Paying-It-Forward in the McD Drive Through

Something so simple, something so profound … that slaps us in the face with interconnectivity to others (strangers!) and mindfulness to the moment (that starts out oh-so-ordinary, then quickly shifts to whoa-what-just-happened).

During this year, I have been at three different McDonalds (obviously at three different times and in three different lines) and have found myself the beneficiary of pay-it-forward … where the car in front of me chose to pay for my takeout order.  I can assure you that this is a small awe in my world – where I’m at the first window to pay and my mouth is hanging open in wonderment as the cashier tells me that my order has already been paid for.  And I ask myself:

  • Why would a perfect stranger choose to pay for my meal?
  • While I’m in the midst of my OMG awe moment, is the payer in the  midst of a OMG grace and gratitude moment?  How cool to choose to up the positive energy for oneself and another person (what I call a “two-fer”).
  • And, for one of those times, we had a pay-it-forward chain going where the first-window cashier asked if I wanted to “keep the chain going.”  I chose to pay for the car behind me to put another link in the chain (I just wish that I knew how many links we had before it ended; and, what caused it to end).

What a difference this small act of kindness had on my day – the rest of the day held up the positive energy of that moment.  And, I’ve also had the McD lines where I was cut off in the dual drive through lane, charged the wrong amount, and given the wrong order – and, the rest of the day held up the negative energy of that moment.  Who knew how much power a simple act can have in the life of another person!

111412 white rock pileup

“Tree coup” meditation walks in nature

When meditation walking in nature, the more interactive we are with our environs (i.e, voice/breath, motion/touch), the more symbiotic (and powerful) the human-nature connection is.  Some days I think this is because we need to overcome the effort it takes to launch anything from the realm of ideas into the physical world; and, on other days I think it’s needed to counter-balance the negative energy that exists in the world.

Recently I headed out with a group of fellow silent meditation walkers (yes, we come together to walk in silence as human-nature; and, we connect human-human in conversations before and after the walks) and we used the trail-marked trees to focus on a quality that we wanted to increase-in/bring-into our lives (e.g., peace, patience, compassion) – each time we came to a marked tree, we brought ourselves back into that place-time moment and a chosen value.

So here’s the “energy grid” for the tree coup practice – from least energy to most energy:

  • Think of the quality/value that you want –> Whisper-breath aloud the quality/value that you want –> Say aloud the quality/value that you want
  • Look at the trail-marked tree to connect with the here-now moment –> Move your arm/hand in the direction of the trail-marked tree to connect with the here-now moment –> Actually touch the bark of the trail marked tree with your bare hand

So there we were, a community of like-minded spiritual beings connecting deeply with nature, connecting deeply with ourselves.  And all around us was a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves – those that crunched underfoot; those that  swirled-and-twirled through the air; and those that held precariously to the branches until it was their time to play a different role in the circle of life.

Blue Jay Point - yellow trail, smiley face

Perfectly imperfect, or is it imperfectly perfect?

Over the last year, I’ve been able to lay out my values (which I also call my “standards of integrity”) about how I want to show up in the world on a daily basis.  This isn’t a to-do list, but rather a to-be guideline that I mentally review each morning (setting intention) and then again each evening (course correction for the next day).  For each area of my life, I have laid out three “guiding lights” that inform my thoughts, choices, actions and words.

Today, I discovered that this is all well-and-good to live a value-based life; to show up as my most authentic self; to continually do my best, but it smacked just a bit too much of being perfect.  Yes, I wanted to show up as “me” but it’s in the imperfections, the mistakes, the humanness that others can relate to me more.  For in those “less than” moments (what I call my wabi-sabi moments) there’s a heart-to-heart connection (“she’s real!”) rather than a head-to-pedestal connection (“she’s great at …”).

So here’s what I’ve added to my daily to-be list:  1)  Each and every day be sure to ask someone for help (real help that is, not fakey help); 2) Each and every day be sure to screw something up and realize that it really doesn’t matter to others or to life itself; and, 3) Each and every day do just good-enough on things that don’t really matter so that there’s energy and time for the things that really count.

So here’s my wish – that I show up as my wabi-sabi, authentic self each and every day.

011512 stump, moss, collection

Meditation Walking as Contemplative Head-Space

They say that we have 60,000 thoughts a day – and most of them are the exact same thoughts that we had the day before.  Our heads whirl around-and-around and over-and-over in the same spin cycle.  And, most of these thoughts wouldn’t really be considered “contemplative” – they’re mostly time-travel of a sort: regrets from the past or worries about the future.

Through meditation walking, I have learned to open myself up to whatever questions appear that are not connected to day-to-day living – what I call “contemplative head-space.”  These thoughts appear instantly in the crevice of space opened up by meditation.  Similar to Bill Cosby’s booming-voice conversation between Noah and God they arrive with noise and flash.  These are my “zing moments.”

About 3-weeks ago: “ZING” – are you really sure we’re living in 3D space with time added in as the 4th dimension?  Perhaps the 3D is time (past, present, future) and space is a single, 4th dimension.  This was followed by thoughts of how we construe dimensions in our current world – we take 2D movies and add special glasses external to this to give the appearance of 3D; and, we take 2D Wii interactive games and add an external sensor device to allow us to become part of the screen as though it’s 3D.  If we can manipulate our perceptions of space using technology, could we have not have done this with what we consider to be our real 3D using our minds?  Meanwhile, other walkers went by talking about troublesome issues with their partners, schools and recipes.

Then, about a week ago: “ZING” – if there is really reincarnation, why is it that we assume/believe that someone comes back fully as a whole-being … as 100% another person (or perhaps, 100% some other animal)?  Why do we believe this to be true?  How about a person coming back in 3rds – with three future beings having a piece of their soul/essence (and the soul/essence of two other people as well)?  Wouldn’t this make more sense in terms of getting it “right” the next time around?  Meanwhile, other walkers went by focused on walking their dogs and talking on their cell phones.

So this is why I enjoy meditation walking in nature – to open myself up to thinking that goes beyond the instrumental tasks of life and the ordinariness of the day.  It’s like being immersed in a mystery story, but the mystery is here-now and the story is real life, my life.

Umstead - Fall 13 (self shadow)