The Kindness of a Stranger.

I consider myself to be a pretty upbeat, friendly person.  I am happy much of the time, and I take that happiness out into my world.  Going to the grocery store is no exception.  Aside from the fact that I love to go grocery shopping, especially for a special holiday meal, I enjoy interacting with other people.


Last night, my family and I were getting some items for our Thanksgiving feast for today.  We were in line, getting our items checked out.  The store was somewhat busy, but the people around us all seemed to be in a happy mood.  People were starting conversations with us and smiling easily.  


As we were getting checked out, a cashier from the aisle next to us started handing us coupons, for this item or that.  I thanked her a couple of times.  Then, she came over to our line, and gave us an additional coupon for our visit.  I thanked her again, for being so generous to us, that I deeply appreciated it.


She told me, that she remembered that I am always so nice and kind when I come into that grocery store, that she wanted to do something in return for me.  


I was stunned.  You see, I give, just for the sake of giving.  I haven’t always been that way.  In the past, although I have always been a giving person, I would often get caught in the trap of giving, with an expectation of being shown gratitude for it in return.  I always expected something back, even if just a thank you.  When that wasn’t expressed, I would use that as an excuse to feel resentful. 


I understand now how much more meaningful it is for me to give, just because I want to.  That the giving is not about me, it is about what I want to offer to someone else.  That when I remember the purity of the intention, then the result, the outcome does not matter one bit.


I asked this cashier last night, after she told me this, if I could give her a hug, and she said yes.  When I hugged her, and she hugged me back, tightly, I felt our hearts connecting as one.  I remembered, yet again, the uniqueness and universality of us as human beings.  That we all are one, even when we forget that.  That we never know how our actions may impact the lives of others, at any time.


That any small gesture of kindness, given freely and without expectation, brings gifts that are beyond measure. 






I have been on a spiritual journey of one sort or another for most of my adult life.  That journey has been several different paths.  For some amount of time, I studied different religious paths, by attending church, reading up on other beliefs, and figuring out where I saw myself fitting in.  I enjoyed the ritual of organized religion for a period of time, and also enjoyed doing my own thing at home, with an altar, and spending time in nature.


I also have followed the 12 steps in the past as a spiritual path.  Even though I did not go through all of the steps, they made sense to me on a deep level.  I used the knowledge that I obtained both in and out of the rooms to guide me on the type of person that I wanted to be and how I wanted to see myself in the world around me.  It was helpful and a light that led me for some time.


Most recently, the information that has best served me, in terms of my spiritual journey, has been the reading of the Four Agreements, and The Power of Now.  Both continue to point me not only to the present moment, but back to myself.  


I have often thought that the answers to my spiritual questions were to be answered outside of myself, as a way to discover who I really am; as a way to know myself.  And, I have found some information that has been really helpful to me.  Yet, any information that I have used to find the answers, have been ill advised.  


This portion of the journey seems to be the most powerful so far, and that is because I understand, finally, a couple of key things.  First of all, my self, my core being, has not been lost, so nothing has to be found.  I don’t have to seek anything, without or within, because it is always within me, and it always has been.  Just like the sun never stops shining, even when we cannot see it, our spiritual core never leaves us.  It is always there, just waiting for us to awaken and remember that we have it all along.


The other deep, core lesson for me is that I also can be grateful for the many times that I forget that it is within me.  When I forget that being in the past or future does not serve me well, it is developing consciousness.  When I forget to not take others personally, or to not make assumptions, I get to remind myself deeply that not only does nothing have to do with me, but that we are all part of the same light, the same source.  I get to remember our uniqueness and sameness.


Every time that I forget, I get to gain more wisdom and deeper understanding of what it is that I possess already.  That nothing is going on; there is no crisis; that all is well in this very moment.


In the forgetting, I get to keep awakening.



Faster Food.


Earlier this year, we got a Chipotle restaurant in our local area. I had been very familiar with the Chipotle business model from a documentary that I had seen, and I enjoy the type of food that they serve there. So, I was looking forward to their arrival, and have eaten there a few times. Even though they serve fresh, delicious food, it is considered fast food in terms of its convenience and set up.

About two weeks ago, a traffic light down from Chipotle, Taco Bell opened. Even though I have eaten Taco Bell, and sometimes liked it, it isn’t my favorite. They take a concept of good tasting food and make it super fast, super cheap and less quality than a sit down restaurant. To me, Taco Bell is what I would call faster food.


I found myself thinking about that this week as I observed my world, and the people in it, and the pace at which we all move. It seems that most of the people that I know, including myself, think we are on a schedule. I mean, even if we have things that we need or want to do, we are obsessed with time. How long things take; how long we have to wait in line; how much we have to get done in the next five minutes. So I know for me, I look for ways to get things done more efficiently and in less time so I have more time to do other things. I want fast food.

But, on some days, I want FASTER food. I have several places to be in one day, and worry that I won’t get to all of them, so I obsess over how long I will spend in each place, or if I will get done what I need to when I get home. Or if I will have enough time to relax, fix a meal, take a walk. I want to get done what I think I have to do so I can more quickly go on to the next thing. I am aspiring for peace, quiet, harmony, a time to sit and rest.

I relate this symbol to my growth and lessons as a person who is connecting with my spiritual self. There are days when I don’t practice peace, when I want to just read a bit in the morning and then forget what I read by the time I get in the car, ready for the next thing. There are days when I feel so consumed by my thoughts that I think that I will go insane, but to slow down and look at them takes too much time, too much effort. Yet, what I find is that the more that I sit, savor deeply the silence, reflection, and the essence of my true self, the more peace and tranquility I experience throughout the day. The progress and process is slow, but steady. Each day, I learn how to bring peace in a bit more often to my world.

Sure, I can just throw a deep breath in here and there throughout my day when I feel overwhelmed or stressed. Yet, the deeper peace comes when I really attend to myself, take my time and prepare and really give myself the space to get quiet and reflect. I am understanding more and more what a great love of self it is to take the time to really sink into my ever present peace.


Down the Rabbit Hole.


Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to doing something really spontaneous and fun. It is something that I have been wanting to do for some time now, and the opportunity to make it happen came up, and I am going with it. However, the desire to be spontaneous is conflicting with my desire to feel guilty about not going to work.

Guilt is a tricky little devil for me. If there is a hint of me viewing my actions as selfish, not fair to others or frivolous, I want to somehow believe that it is not okay for me to do it. The more that I ruminate on it, it seems the worse that it gets. I want to chastise myself, believing that I am putting my desires ahead of others, and that it will have a negative impact on them. That to do something for myself is deeply self centered and wrong.

It is kind of like going down a rabbit hole, metaphorically speaking. When I am feeling deep guilt about something, my thoughts about myself seem to get darker and darker, like I am not only a selfish person, but one that should come up with a better reason to disappoint someone else; that things can’t possibly get done without me around, that I have no right to just have fun, just for the fun of it. Instead of seeing the innocence and light about a choice, I keep going to a deeper, darker place.

The great part is, I ALWAYS have a choice. Guilt is not something put upon me; I don’t FALL down the rabbit hole, I jump in. I choose to feel deep guilt about my actions and how it might impact others. However, I also can choose to feel really empowered when I have to say something difficult to someone; to look upon the other person with love, compassion and honesty; and to remember that I deserve, as much as anyone else, to have fun and freedom in my world. And sometimes, fun and freedom aren’t an integral part of my schedule. I get to feel deserving instead of loathing; embracing instead of dreading.

I get to choose to jump down into the rabbit hole, and I get to climb the ladder, as fast as I remember, to get back out, too.

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Exhaling the Obstacles.


Last night, Brenda and I visited a meditation group in our community. We had been there last week, when I was speaking with the group about my hugging experience, and we decided to return to just do the meditation with the group. It was really a great experience. I have done meditation before, and I find it powerful to do with a group, like my experiences with yoga in the past.

The leader began the meditation with asking each of us to set an intention: a one or two word description of something that we wanted in our lives. For me, the intention was connection; that was my motivation for the hugging experience; that is the motivation for my writing much of the time, and other aspects of my life that I am involved in.

Then, with each breath that I drew in, I was reminded to think of my intention, and again as I breathed deeply out. As I did this, I focused on my intention as I breathed deeply in; but as I breathed out, I envisioned that any obstacles that exist within me to connecting with others be breathed away.

This was so helpful for me. There really isn’t much in the world that I see as an obstacle to having something that I desire. But, I do get scared. That fear shows itself as insecurity, self doubt, self criticism, and panic even. I can become filled with anxiety about little details if it means a new situation or getting close to something that I might want.

For me, to visualize breathing away those doubts, breathing away those fears, those thoughts and feelings that serve as obstacles, by doing that I am empowering myself to have what I want. Connecting to other people is a force in my life that feels so good when I let go of those fears and flow into it. Whether in a new social situation, at work, or doing a project, when I am just myself and as present as possible, it seems magic happens.

We all have fears and insecurities about what we want to do and how it might turn out; and for me, it seems the fears are more intense and real when it is a dream or vision for myself. To breathe away that which can block or keep me from what I want brings it closer than ever.

It sets me free.