I can’t change anyone else. I can only change myself. They are such simple words yet so challenging to accomplish at times. What I continue to learn is that what we CAN do is inspire others. We can move them by being an example of what we hope to see in the relationship. Sure, I know you’re probably thinking “why do I always have to go first?" or "Why can't they step up and be responsible?" When I give in to complaint and pessimism I have similar thoughts. However, there are some of us in this world who learn things before others and must be leaders on this evolutionary pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of love. And as we use those efforts to become the person we really want to be and we show up that way, we cultivate a deeper, wider, more open heart that can contain what we never thought we could. And when we use that container, people change. It might not be on the timeline that we would like or expect, but it does happen. Sometimes it takes something abnormal or unusual to to change something that is normal or usual, especially in relationships. We fall into habitual patterns of thinking and behaving and yet we expect to have different results. For instance, my teacher, Master Ou, used this scenario as an example once: Imagine that someone was criticizing you, angry with you, or even berating you. What if, instead of defending yourself, explaining yourself or even thinking about explaining yourself, you dropped into your own heart and said something like “I understand where you might be coming from, and I can take responsibility for my part in this. Can I bring you a cup of tea?” Ideally, this was all said with a genuine smile, a sincere heart and true affection. No, it’s not what we are trained to do in this world. And no, its not easy. In fact, quite the opposite. We are trained to defend against invaders, to speak our “truth” regardless of the consequences and practice self righteousness. Yet how often do these qualities and behaviors give us the results we truly want? Anything is challenging, initially, until we get good at it. We just have to train it like a muscle or anything else we wish to cultivate. The result? More harmony, happiness, lasting contentment, adaptability and the skill set to stay centered and open regardless of the circumstances. Wouldn't that be the greatest gift you could give yourself?
This is the question I’m asking as we embark on this next round of holidays and festivities with family and friends. There are sure to be misunderstandings, and there are sure to be ways we don’t see eye to eye. I say this to myself as much as I write it to you, that I am committed to finding new and creative ways of handling situations that can often seem insurmountable, impossible or just plain hard. It is through these encounters, it is through these seemingly small changes in ourselves that we achieve deep, lasting and fruitful outcomes. If we can let go of what we might gain or lose in a specific moment and broaden our perspective to a greater goal and a greater outcome, it might give us the inspiration we need in that moment to try something new. And, soon enough, perhaps the abnormal starts to become normal, the unusual becomes usual and we create a new pathway in the brain, in the body and deep inside our spirits.
What if you gifted your time, your benevolence, your perseverance and your example of a loving heart? If you could receive only one present this year, what would it be? The answer for me is simple: The best present is presence.
May this holiday season and New Year bring you peace, joy, contentment, abundance of love, ease of mind and comfort of heart.