by Liz Jansen
This winter of intentional hibernation, reflection, and allowing my heart to lead the way has brought tremendous lessons, challenges, and gifts. Quelling my ego’s drive to “make things happen” has been at the forefront. In its place, is growing an openness and trust that answers, gifts, and lessons will appear with impeccable timing, often in the most unexpected circumstances.
These five experiences that have occurred in the past two weeks show what can happen when we let go and open our eyes.
- Opportunities for spontaneous kindness. While waiting in line for the bank teller, a genial elderly gentleman insisted I go ahead of him. “Ladies first,” he said. Then holding open his bankbook, he asked me if I’d like some money—$500, or $1,000? He had more than he knew what to do with. I declined but must admit that for a fleeting moment, I wondered if I was declining an answer to prayer. With sadness and weariness, he conveyed that he was the caregiver for his wife who has dementia and no amount of money could change that. It reminded me so much of my dad and mom.
About that time it was my turn for the teller and I walked away. When I was done he was still at the counter so I touched his shoulder on my way by and wished him a good day. Grabbing my arm he asked, “Are you sure?” I know he would have given it to me had I said yes. And then with tears, he said, “All I really want is a hug,” which I happily gave him. At that moment, time stopped and it was like there was no one else in the bank. Maybe that encounter made his day, but he sure made mine.
- Reflections from others. Prioritizing and actively simplifying spurs decluttering and so I found myself hauling a two-foot stack of paper to Staples for shredding. The young customer service rep at the Copy Center counter answered my queries perfunctorily, giving the impression she would rather have been somewhere else. When she addressed me as “dear” I bristled but remained silent. But my body language gave me away when she called me “love”. So much so that the woman beside me glanced over and queried, “Love?” The girl got the message, and later, so did I.
After all the effort I’ve made to embody love and joy rather than fear and worry, I like to think this girl, who seemed to need loving, had recognized a thinly disguised loving nature. And I had embarrassed her. She wasn’t there the next day when I went back to apologize but I’ll check in again. Next time I’ll handle the situation differently.
- Cultural lessons. This Wheels to Wisdom quest I’m on is one of understanding how culture shapes us, and who we are before we’re told who we are. Born into a Mennonite family, I know it shaped my values and worldview, but I remember so few of the stories, customs, and rituals. My cousin Judy Willems and I were like sisters growing up and shared many childhood experiences. Last week we talked about exploring memories, rationalizing that between the two of us we’ll recall more.
Little did we know that sadness was just around the corner with the passing of our uncle, our mothers’ brother, last Sunday. As sorrowful as it is, funerals cut to the core of culture, beliefs, and customs and are full of family. Mennonites. I’ll not only have an opportunity to pay my respects, but will also reconnect with family and observe traditions and beliefs I’ve long forgotten.
- Efficiency. Before I knew I was going to a funeral this weekend, I’d rented a car so I’d have a way to get to my motorcycle instructor recertification on Saturday and Sunday at Humber College–an hour drive each way. Enterprise Car Rental has great 3-day weekend rates so I chose the unlimited mileage option and planned errands (including bike shopping) and a visit with family in Niagara for Friday—a two hour drive.
Had the funeral (also in Niagara) been earlier in the week, it would have meant an additional rental, driving time, and fuel consumption. I would gladly have done it without thinking twice, but the visitation lined up for a time I was planning to be there. More importantly, it allows me to be present and direct energy to family, rather than expending it in traffic.
- Synchronicity. Events such as I’ve mentioned above happen all the time but can be difficult to call to mind when intentionally trying. The first four examples above came spontaneously but I was having trouble with the fifth so I shot up a quick prayer asking for help. Last evening I had an email issue that Nick from GoDaddy resolved in no time. During our chat, he asked what my website was about and excitedly recommended I read Sacred Hoops, by Phil Jackson, coach to the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers – and motorcycle rider.The description in Amazon includes:
“He recounts his fundamentalist upbringing, his forays into Zen Buddhism and Lakota spirituality, and his efforts to bring ideas of oneness and attunement and selfless play into an NBA dominated by ego, money, cynicism, and media hype.”
While our applications are different, he too has explored his fundamentalist upbringing, indigenous wisdom and a desire to convey that practically. Needless to say, I downloaded the book immediately to use as a resource.
Slowing down and allowing things unfold naturally has answered my needs in ways I could never have imagined. I wouldn’t have asked for any of these events, yet each one has carried profound teachings. That some are joyful while others are sad is immaterial. The Universe is benign, and events are neither good or bad. They just are. And if we remain open and accepting, we’ll witness amazing miracles. Every day.