy lifestyles, obsessing over our appearance… a.k.a. striving for physical perfection and taking too many SELFIES!
What if we were to question all this… consciously decide what we want to practice and become real good or even great at it?
What if I were to practice becoming an individual who really shares love with my family and friends… other human beings, animals… even to those who don’t deserve it, even the ugly, dirty and stinky ones, even to those who seem completely unlovable… to all those people who are apparently incapable of, or unwilling to give me anything in return?
What if I extended this love to myself as well deciding not to criticize myself when I perceive to have failed, demonstrate loving kindness to myself when I make a mistake as a mother, a wife, a daughter or a friend? Not have the need to excuse myself for messing up my plans to have a happy, healthy, productive day, for being a ‘correct’ human being?
What is preventing each one of us from becoming, above all else, a person who knows how to love…. just because?
Just because it is right. Just because it makes the world a better place to live. Just because someone is suffering. Just because it feels good.
The last couple of weeks I have been sharing a story about 3 sisters living in Costa Rica in poverty, with their three older siblings and their mother who has lots of problems… with alcohol, drug use and prostitution. Their story, which is now our story, has moved me in a unique-to-me kind of way…
I don’t know why I received this ‘wake up’ call when I did. Maybe it was their greasy, knotty hair, their broken, dirty teeth, their holey shoes, their lost, yet innocent expressions, or simply their desperate need for love. When I met them, it was like encountering humanity for the very first time… For a brief moment, I thought that it was being revealed to me through their fiercely-lived spirit and their sweet, yet shaky smiles, but then I looked a bit closer and I recognized that the humanity that I was encountering was my own.
I was finally able to see what has been inside of me and in front of me in plain sight all along. This experience connected all that I thought I had been practicing in the past with all that I was living and actually practicing in the present moment and, all that I want to be real good at in the future. It gave me the extra push to decide to stop dedicating my time and energy into all that stuff that I was doing just because it was correct or easy or the popular thing to do, and start dedicating my time and energy, my entire being to the act of love and kindness… to the practice of sharing my love just because…
Encountering this family has taught me how to love more, and now that I know this feeling I find myself practicing love just because in so many different ways: helping a disabled woman cross the street, looking a homeless person in the eyes and asking him his name, where he is from… speaking to an awkward and lonely teenager, soothing a crying child who scraped his knee at the park, watching out for baby frogs as I take my daily walk in the woods, stopping to hug my husband throughout the day, and offering more love and patience, just because, in my very own family… being more forgiving towards myself.
However, this didn’t happen overnight… as I said it takes practice.
In her latest post, This (Good) Life, Katrina Kenison, author of the books Magical Journey and the Gift of An Ordinary Day says, ‘We can feel today’s feelings, solve today’s problems, enjoy today’s gifts. We can laugh and scatter darkness. We can smile and make someone else’s day better…. To live this way isn’t just courageous, it is profoundly, extraordinarily generous.’
It is generous. It is generous to other human beings. It is generous to the entire outside world. It is generous, most of all, to ourselves. And, as far as the courage goes… I believe that it takes courage, tremendous courage risking to live one’s entire existence never knowing, never practicing this joy, this ‘good life’, this profound and extraordinary way to just love...
In my last post I wrote:
‘Theirs is just one story. Just 7 lives, but it is only as insignificant as we believe it to be. I learned this, and I learned that it no longer remains insignificant now that it has found love…’
We have now put our indifference and our passiveness aside… we no longer fear the gift of giving (emotionally or economically) and, thanks to our family who loves us enough to help, generously choosing to love them through us, on JULY 1st Camila, Sharel, Kelynn, their mom and their three older siblings have moved into a new home where there are more windows, more dignity, more hope and more life… hopefully more love.
Thanks to my daughters, Kenia and Havana, who chose not to listen to the other kids at school when they tried to convince them not to make Camila, Sharel and Kelynn their friends, and instead opened their hearts and our family to their three new sisters.
An extra special thanks to our friend Alicia, an ex-missionary, who makes weekly visits to their new home and is helping Zulay break her dependencies, find employment and change her lifestyle so that she may learn how to better love her children and herself.
Thanks to Jim, a true brother, who helps us and Zulay’s family with some of the little stuff.
Some may believe that we have enriched their life, and we have… but, the other truth, the greater truth, is that they have enriched our lives so much more.
with joy, peace and a greater kind of love,
To read the entire story of the 3 sisters go to: https://freefamilyontheroad.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/just-before-i-fell-in-love-a-story-of-hope/
We look forward to hearing what is on your mind… please share your thoughts, ideas, comments and questions by replying at the end of the post.
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To view Katrina Kenison’s post on Choosing Joy: http://www.katrinakenison.com/2015/07/22/this-good-life/