Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘kindness’

Always and Forever

My Hero

This is the premise, the basic promise for long-term relationships, such as traditional marriages.

“Forever” is a solemn promise, and typical quotes from marriage ceremonies in this society include dedication to be true through “better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health”.

These are the big dramatic parts of a promise ceremony, yet at the outset of a young marriage they are more like a list of tests the wedded couple will face one day. The results will vary widely from couples that endure all unto their deaths, and other cases where the least bit of stress or inconvenience can lead to dissolution of the bond.

“Forever” is the most important aspect of this promise, and that only becomes truly understood as one draws nearer to the “end of Forever”, our mortal life. It’s a lofty goal when one is young, but as one ages it becomes a foundation, something to be relied upon without question or doubt.

When we really begin looking down the barrel of aging, life’s trials, the events that befall us, we reach for the assurance that the promise of “Forever” will be kept.

When we lose a good job or position, regardless of the reason. When we lose our teeth and are fitted with dentures. When we are stricken with the debts of our years and become weakened, even hobbled, by the diseases and conditions of our bodies.

Are you really going to stick by me when I lose use of a leg? When my speech becomes impaired? How about if my brain is stricken, and I become, essentially, a different person than the one you made that promise to? Perhaps there’s a tipping point…15 years, 20 years, 30…40, when one no longer doubts the promise. Perhaps for some there is never any doubt.

Perhaps for others, the doubt is never fully quelled. Perhaps for some, they stick with it simply because of the promise. That’s “Forever” in a nutshell.

“Always” is the hard part. Always means ALL ways, ALL the time. To love someone “Forever and Always” means every day, through everyday trials and tribulations, through the ordinary and extraordinary millions of hours that will comprise our lives together.

Not only when you’re sick with the flu, but when you’re sick from drinking Pepsi & vodka.

Not just when you’re down because your dog died, but when you are unreachable and inconsolable over much greater loss.

When you’re smiling and complimenting me, as well as when you are angry and vilifying me.

When you’re all dressed up and smelling like a rose as well as when you’ve been through the wringer and smell like…what is that awful smell?

“Always” is the day you got the big raise, the day you bought a boat without even asking me, and the day your company moved to Guam and kicked you (and our finances) to the curb.

“Always” includes that touching, perfect gift only you could bring, and then again the time you showed up empty-handed on our anniversary.

Stress is relative, and young relationships are more prone to stress from short-sighted goals and egocentricity. My time for my buddies, the things you did before we were married, the friend who has been with you since first grade and thinks he can still be your fishing pal. The amount of time you spend with me, the number of things you do that rub me the wrong way, your attitude toward this big decision, this giant step, and whether you’re serious about “Forever”.

Even the Zen Master can find it difficult, while maintaining a solid commitment to “Forever”, to navigate the pop-up skirmishes of our “Always”.

Next time you get to an “Always” you think you need to address, just try to remember what’s in the best interest of “Forever”.

You can “always” say something, but do you want it to be on record “forever”?

Be at peace,

Paz

Life is not a highway

Ride

Funny thing about driving on the highway, and that’s people going as fast as they can. Now I don’t mean folks are holding their foot to the floor and going 120 miles an hour down Chestnut Street. Well, maybe once when I was younger…

Folks will go as fast as they’re allowed to. Somewhere just slightly over the speed limit. Most will change lanes or make for toll booths with the shortest lines. On city streets it’s the same, folks trying to go as fast as they’re allowed, tailgating others, honking horns, passing on the right.
Okay, so this isn’t a traffic safety session. Folks seem to do a number of these things “as fast as they can”. Fast food for lunch, looking for the shortest line at the checkout, googling stuff.
In my Armchair Zen world, I try to go at the pace I choose. I go as fast as I want to, not as fast as possible. Sure, power walking for cardio is good for your cardio, but for sightseeing, it’s not the same.
Do we realize how the relaxed-pace sightseeing walk can lower our blood pressure (especially if accompanied by an endearing dog).
Do we realize that we’re getting stressed (and increasing our blood pressure) by fretting over waiting in a longer line at the checkout or toll booth? Do we realize we’re stressing over seconds? Most of these things rarely will amount to as much as a minute, and extremely rare is the case where you can count more than a couple of minutes.
I’m setting my pace to that which suits me. It’s a peaceful pace, and relaxing. It’s not slow. Most folks describe my walking pace as quick, and there are lots of things I like to do quickly (a throwback to commercial kitchen work). I can zoom through a grocery store and have just what I came in for in three minutes and be in the checkout line.
What do you do once you’re in the line, or a traffic jam, or the line of cars at the toll booth or the line of traffic trying to exit the fireworks display all at the same time?
These are great places to practice simple patience. Moreover, actively decide you won’t be stressed out over these things. What can be done about it? How much time will you gain by jumping lines or weaving through traffic? Five seconds, ten?
There’s a reason retailers place a whole rasher of stuff at the checkouts. It’s called “impulse merchandise”, but I use it as entertainment and distraction. Read all the magazine titles. Look at the nifty gadgets or the newest SuperSized candy bar. The same can be done on the road. Look at the clouds (well, not while driving too much, eh?) There are birds and trees in most places, and there are always cars, trucks, boats, all kinds of things to look at.
And when moving, YOU decide the speed you want to travel. Not the speed limit or the highway traffic or that guy tailgating you.
There are times when I need to hustle, and do, without compromising driving safety or courtesy.
The rest of the time, I set my own pace.

I call it “the speed of Zen”.

Be at peace.

Paz

A riddle for life

Take two, they're small.

What are these things?

They have great value, yet you can give them away without cost.

We want them ourselves yet we give them away.

They are some of the finest things, some of the best gifts we receive, yet they never pile up, never get old, never increase or decrease our financial value or horde of possessions.

They have been around for thousands of years, yet they never are out of style.

Everyone can give and receive them. Children, grownups, the elderly…even babies!

They are of the greatest value to those that don’t receive them enough.

Those that give away the most are the richer for it.

Often they are given back to us by the recipient, and we’re always glad about that.

Even the smallest ones are appreciated, valued, and usually reciprocated.

They are absoluetly universal, one-size-fits-all, and everyone in the world has them, gives them, receives them, and likes them. (To be exact, there are an unfortunate  very few to which this doesn’t apply).

Give away more and get more, and we never tire of them.

We get to keep them forever. Some of my favorites were given to me by my mother, who has since died.

Unlike most things, you can take these with you when you die.

Figured it out already?

Answer:

Smiles.

Take Time to Wonder

Walking the road in wonderment.

We’re all on the same road. Cradle to the grave. Beneath our skin, regardless of color, we all want to be loved, and to give love in return.  Whether we think and dream in Spanish or Russian, English or Cantonese, we all have the same dreams.

We get so busy going down the road that we forget to stop and see the beauty in the everyday world around us. To reach out and touch one another and say “These, these are the days we will remember.”

We have a little plaque on the windowsill that reads:

We don’t remember the days, we remember the moments.”

Looking back along the road, it’s easy to see the truth of this simple statement. The time when I was just a child, when I sat still long enough for a chickadee to land on my hand to take a bit of bread. That afternoon when my son was born, putting him under the heat lamp like an order of french fries. That night in the emergency room when they pinned my other son’s spiral fracture of his arm.

How many moments do you remember? When you think of the moment, it seems the rest of the world and the day fade away into the background.

We don’t need special events to “make” these moments. We simply need to open our eyes to see these moments in every day. Like the old adage of stopping to smell the roses. We don’t even have to stop, we simply need to awaken.

We drive down the road without looking out the window. We’re watching the road and traffic, watching the clock, thinking of getting to work or the show or home. How many moments are we missing? A bird flying past, the shape of a cloud, the warmth of the sun on our face.

There’s a beauty in nature if we will only take the moment to see it. If we can develop our senses to appreciate the natural order of things, the power or solemnity of nature, we can find beauty in the tiniest things, even things that may not be considered beautiful in a traditional sense. It sounds kind of corny, but there is beauty in a blade of grass, in droplets of dew, in the busy work of ants on the ground, in the silent circles of birds in the sky.

I remember a moment, sitting on the ground on an early summer morning. I noticed the drops of dew on the grass, and realized each one acted as a prism, emitting rainbow colors. By moving ever-so-slightly, the color of the droplet would vary from red to blue to green. I realized that even under the bright direct sun, the light emitted from the dew drops was as bright as the sun, and white as starlight. Of course! They’re refracting the rays of the sun! What wonder filled me when I realized that there, in the tiny drop of water, was light as powerful as the sun! A rainbow, a star, the sun. Huge celestial objects, all in one, all in a tiny drop of water just a foot away!

There’s a little scroll on the wall, given to me by my late mother, I don’t know how many years ago. It’s a storybook picture of an elf, in awe observing a butterfly. I have adopted the phrase on this scroll as a way of reminding myself to seek those “moments we remember”, and if you repeat it to yourself and embrace it, perhaps it will enable you to see that beauty in everyday things, to live in the now, to make those moments. It reads:

Take time to wonder. Without wonder, life is merely existence.”

Be at peace.

Paz

Kind Words versus Critical

I was reading a thing recently about a crew demolishing a building. Someone asks the foreman how long it would take to knock the building down, and what sort of skills were required by the crew. To sum it up, the guy replies that they should be able to knock the whole thing down within a week, and aside from knowing how to work safely, no special skills were required. The observation concludes that it would take many weeks or months, maybe a year or more, to construct the building, and the construction would require many people with well-developed skills. Masons for foundations, welders for steel, electricians & plumbers, painters & roofers, and perhaps consultants for interior design.

In short, it takes longer and requires more skills to build something up than to tear it down.

This is also true of people, and the words we use with one another.

Like the unskilled demolition crew, anyone can speak words of criticism. Complaints, judgement, even derision. These words are pretty easy to come by in the human brain, especially when motivated by aggravation, frustration or anger.

By contrast, it requires greater effort to hold one’s tongue, keep one’s opinions to one’s self, to avoid getting on the band wagon with others complaining or condemning, and especially to keep hurtful things from spitting out of our mouths in the course of an argument, particularly an angry one.

So too, it requires a different and perhaps greater skill to look for the good in situations, to compliment people on the degree to which they got things right, not criticize them for the degree of wrong.

In the heat of battle or when someone is railing or ranting, the conversational side of the brain will feed you many thoughts that it wants you to speak. Maybe it’s the way you feel, or maybe you want to defend a position, or maybe you want to agree with a condemnation being offered.

The sage will understand the old adage “less said the better”. With concentrated effort, one can express that one understands or at least hears the other’s point of view without agreeing or arguing.

In any situation, look for the positive. With any person, look for the chance to share a kind word, and watch for those verbal grenades your automated-language-based brain tries to toss past your teeth.

We went to see an apartment into which someone had recently moved. The street was not well-to-do, or of the newest part of town. The houses were mostly multi-family rentals, and were generally well-worn. One could not describe the sidewalks or alleys as neat or clean. The apartment was at the top of a steep, narrow, windowless staircase. The windows could have used cleaning, and with some effort one could see above the dormers of the house next door, and catch a sliver of the sky and the city beyond. The kitchen floor was from the last century. It looked, in many places, exactly like what is was: a medium-sized second story apartment in an older house, whose tenants probably never stayed more than a year or two.  A few marks showed on the walls and woodwork, where families had probably raised rambunctious children, and the landlord probably repainted only when needed. 

When asked, I described it thusly:

“It’s quite spacious, with good-sized rooms. It has a brand new carpet in the living room, and a brand new space heater, like the ones I have in my house. A Big kitchen! The windows are big. Tall, old-fashioned windows that let in the light. On sort of  a side street, where the traffic seemed pretty light. And cozy! Probably quite efficient to heat!”

Next time you have a chance to describe something or someone, an apartment or even adversary, put your effort into the use of the skills of “craftsmen of the human spirit”, “masters of language”, developed by being practitioners and tradesmen in the arts of compassion and empathy, and build with the materials of positivity, hope, caring and dignity.

Be at peace,

Paz

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