I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting this blog lately, in favor of writing my speeches for Toastmasters. But I’m putting my speeches up as PDF’s under the Writing section of this website, so check that out if you want to see something new.
I participated in a webinar with Dr. Joan Borysenko this week, and have since been practicing a suggestion she shared. It’s surprisingly powerful!
The suggestion is that we practice being grateful for one new thing every day, just before we go to sleep. We don’t have to be grateful for something big – just find something new each day for which we can be grateful as we fall asleep that night.
Dr. Borysenko reported that the effect of this practice is to greatly enhance our mindful awareness throughout the day, as we’re on the lookout for something new to be grateful for. We’re much more likely to notice little potential sources of joy that we might otherwise overlook.
Trying out this practice myself the last few days, I’ve been surprised to notice another effect as well. Maybe this is just me, but when I ask myself to be grateful for something and let myself be surprised by what pops into my mind, I seem to be coming up with things for which I normally am not at all grateful, things that I normally view very negatively.
For example, one thing that sprang to mind when I asked this question was a feeling of gratitude for the scar on my belly from the C-section I had when my son Dakota was born. My normal attitude is to look at this scar with distaste, thinking how ugly it is and reproaching myself for not having done more to make it heal in a better way.
But this week when I asked myself, “What are you grateful for, that you haven’t been grateful for before?” the response that bubbled up was, “I am grateful for the scar from my C-section, where Dakota came out of my body and into the world, such a great gift in my life! And I am grateful that I did not die in childbirth, as so many women before me have done in similar circumstances.” And since then, this feeling seems to be carrying forward each time I notice my scar. Rather than frowning in self-criticism, I am smiling with gratitude. This is where Dakota came out!
The power of perspective for transforming our experience of our lives always startles me. And what a simple way to gain access to a possible shift – just look for something new to be grateful for each day!
Lately I’ve been opening my eyes to the new day every morning feeling excited. The sense I have is that the third act of my life is just beginning, and it’s going to be great. The first two acts, however challenging they may have been, have laid the foundation for a very fulfilling culmination in the act that’s opening now. I feel like a little kid anticipating Christmas. I can’t wait to start ripping the paper off those boxes under the tree, so I can see what’s in them!
In particular, I feel like the book in me – the one that I’ve been thinking I “should” write, but haven’t felt ready to write, wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready to write – that this book is finally coming ripe, ready to be brought into form and shared. Here I am right now, sitting down to write because I actually feel like doing it! Hallelujah!
I love to watch the roses that bloom in front of my kitchen window as they come into green bud, then stretch into their colors, begin to peek out toward the sun, and little by little open, open wider, slowly surrendering into their full flowering beauty.
Watching my friend Milla Milojkovic sing last night at the Croation American Cultural Center, this was the image that came into my mind. Her voice was rich and velvety, like the petals of a deep red rose, relaxed and with a fully opened throat that seemed to glide effortlessly wherever she willed, offering little thrills and surprises at every turn, infinitely simple and interesting at the same time. What a gift!
I vividly remember first meeting Milla back in 1999 when I came to her graduation recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as a guest of her sister who was dating my older son at the time. Even then, her poise and presence onstage were impressive. When I heard she was looking for office work in order to make a living after graduation, we hired her at OMIX, Inc. (the Internet company my husband and I were running at the time), in accordance with our philosophy of hiring the person and training the skills. She was very bright and eager, and soon became a valuable contributor.
On break or sometimes at the end of the day, Milla would go into her office, close the door, and practice her operatic scales, which was a source of happiness for me. She made our office feel like an art school dorm, resonant with freely expressive, creative energy. Sometimes it was a little hard to concentrate, I’ll admit. But well worth the sense of joy.
Over the years, Milla has developed as a singer of jazz and of music from her Yugoslav heritage, and I’ve seen her perform from time to time. The friendship we began when she worked for me has flowered too over the years, into a deep and abiding connection of the sort that I expect to keep as long as I live. I appreciate her insightful, inquisitive mind and ready sense of humor, her passionate Slavic nature, and above all her commitment to living her values.
Seeing her onstage last night, so elegant and beautiful, was such a pleasure. Now in her 30’s, Milla reminded me of a softly textured, exquisitely formed rose in richly varied, complex hues of wine red, sharing her gift with such compelling ease and integrity, speaking between songs with so much loving grace, manifest in her full flowering form. What a soulful delight.
I had an interesting experience this week with a friend who has been committed to silence for the past couple of months. My friend is a deeply spiritual man who is seeking to honor his inner dictates even when this makes him seem a bit odd to the rest of the world. Recently, he has felt drawn to remain in silence, communicating with others only in writing although they are welcome to communicate with him however they wish.
Some people mistake him for a mute, try using sign language (which he doesn’t speak) to communicate with him, or otherwise misunderstand what he is doing. But he is learning many things through this practice, including to accept being misunderstood.
My friend and I get together every now and then, usually to take a walk. But this time, we decided to meet in a meeting room at the library so we could communicate in writing. I never realized before that the Redwood City Public Library offers meeting rooms with large tables, lot of plugs in the wall, and a glass wall like a corporate conference room. Perfect!
I didn’t know how I might communicate when we got together. I brought a tablet of paper to write on, but I thought this might be frustratingly slow for me and difficult for him to read my writing. I brought my laptop so I could write more readably and quickly, keeping better pace with my thoughts. But when we first sat down, my friend wrote to me on sheets of paper that were partially used (not to waste paper), and I stuck with what was familiar, speaking quietly to him in response to his questions, filling him in on all the latest news in my life. There was lots to tell.
After a while, this didn’t feel quite right. The energy between us was out of balance. I switched to writing on my legal pad, wishing that I too had brought along paper destined for recycling, of which I have plenty! I hadn’t thought to do that. But now that both of us were writing without speaking, there was an immediate shift in the sense of connection between us, as our energies came into better balance. He could read what I wrote well enough. No need to use the laptop.
Maybe it had been good to get the “information-sharing” portion of our communication out of the way more quickly by speaking. (I’m not sure.) But communicating in silence now, the conversation between us immediately deepened to the level that I most cherish with this friend. It was as though leaving aside the surface chatter and allowing the silence to hover around us left more room for our inner experiences to find voice, and more time to fully assimilate what we “heard”. I felt much more deeply connected with my friend and also with myself.
Somehow, when we communicated in this way, the space within me that feels like “channeling” opened and seemed clear. I sensed that I could trust what I felt moved to say, could let it bubble up, through and over to my friend, confident that it was good. And my friend began to communicate from deeper places within him that are usually too delicate and important to be shared. This was so wonderfully rich and nourishing for us both.
There was a sense that something sacred was happening between us, and that it was our silence that made this possible. I can’t say I understand it, but I am still feeling out the implications of this experience. Even now, revisiting the experience in order to describe it, I feel a quickening vibration within me. What an unexpected surprise all this has been.
I am grateful to my friend for having the courage to ask for what he wanted, grateful that he created this opportunity for us to discover the wonder of connecting in silence.