Ripples on the Pond

reaching out

For two weeks I have been leafing through journals and paintings from my past. It was not something that I planed to do. I woke up one morning with an impulse to find a drawing I had done years ago. I remembered it as a quick sketch I had done in a journal. An hour later I was curled up in my bed with a mountain of drawing, dream, and personal journals from the last 30 years. I never found the sketch but I stayed in bed all morning reading through bits and pieces from different times in my life. At other times when I read back through my journals, I saw myself stuck in a repetitious loop. It seemed like, year after year, all of my relationships, behaviors, feelings, and reactions were basically the same. Thankfully I did not experience my history this way the other weekend. I did not read through my journals with groans of recognition, self-criticism or shame. I did not feel dismissive of my past experiences or embarrassed by them. Looking through my journals felt like pausing for a moment on the trail to look down at the winding path that I had just climbed.  I could see where I had been, when I had been stuck, what I had struggled with, and times that I asked for and received help and guidance. It was a beautiful poignant journey through my past. I read my own story with the interest and compassion I would feel if I were reading a story written by someone else.

The way that I perceive myself and the events in my life, and the way that I take in new information is changing. I am learning to experience every day events with the same inquisitiveness that I brought to my meetings with Coyote.  I am leaning to bring the same curiosity to myself and to what is going on in my own life that I bring to my work. I am learning to live in the present and pay attention to every detail as if every day were a vision quest. An hour of therapy and a vision quest both focus on the present moment and occur in a time frame that is set apart from our regular lives. I do not understand why we make the distinction between sacred and secular time in this way. I think everything that happens in a day has meaning: the flat tire on the way to an appointment, birds that suddenly start singing, barking dogs, traffic, a song on the radio, an unexpected encounter with an old friend. It feels odd to me that we separate the moments with meaning that we need to pay attention to from the rest of the hours in our day. Are we too busy to be curious about the significance of the small moments?  When we do pay attention do our judgments and emotions get in our way? I have a friend who often receives messages and information from billboards and license plates when she has a problem she is struggling with or a question that needs an answer. She does not believe that the billboards change as she drives past them and she does not drive through Los Angeles reading everything through her windshield looking for answers. Occasionally while she is driving something tells her to look up or to glance at the license plate of a passing car. We all have moments like this.  What is unusual about this woman is her willingness to receive what she sees as an important personal message.

Most of the time most of us miss the information that the people around us and the events in our lives are offering.  Everything around us is constantly teaching us about ourselves, mirroring our complexes, emotions and behaviors, and inviting us to have a different experience.  Most of the time we are too busy being irritated, bored or impatient to notice the invitation. We are not curious or inquisitive about the traffic or the angry inhospitable waiter. We may ask ourselves why we have been stuck on hold for an hour but we do not listen for an answer. We are oblivious to the language of the wind and the weather, the messages on billboards and the meaning in an unexpected delay. We take external events personally without looking for personal meaning. My journey through my journals began when I heard the case history of a colleague’s client. I did not initially connect the two events. I did not pull out my history because I had just heard someone else’s, but my feelings of compassion for that story helped me find compassion inside myself for my own. I am touched deeply by the way that others can affect and help us move forward if we let them. Like ripples on a pond one moment of compassion, or kindness, or insight keeps moving outward from our center softly nudging the next person we see and continuing to expand and extend gently in an infinite circle.

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