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As life intensifies, what can we do to keep ourselves from feeling swept up and overwhelmed by what’s going on? The answers may be easier than you think.
This week, we’ll consider ways of creating simple, yet significant shifts in how we engage with ourselves and with the world around us. Stay with me. I think you’ll be glad you did.
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Without question, the multiple changes brought by the pandemic have altered how we live. I don’t know of anyone who is unaffected. As I sit with people in weekly counseling sessions, they tell me about their feelings of frustration and fear and anger.
They don’t feel free to go to a café or restaurant or sit in a coffee shop for hours. They don’t embrace friends or family members as openly as they did a few months ago. Their normal routines have been disturbed. Teachers and parents and students at all levels feel apprehensive about going back into the classroom. Summer vacations have been cancelled. Weddings have been postponed. Many don’t feel safe going out but are growing increasingly tired of being stuck at home. The list goes on and I won’t add to it.
I’m also hearing people report that their view of the world and of the future is darkening. But is that necessary? Is it realistic? As challenging as things have become globally and locally, I’ll continue to point out that beauty and wonder and vitality and reasons to celebrate are all around us when we’re ready to see them and engage with them, and that when we do, something changes.
As I wrote last week’s newsletter, something happened that reminded me of a brief entry I made in my journal late in the summer ten years ago. Here it is.
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This evening, bejeweled by the first drops of much-needed rain, my garden enchanted me and held me spellbound.
(from my daily journal, August 2010)
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The summer had been brutally hot and there had been very little rain. One evening, as I headed into the garden to water the flowers, an unexpected shower began. I remember standing motionless at the end of one of the beds, watching in fascination as tiny droplets touched everything.
photo: Scott Lennox
Because the sun was near the horizon, the flowers took on the look of something you’d expect to see in a fine painting or in a jeweler’s showcase. It was a simple thing, yet it moved me so deeply that I fell into a stillness where my thoughts came to a stop and language lost its meaning. Without thinking or trying to understand it, I innately knew that I was connected to everything around me, and that I was part of something elegant and beautiful.
I coiled the hose and went back inside and was surprised to discover that more than half an hour had gone by. It was only when I felt the chill of the air-conditioning that I realized my shirt and pants were soaking wet. In the stillness of the garden, I hadn’t noticed. The only thing that mattered was what the rain and the light were showing me.
Some may consider my experience to have been nothing out of the ordinary. After all, I was just a man standing in the rain in his back yard. But I can assure you that the moment was so magically refreshing that even now, ten years later, I’m still moved by what I witnessed that miraculous evening.
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Without struggling to do it, I can still recall the smallest details, including the way the water droplets sparkled from the inside- out. I can feel the rain softly touching my hands and face and hair. I hear a cardinal peeping to its mate in the nearby Ligustrum’s as it flew to the top of the fence and fluffed out its feathers to bathe. I can hear a pair of crows cawing in the distance and a wren even farther away. I can smell the change in the air as the rain washed it clean. And I can taste the basil leaf I savored as I stood there chewing on it.
Just thinking about it brings all that beauty back to me and I lean into it for a while, completely relaxed.
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I’m not suggesting that by thinking about something beautiful, the world around you will change for the better. Without a doubt, things will go on exactly as they do. But each time we allow ourselves to lean into what is balanced or beautiful, into something kind or compassionate, something changes in us.
Then, as we are intentional about making that shift part of our daily experience, the result becomes something vital and long- lasting. We find that we’re back in control of ourselves and are less affected by the changes around us, regardless how extreme they may be. We become calm and centered and focused in the middle of the storm without resisting and without pushing back.
I won’t speak for you, but for me, that’s a much more balanced place to be.
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That brings us to this week’s three Beautiful Questions.
Question One: What changes have you noticed in yourself since the pandemic began? Be as specific as you can.
Question Two: What would you prefer to be thinking and feeling and doing instead? Once again, allow yourself to be specific.
Question Three: What simple and regular changes would help you naturally and organically bring about the shift you want—what can you do to allow yourself to be where and as you want to be in the middle of the chaos?
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This week’s questions are designed to help you inspire yourself to create real and lasting change. As you sit with them, and your answers emerge, write and tell me about it. I’m listening.
As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light
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