step seventeen

we can’t change the past, but we can be aware in the present.

whatever painful experiences shaped our way of thinking, it is never too late to revisit, and re-shape our thoughts today with mindfulness and gratitude.

imagine this scenario:

a person looks at another person.

this sounds simple, but it can be oh so complex if we assume anything other than innocence. person a is taking in their surroundings, scanning their environment and simply taking it all in. person b, however, has a much more layered experience. based on years of bullying and abuse since early childhood, the pure information of “person a is looking at me” is interpreted as “person a is giving me a funny look”, “the evil eye”, and even a potential threat “person a is going to attack me”.

before you dismiss this as an extreme example, check in with yourself – has this never happened to you? that you realized, you are assuming the worst, simply because it was that kind of a day?

a couple of years ago, my boyfriend-at-the-time and i were driving from toronto to niagara falls/on, when suddenly, the car started shaking uncontrollably – we had a flat tire. we were close to an off-ramp and parked on the muddy shoulder somewhere near hamilton. it was dark, a faint rain drizzling, and we had no tools to change the tire. while we were waiting for the canadian version of aaa, a small car pulled up beside us on the off-ramp, and a man got out and asked how he can help. a thought this was such a lovely ray of light, and when the man offered to run to tim hortons and get us some timbits, since he didn’t have a car jack to help us change the tire, i only declined because i had no clue what timbits were. the person i was with had a clearly different experience. he almost told the kind stranger to get lost, and later warned me not to take any of the baked goods since they could be poisoned.

“why would he first be so kind and stop for us, offering help, and then getting us some coffee and timbits, only to poison us!!??”  i was baffled.

“people are crazy here. you don’t know, this is toronto, everything can happen. Don’t ever accept anything from a stranger.”

to this day, i don’t know what caused my friend to react this way in this particular situation, but he clearly had a filter borne of previous, adverse experiences with which he judged everything happening around him today.   i am grateful for this stranger and for the hot coffee and donut holes (yes, he brought them anyway), because it ended up being a long night.

i also noticed that smiling is easier than being afraid, and that it feels absolutely amazing to accept a stranger’s kindness, because it made everyone feel good in the end. assuming innocence and giving the gift of accepting help (and timbits) shifts everyone’s energy upward.

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step twelve

as a child, i loved to read.

as an adult, i love to read sometimes, but when i do, i am a voracious, holistic reader.

when i took my dogs outside, i preferred letting them run in the backcountry, where it was just us, just them. i always felt that taking them for a walk around the neighborhood was like letting them read the same book, maybe different chapters, depending on who or what had visited at night.

but taking them to a wild, unknown place ~ that was like a whole library for these puppies.

the busier life gets, the less time i want to spend on reading books. autobiographical notes, human experience stories capture me, and then poetry. good, dense, multilayered poetry, simple words with complex meaning.

good poetry is what keeps my mind happy for days. it doesn’t come in the language of letters all the time. like my pups, i read fragrances and visuals. a field of lavender, a budding cottonwood tree, the smell of sweet grass, or even salmon running upstream, and letting go of life after they spawn… all those things are poetry to me.

and things like this, found today, in a most wonderful manual for a part-time position i am taking on – food for the soul, written by William Stafford:

The Little Ways that Encourage Good Fortune

Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life,
you will simply be overwhelmed.
You may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life, and you
do not know why, you are just lucky,
And you will not move in the little ways that
encourage good fortune.
The saddest of all are those who are not right
in their own lives who are acting to make
things right for others.
They act only from the self, and that
self will never be right;
No luck, no help, no wisdom.

—William Stafford
(1914-1993)