3P Random Reflections Blog
It's interesting that when we give a gift to others it often (not always) comes with expectations... We want them to like it, to appreciate it, to use it the way we think it should be used, and perhaps less obvious to ourselves, we want them to appreciate
US for giving it to them. We give with conditions.
In these "giving with conditions" moments, it's as if we have a perception of lack, where we can't just give something without needing to get something in return. We appear to empty our
cup and therefore need to fill it back up.
But what if we lived with the perception of abundance instead?
What if we could truly see and feel that our cup was actually ALWAYS overflowing, and that the act of giving
required absolutely nothing in return because there was no empty cup to fill back up? What if we simply gave whenever we were inspired by our moments of fullness, of completeness, of wholeness, of connectedness, of overflowingness? We would then inevitably
be always giving without condition.
I know that looking toward abundance instead of lack doesn't seem to be obvious. Our society has a deeply ingrained foundation of pointing to lack rather than abundance, pointing to separation instead
of connection, pointing to insecurity instead of security, pointing to fear instead of love, pointing to the empty cup instead of the overflowing one.
But what if society was just innocently looking in the wrong direction?
What if our feeling of lack was simply a temporary illusion and our feeling of abundance was grounded in a deeper truth? It would mean that we would all need much less, and we could all give much more, and we could give without condition. We could simply
In my work with the homeless (and in my entire life, realIy) I continually seesaw between feelings of lack (need, protection, fear, judgment, separation, hopelessness) and feelings of abundance (peace, joy, gratitude, wonder, humour,
connection) but I'm learning to look beyond the constructed fences of lack and into the natural and infinite fields of abundance... and interestingly enough, those fields of abundance never cease to be there whenever I happen to take a ---still moment--- to
NOTE: This came to mind when reading a recent article about giving money to the homeless. Here's the link if you are interested...
With our recent 4 days of riding the rails (sounds much more romantic and adventurous than "train trip", doesn't it?), we had plenty of opportunity to meet with people and talk.
One gentleman we met, I would guess somewhere in his 70s, was a lovely down-home-philosopher with farm-weathered skin, bright eyes, a delightful curiosity, and a gift for story-telling. One of his stories came from the start of his trip, and went as follows...
His plans for the trip included bringing along $1500 cash. To keep it safe, he had sewn together two little leather square-shaped pockets. $800 was folded to fit into one of the leather pockets, which he then slipped into his left boot. The
remaining $700 was folded to fit into the other leather pocket, which he then slipped into his right boot.
The money travelled around in his boots while he did some shopping and errands in Winnipeg the day before the rail trip started.
At some point in the day, when getting back into his car, he noticed a bunch of money on the floor. He quickly realized that it was likely the money from his boot, so he scooped it up and counted it out... $800. "Whew", he relaxed a bit.
He then reached into his other boot for the $700, but unfortunately it was gone. All of it.
In a bit of panic, he was immediately mentally tracing his day while lamenting the value of the loss. He was NOT someone whose income and lifestyle
would consider that amount to be trivial. But, the significance of his story for him and for us, was not in his initial experience of the loss, but in the genuinely sincere thought that came to him shortly thereafter...
"It occurred to
me, well, someone must have needed it more than I did."
Our hearts melted.
As I was listening to his story (which he told with rich visuals and cradled with much care), a smile was growing on my face. I was getting
a sense of where the story might be going. You could see and feel that he was someone who wasn't lost in the incredibly convincing personal particulars of his life, but who had a great respect for, and understanding of something much more... the significance
of the heart, and the potential for leaning toward respect and trust in the greater mystery of life.
What was significant for me in the story was not so much the form of the actual thought that occurred to him (as if we all should have
the same thought), but in the switch that happened within, that moved him from the personal to the philosophical. He had an insight.
His own deeper knowing of life and thought allowed him to avoid getting entrenched in the personal particulars
of the event, unhelpfully digging into what he already "knew" to manage and control his experience. Instead, he instinctively relaxed, leaving room for wisdom to arise, resulting in the receipt of a personal gift that turned his personal, conditional, and
limited perspective, into an experience that was impersonal, unconditional, and universal.
The interesting thing is that we can't "make" this particular change of thought and perspective happen. And yes, we can certainly use our own personal
intellect to come up with all sorts of alternatively helpful ways of seeing any situation in a better light. But, if none of those ideas somehow makes it through the cracks of our closed little personal "knowing" mind, and into our KNOWING heart, they won't
be of any lasting effect. They will remain ONLY as ideas.
As someone who spent years searching for, finding, and then trying to cram other people's insights into my own heart, I know of that which I speak! LOL! Few of the ideas ever made
it past my intellect.
What I didn't realize during ALL that time was that ideas don't move from somewhere outside to be consciously placed into the depths of my soul. Instead, they arise from "within" (wherever the heck that is), dropping
into the open and trusting heart that somehow leaves room for it.
It's fortuitous that my friend Catherine posted this beautifully simple quote by Dicken Bettinger today, just as I was writing this story... "Wisdom loves an open mind".
How lovely. I'll leave it at that.
I went on a train trip recently that included multiple stops for no apparent reason. Several of the passengers, including me, were giving our various explanations for why a particular stop had happened. And one time, in the middle of sharing my own
particular perspective, I realized something significant and broke out laughing.
In a single instant I realized I had absolutely no idea why the train had stopped.
But here I was, observing myself confidently speaking
as if I knew, giving a convincing reason that made complete sense in my own mind, and holding several other passengers (relative strangers) in rapt attention and agreement as if my words were truth. I hadn't asked the train engineer why. I had just figured
it all out for myself. It all just struck me as incredibly funny.
In that moment, I had seen in a flash, all the various thousands of things about the train and the trip that I didn't know the answer to, but had created stories in my mind
to explain away the what's and whys. I saw how little my mind was satisfied with "not knowing" and was continually filling in plausible answers to the questions that appeared in my head... What is this strange little shelf in our cabin actually designed for?
Why do those passing trees look like feathers? Why are the hooks designed this way?... oh wait, I KNOW.
In that moment I shared my realization with the other passengers... "Oh my God, I am making all this stuff up. I have absolutely no
idea why we had that stop. I know NOTHING about trains. Yet here I am explaining away as if what I'm saying is truth. And I see myself doing it with such confidence and conviction, and I see all of you watching and listening and nodding and believing. Isn't
that hilarious? Oh my God, I... we... do this... all... the... time!"
For me this was just another reminder of many that I continue to get about a profound change in my understanding of life a few years ago... "Holy crap, every single
thought I've ever had in my entire life has been completely made up, I'm living in a complete illusion." That realization seemed incredibly funny then too.
After my amusing admission, we had a discussion about the convincing power and
illusory nature of thought that also seemed to hold their rapt attention and mine... except this time, relatively speaking, I think I was making a lot less stuff up. Although, who really knows? At the very least, it seemed like lots of fun and we had a few
good laughs and a few moments for connection and reflection. Perhaps that's enough.
It's crazy, isn't it?
In our consumer society, we are so distanced and disconnected from the origin and production/processing and delivery of the products and services we buy, that we don't have any inkling of the upstream and downstream
effects (including the potential damage) of each purchase we make... with each effect then rippling out in an infinite number of directions.
We see something that looks useful to us, and buy it... and whatever we can't see or experience
or don't know about, never crosses our minds, as we simply move onto the next mostly unconscious purchase.
And since there is sooooooooo much shiny product that is sooooooooo easily purchased, and since the whole of our society is continually
buying (including me), we rarely question the insanity of it all... it's just more more more for me me me without any awareness of what we're doing, why we're doing it, or what is the impact.
And trying to figure out the potential effects
of any one purchased product could be overwhelming with all the information (and conflicting information) available... let alone considering all of that for every single thing we consume. And I haven't even touched on all the mostly hidden personal beliefs
and perceptions and insecure thoughts that unknowingly skew my views on what and how much I buy.
Instead, lately I've just been reflecting on this simple idea whenever it occurs to me...
"If I truly loved and felt
connected to everyone and everything, would I buy this product, or this service, or this (fill in the blank here)?"
Sometimes I say no and don't buy it. Sometimes I do a little research on it before purchasing. Sometimes I consider looking
for a more "loving" option (upcycled, recycled, repurposed, borrowed, shared, traded, eco-friendlier, alternate solution, smaller, less, etc.). Sometimes I still buy it.
And whatever the answer, I neither laud any choice as right (I'm
good) nor suffer any choice as wrong (I'm bad)... I've realized enough over the last few years not to get lost in either version of my insecure thought. For me, it's mostly just a growing mindfulness in what and why I buy, and my place within this incredibly
complex, interconnected world.
Right now, in truth, I'm still mostly a little turtle caught in the river rapids of consumerism. But this question is appearing in my mind more often, and having some influence on my less mindful purchasing
For me, at least it's a start.
And, it naturally leads into asking, "If I truly loved and felt connected to everyone and everything (including my sense of self), would I be doing what I'm doing right now?"
Hmmmmm... I wonder?
Six years ago, on May 24th 2013 to be precise, I somehow had a profound epiphany.
I don't really know why or how it happened, but in no small measure, I saw that I was my community and they were me. I realized the intrinsic divinity
in life, and in myself, and in everyone else. I saw clearly how everyone's negative behaviours were simply coming from their internal suffering, including my own... no exception.
Some things in my experience of life changed immediately,
but most other things have been on a slow, wildly up and down, but ultimately graceful and progressive path, even in the MANY moments when it hasn't seemed like it. And with that type of insight, how could it be otherwise?
And so the path
has brought me closer to LIVING more of what I had realized... moving away from giving significance to the personal me (all the stories my personal ego still loves to make up about myself, about life, about others, whether good or bad) and moving toward giving
significance to the impersonal me, the unconditional me, the community me, the connected me, the me that is actually not me at all... the me that is you and everyone and everything else.
This epiphany led to a significant change in the
focus of my work... leaving a big company full of those who are "the not-so-obvious, but socially accepted suffering", to work in a community full of those who are "the very obvious and socially unaccepted suffering".
Since then I've been
figuring out "how on earth" to navigate this new understanding in my own life and how to share it in ways for others to gain a glimpse of it too. And of that, I have been learning.
At the same time, by all the accepted measures of our
socially accepted version of society, my 6 years of "learning success" would be considered pretty dismal, and my personal ego LOVES to spend time pointing out all the stories to support it... not much money (although my tax refunds are fabulous! LOL!), not
many "obvious" souls saved, and not a significant flock of adoring fans reminding me of my personal brilliance. Poor me.
And so the biggest part of my path has been the agonizing and yet wonderful learning process of letting all that go...
remembering, realizing, and KNOWING again and again and again, that all these measures have been made up by the personal me and have absolutely nothing to do with the community me and nothing to do with the deep, profound truth to be found in the simple grace
of each moment of life itself, however the personal me and the community me happens to live it.
The personal me and all it's personal-crazy still has many hurdles ahead. It still has a lifetime full of lessons yet to arrive, teaching it
how to let go of the personal, how to "just play", and how to BE my community instead of judging it, or thinking I am above it, or unknowingly (and inevitably unsuccessfully) attempting to keep myself separate and protected from the parts of it that I don't
The real truth is that I AM my community, I AM ALL of it, and for better or worse, so are each of you, even in every moment when we forget it or don't know it at all. But whenever we are somehow given the grace to know it, to truly
know it, we are immediately better just for the knowing. We’re given the grace of love and understanding.