In our last meeting we focused on staying present with our inner experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This time of year is marked for most of us as a time of lower energy, maybe even lower mood resulting from the shortening of the daylight hours. By staying present with our inner experiencing we can come to terms with it, learn how to work with it, and find contentment no matter the feelings.
In the same way our mindfulness practices call for us to stay present with the experiences around us, especially the experiences that flow from our way of being with all living beings, not just other people. Today we focus on noticing how we affect the world around us.
How does my presence affect this person I have encountered? What is the impact of my smile? My frown? My way of being?
So often during the course of a normal day we do things that make the lives of other people a little bit better. Yet do we pay attention to this? Do we allow ourselves to have the pleasant feeling of having brought joy, peace, safety, or acceptance to another?
This is part of our self care. To not only have the intention to be an instrument of peace, but then to notice that peace, share in it, and find ourselves somewhat healed in the process.
Here are two poems by Naomi Shihab Nye that speak to us of noticing how we affect the world. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
— Naomi Shihab Nye
So Much Happiness
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
Naomi Shihab Nye
And here are recordings, video and audio, of a meditation session on this theme: