Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
On the bus back from Vallarta I close my eyes. I lift my chin to catch every bit of breeze as it licks the sea, soaks itself up with a sultry touch of the sun, then finds its way to my thirsty body. I can’t help but smile. I am almost home.
The breeze whips around the bus stirring stray hairs, loosening attached ones, even a moustache or two. And a newspaper. On a seat. Billows. Page after page, back and forth, but never flies away. I listen to it. Alternative news. Innocence begging to be recognized. Magic at ease with itself. The breeze pulls out one page and sends it to the floor. Just one. I watch as it blows toward the front of the bus, between two sets of legs and around a shopping bag until it catches on an old man’s foot.
He’s daydreaming. Maybe about his wife’s enchiladas that await his return. Or the look on his granddaughter’s face when he comes in the door. Or maybe what it would have been like if he too, tried living in a different country, a country very different than his own.
He feels the newspaper flutter on his foot and reaches down to pick it up. He smoothes it onto his lap with the careful consciousness so many of us forget. He finds his glasses in his shirt pocket, rests them on the end of his nose, and begins to read. I catch the edge of a smile. I see him nod his head. I notice him look out the window as if to follow a new thought. He nods again. Then, he takes his glasses off. He folds up the newspaper with gentle care, almost love, and tucks it, all of it, into his back pocket. And just like that, he stands up.
He has reached his stop.
He is home.
As I watch him go, the tuft of newspaper peeking out from his back pocket, I feel awash with the beauty of life. It’s the little things that make life magic, the little things that bring the greatest joy. And while the little things are everywhere, in every town and city in every country of the world, only my little Mexican town has given me the time and space to see them, feel them, enjoy them as I never have before.
* I entered this piece in a local essay contest and won dinner for four at nice restaurant. Yay!
Monday, April 11, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
A few years ago, thirteen to be exact, I co-taught a year of school to 16 four and five year old pre-kindergarten energy capsules. I loved every second of it—the questions, the emotions, the joy, the innocence and intensity—it fed me in ways I am still discovering all these years later. I guess it comes as no surprise then, that the best compliment I have ever received came from a student that year, his inquisitive face forever emblazoned into my memory, forever smiling as he places a star onto my heart.
It was recess. We were on the playground. Most of the teachers were standing along the perimeter, looking on, while I, this time at least, decided to play with my kids. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing but I am sure it had nothing to do with keeping my clothes clean, my hair coiffed or my voice anywhere near mature. So when I was tapped on the leg by one of my kids, I am sure I expected him to say something else entirely. Maybe something about me playing a different character or moving to a different place where I didn’t take up so much space, or maybe even that it was time for me to leave so they could play alone. I never could have guessed that something entirely different was in store for me.
“Miss Brynne,” he said with big brown eyes as dark as a chocolate cupcake, “I have a question.”
“Ok,” I said, encouraging him, “What is it?”
“Well, I was wondering….are you a kid or a grown up?”
And just like that the best compliment I have ever received, was born. (After I was finished controlling the hilarity practically bursting me wide open, that is.) This four year old’s question became the question that I still measure all my future success upon…am I being a kid or a grown up? And almost every time, only one answer finds it way into my ‘truly successful’ department. Anyone can be a grown up, but not everyone can prolong the joy, the innocence, the magic of childhood.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Many people in our world today lack compassion for others. Inmates, people on one side of any fence, store clerks, corporations, mother-in-laws, son-in-laws, business people, policy makers, even every-day people walking by suffering human beings on the side of the road. No doubt these same individuals lack compassion for themselves. So, is it possible to change this epidemic? Can compassion be taught? Can someone learn to grow compassion? And if so, how? What if we each began with ourselves?
“Every time I get on the plane,” said Vicki one day after work, “I have this stupid worry that either I am going to die or my family will and that I will never see them again.” She traveled for work so this was no small problem. “Isn’t that ridiculous? Why am I so worried? The likelihood isn’t even statistically significant. I wish I wasn’t so insecure.” She took a sip of her wine.
I didn’t think she was insecure at all but it was obvious that she didn’t have compassion for herself or what she felt. I suddenly had an idea. “Do you believe in past lives?” I asked her, seemingly out of the blue.
“What? Are you serious? Of course not. You think that has something to do with my unreasonable worries?” She took another sip, this one more like a gulp.
I ignored her self-criticism. “What if you had a real, deep-seeded reason to think your family might die before you saw them again? What if…the way you feel isn’t foolish, but rooted in something important inside you that needs to be honored?”
“You’re always so positive Brynne,” she said with a sarcastic twang, “but come on. I’m just neurotic.” More self-criticism and lack of compassion for herself.
“What if you were, say, Anastasia in a past life?” I wasn’t going to give up. Not yet.
“You mean the Russian royal daughter who’s whole family was shot and killed in front of her? The young girl who they say was the only living survivor of a horrible massacre during the Russian Revolution?”
“Yep, her.” Now it was my turn to take a gulp.
“So you’re saying that’s why I worry about losing my family now, because of something that happened to me in a past life? Ha!” She faked a laugh but then began to consider my proposal again. “It would make sense if I was Anastasia, wouldn’t it?” Her face slowly began to change, to soften. I watched as she processed the idea, as she began to grow compassion for herself, to come to an understanding that maybe she actually did feel worried about for a reason. “Its a nice idea. I’ll give you that. Heck, even past lives don't exist it still makes me feel less stupid about my worries, as if maybe I do have a reason for the way I am. I mean, if my parents did die before my eyes when I didn’t expect it, then maybe I would have a reason for being so worried that it might happen again. We are conditioned beings, after all.”
I waited for a moment, having the feeling she wasn’t done yet. I was right.
“I was gonna tell you earlier Brynne, but didn’t. Um, I’m sure things will work out fine with your your work. And anyway, I bet things will look a lot better in the morning after a good rest.”
“Thanks, Vicki.” I said with a smile that hid the depth of my joy. It was the first truly compassionate thing she had ever said to me in almost two years. She had grown a trace of compassion for herself so she finally had some compassion to give away.
* * *
When you put your hand in front of your face, you can’t see it clearly. In much the same way many of us cannot grow compassion for ourselves when we look ourselves, or our situations, straight in the face. But with a little imagination, things can begin to change. With techniques to engage creative thinking, we can move from our heads to more heart-centered places, from judgment-based living to more feeling-based living.
When we have compassion for ourselves, wherever we are or whatever we feel, we are more likely to have compassion for others. You don’t want to go to the party because you don’t feel up for it? Then honor that. Don’t feel bad about it. Be who you are. You feel terrible every time you’re around their arguing? Then leave when they start. Honor yourself, have compassion for what you feel. And the more you do, notice yourself begin to have more compassion for others’ feelings, as well. Once we touch our own domino of compassion, the dominoes of compassion for our friends follow suit….and so on, and so on....one day touching those who need to be touched the most.
How different would our world be if we all lived with more compassion…for ourselves and for one another? I dare you not to smile at the answer.