Thursday, December 10, 2020

Shining The Light: The Best Gift Ever

“People shine not in the glow of your charisma. They shine in the light of your attention for them. It is from that that they can see their own brilliance. They shine when you remind them that they matter.”   -- Nancy Kline

This is the time of the year when acts of giving and receiving are pushed into the limelight. It is the time of the year when lights adorn our rooms, our houses, our trees. There is this other light that Nancy Kline speaks of in her book Time To Think that may be the biggest gift we could give. It is the “light of our attention.”  

As a shy child, the adults who stood out to me were the ones who stopped long enough to really listen and see me. The ones who gave me their undivided attention, not because it was the right thing to do, but because they were truly curious about me. They helped me to see in myself what I could not see and, in those moments, I felt my value. I remember at NYU, I had a professor who sat behind his desk, always with a folded newspaper and an unlit pipe in his mouth. He had a full beard and a voice like the late Sean Connery. I don’t remember what the theme of the class was, but he would take a headline from the paper and ramble until his attention landed on someone in the class. He would then ask their opinion based on their life experiences so far. I remember the time he picked The New Yorker magazine up off of his desk and launched into a talk on the significance of their decision to add advertising to the magazine, which had previously been one of the rare ones splendidly devoid of it. He landed on me that day, bringing up something he knew about my parents growing up around Greenwich Village and wanted to know my opinion. I don’t remember what I could have said, being as shy as I was, but what stood out was not that I said anything brilliant, but that he allowed me feel like I must have brilliance inside of me. He was one of many people throughout my life that helped me to glow. 

The beautiful thing is that we all have that potential to help other people see their brilliance simply by giving them our wholehearted, uninterrupted attention. This season, I have a gift suggestion and it is not one we can buy.

🎁 Gift Ingredients: 

~ Listen with your eyes on theirs, undivided, fully present

~ When they finish speaking, let there be silence. Allow space for their words to land.

~ Don’t offer suggestions, give advice, or fix; trust they have the answers even if they don’t know it yet.

~ Reflect back what they said using their words and ask if you got it right.

~ Give them more time to say more. 

~ Find the nugget of wisdom in what they shared and let them know.

~That’s all. Wrap the gift without becoming the center of it.

To all those people who gave me this attention, wow, am I grateful. May we all do this for each other this season and throughout the year. And when we forget, as I know I do, we simply get to begin again. 



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Breathing Is Everything

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On Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I took a walk in one of our favorite local places. No one was there. We came out of the woods and stopped on the great lawn stretched before us and breathed in the descending sun. The spacious warmth of that moment is one I can easily recall days later and it brings me home to my breath as I do. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says the breath is like an internal massage that nourishes all our organs; the breath massages the whole body from the inside out. Of course it does and yet so much of the time it is so easy to forget that we can experience it this way - if only we pay attention. 

When I first come into meditation, following my breath often feels like I am trying to follow something elusive. I have to listen and feel carefully. It's not very deep or long. It's as though I have to catch up to it, but as I do and as I gradually let go of the effort and tension in my body, the breath becomes what it actually is...everything. I am here, in this form, because I am breathing. The more I let go of the contraction in my muscles and my mind, the more I sense the movement of the breath throughout all of me and it does feel nourishing. I feel my belly, my chest, my shoulders, my pelvis, my rib cage expand and soften back in - a beautiful rhythm of movement that is not elusive at all. It is our faithful companion, what we can return to at any moment. Learning to receive it has been the greatest gift. It is what I can come back to whenever I feel scared, separate, or weighed down. Our breath is here for us and it brings us into the present moment - the only moment we are actually alive.

This week I am making a deliberate effort to tune into my breathing more of the time - outside of meditation. As I write this, I am following my breathing; as I watched Netflix last night, I followed by breathing; as I empty the dish washer, fold clothes, walk, I can tune in. My body is thanking me. It already feels more relaxed. I may not be giving massages anymore, but I can help you to receive your own. I want everyone to be able to help themselves. It is such a powerful thing to self-soothe and to have a sense of agency about our own well-being. This week I invite you to join me and deepen your commitment throughout the day (for more on commitment, have a listen to Sunday's talk). Tune in and follow along with the song that is playing inside. It is the song of your life. 
Breathe well and be happy.