Sitting in Central Park on a Sunday morning, there is a loud and enthusiastic race going on nearby with lots of hoots and hollers as people run by. I’m here amongst my tree friends and what I’m aware of is the pervasive and steady quiet they radiate into my awareness. This moment has taken me back to my experience of the foreground/ background dynamic that is always present. By bringing my awareness to the background of pervasive quiet here amongst the trees, it shifts into the foreground of my awareness even as the enthusiastic shouting of the race slides into the background. I feel my body relax into the quiet, into the pervasive silence that the trees radiate.
This got me to thinking yet again about how important it can be to be able to choose what we bring into the foreground of awareness and what we allow to hover in the background. In my practice of attending to wholeness as much as possible, I do my best not to leave out an awareness of what’s happening around me, what’s happening in the world, and to acknowledge not only what brings me ease and happiness but also what touches into an awareness of suffering, outrage, and compassion. And so, shifting things from foreground to background and vice versa doesn’t mean to actively go into denial about what’s unfolding in my immediate environment or in the world. Rather, it offers a way to choose which awareness is most appropriate and most healthy in any given moment.Read More “764th Week: Choosing the Focus of Attention—Foreground/Background”
Often as I walk through Central Park, I thank workers along the way for the help they offer in keeping the park a wonderful place to spend time. Yesterday I thanked a worker and he said, “We love this park, so we love this work.” This morning I thanked a garbage man for helping to make our city more livable. I always thank the postal carriers at both my office and at home when I see them, along with people from all the various delivery services that bring packages filled with things that make my life work. Without these people, life would be very different.
As I move through New York City, I pay attention to people whose job it is to support the rest of us, people who help make our lives easier to navigate. For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to do the same and, if you are already someone who thanks people along the way, ramp it up a bit and see how that feels. Gratitude brings its gifts not only to those we thank but to us, as well. It has the power to lift our spirits, as well as those who receive gratitude from us.
Our sense of well-being is nourished when we engage in expressing gratitude to the people around us. We are more likely to remember that we are part of a community and that, without the whole community, we wouldn’t be able to live our lives in the ways we do. This awareness of community can also remind us of the underlying interdependence that is fundamental to human existence. We depend on one another for just about every aspect of our lives and taking the time to thank people we don’t know and may never see again helps to reinforce an awareness of just how much we need one another.Read More “744th Week: Expressing Gratitude”
In a recent On Being broadcast on NPR, I heard a story about Howard Thurman’s grandmother. Howard Thurman was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and was an influential theologian. He was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King and also one of the principle architects of nonviolent protests. His grandmother was a former slave who owned land in an area where there were also white people.
Apparently, Thurman’s grandmother had a neighbor, a white woman who apparently was unkind to all in her neighborhood and not just to Thurman’s grandmother. At one point, the neighbor began to gather chicken droppings from her chicken coop on a regular basis and dump them on the garden of Thurman’s grandmother. Rather than retaliate, his grandmother turned the chicken droppings into the soil each time they arrived. In time, her garden flourished because of all the natural fertilizer in the chicken droppings.
The neighbor woman eventually became quite ill and, because of her way of relating to people, no one was willing to visit her or help her. One day, Thurman’s grandmother went to visit the woman, taking her a large bouquet of flowers. The woman was surprised and delighted to receive the flowers and commented on how beautiful they were. Thurman’s grandmother said in response that the flowers were so beautiful because of all the neighbor’s contributions of fertilizer to her garden.Read More “814th Week: Being Kind Doesn’t Mean You Have to Agree”