This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life. This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new. … Thy infinite gifts come to me only on those very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou poorest, and still there is room to fill.
– Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
More and more I believe and find this to be helpful and True: Our view of ultimate reality, the nature of the universe, and God is of essential importance, shaping what kind of person we become. Assuming God is angry, believing the universe is scary, and thinking ultimate reality is random, meaningless, and is defined by survival of the fittest (in the pessimistic and competitive sense of the view), leads to life sucking. In my experience, it results in bitterness, fear, hoarding, addiction, insecurity, anxiety, and anger, which seem like hell on earth to me. Conversely, trusting God is Love, seeing the universe as on our side, and finding ultimate reality to be meaningful, infused with Love, saturated with grace, built on a foundation of peace, and going somewhere good, leads to life thriving and flourishing. It cultivates joy, gratitude, generosity, compassion, caring, kindness, healing, and love, which seem like heaven on earth to me.
A tricky, but juicy part of all this is there is AMPLE rational evidence for both views. There are wars, abuses, scandals, illnesses, infidelities, and shootings enough to say people, God, and/or reality bites. Likewise, stories abound of people following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and the like to bring more peace, healing, food, clean water, freedom, and all around better lives to people, which would indicate the universe, the Divine, and people are fundamentally good. (Side note: If you picked up on it, YES I did purposefully reference Winona Ryder’s movie, “Reality Bites”, from the 90s 🙂
Now, it seems to me the best conclusion to draw from all this is: Ultimate reality is a mixed bag, just like humanity, it is part beautiful and part broken. I think there is truth there, after all I do affirm Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s famous and helpful observation: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.” That said, directly following that he concludes: “This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.”
It seems to me what Aleksandr says at the end echoes and gets at my summary: Reality contains BOTH good and evil, humans have the potential to create AND destroy, and there is beauty and brokenness in nature. YET, at the root of it ALL lays goodness, Light, and Love, which can NEVER be squelched and will always inevitably triumph. I’d say whereas rational/logical thinking and evidence lead us to a mixed bag (or worse) view of ultimate reality and God, soul, spirit, or gut level intelligence and knowing points us in a different direction. It seems to me the spirit/Spirit in each of us points you and I toward a realization the deepest reality is Love, which simply put is a giving of oneself for thriving and flourishing. The Creator is good and the universe is flush with beauty and awash in bliss.
While much could be said about this, I’d like to take it in a specific direction. My desire is to share a mentality I’ve been finding SUPER HELPFUL for cultivating joyful and loving actions and lives, which can’t help but make the world better. In reflecting on some life events, which I’ll share below, this way of being and believing came to me: Everything good is a gift meant for sharing. Even hurts are better carried TOGETHER than alone. Life is a gift to be shared, celebrations and sorrows alike.
Last Monday, thousands of us around the world started the Blissology Project, which is “all about making happiness a habit and creating an Upward Spiral of positivity in our lives through the 6 Big Easy Bliss Commitments.” (You can learn more here, and join at any time!) On Wednesday, we were each invited to buy someone a coffee, lunch, groceries, or what have you. As I was leaving the yoga studio to go to lunch, my wife, Lisa, texted me: “I bought my coworkers lunch, so you can add $50 to the budget. They were super excited and happy about it.”
(This is a group pf us Blissologists giving the gift of touch after a yoga practice)
The initial response in my mind came from what I think culture tells us. Society informs us life is about competition, we’re made to acquire, and we need to keep what’s “ours”. “So, that counts for me too then, right?” I thought about texting her. Then, I sighed, came back to the mantra of everything good being a gift best shared, and with a smile decided I was going to buy someone lunch too! When I reached the Grub Hut (whose motto is “Peace, Love, & Grub”), my usual post-yoga teaching lunch spot, I lured the usual cashier into my conspiracy. After quickly telling Robin about the Blissology Project, I told her I wanted to buy a single person or couple lunch, so asked if she’d help stall said future person/people long enough for me to get up from eating and offer to by them lunch. “That’s REALLY cool,” she exclaimed, “I think I’m going to buy coworkers coffee.” Ryan, the stranger who was picking up lunch for himself and his wife, was slightly surprised when I asked him: “I have a weird question for you: Can I buy you lunch?” Yet, more than anything he was grateful, repeatedly telling me “thanks” and leaving with a friendly wave and smile.
Sharing just a bit of the money Lisa and I have brought happiness to her coworkers, gratitude to a stranger, and inspiration to an acquaintance. It seems to me viewing money, food, possessions, compliments, prayers, joy, etc. as gifts to be shared leads to a sort of snowball affect. Joy in one inspires joy in others. Peace for one brings out peace in many. Love from one increases the love of multitudes.
This morning I went for a run while it was still dark outside, with a bright, neon-colored jacket on and flashlight in hand. While it was windy, cold, drizzling, and my legs were a bit tired, I was thinking about this blog and listening to some inspiring podcasts, so focusing on the heavenly parts of the workout won out over the hellish bits. But, that’s not why I tell you this 🙂 When I was less than a mile from home, a cop “pulled me over.”
“I’m sorry for ruining your morning,” the cop told me with a smile, “But I wanted to thank you for being a highly visible pedestrian. It means a lot that you wear highly visible clothes so you can be seen,” he continued while handing me an envelope. “Thank you so much,” he continued, “sorry for ruining your run.”
“You totally MADE it awesome,” I let the officer know. “Thank you and have a beautiful morning!” I said, before he waved and encouraged me to enjoy the rest of my run.
After getting home I discovered it was a gift card for $25 to a local eatery. How cool is that?! While I don’t want to directly correlate Lisa and my Blissology Project lunch buying with this unexpected blessing, I do think it’s fair to say when we choose to give, when we decide to love, when we see beauty, when we express joy, and when we feel the bliss, we not only make the lives of others better, we open ourselves up to more of all that goodness in our lives.
I’d like to share two more quick things before wrapping up, but with a disclaimer. What follows will be based on real lives, yet out of respect for others I will keep them generic. I think this gift seeing mentality can be helpfully applied to people. EACH of us is a precious gift. YOU are an infinitely worthy present. Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if we saw and treated each other with that in mind? I think this is especially relevant when it comes to people who treat us poorly or drive us crazy.
I read that Mr. Rogers carried a note around with him that read: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” So true and helpful! Whether we know it or not, statistically speaking SEVERAL people close to us were and/or are being sexually abused. My point in saying that is unless/until the survivor goes through some pretty serious and hard therapeutic work, she (it’s almost always a she) will be ultra defensive, will see things in very black and white terms, will go from hot to cold in a relationship at the drop of a hat, and so on. I share this because it seems to me when we view EVERYONE as an incredible gift, we will naturally seek to get to know and understand him/her. This means we’ll learn the stories of others and cherish them giving the gifts of their past to us. Tears, hurts, losses, and sorrows are every bit as important presents to share as joys and celebrations are.
I’ve heard more than once money is the number one reason for divorce. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I do know our bank accounts, income, and investments are a sensitive topic … to say the least. Let’s paint a hypothetical picture, but first let me start by removing the necessities from the table. So, assume in this scenario you have enough money to live comfortably. Okay, that said, say someone owes you a decent chunk of money, like somewhere between a really good night out and a decent vacation. Yet, life has happened and that person isn’t paying you back, or maybe says they won’t or can’t. What do you do? Do you take them to court? Do you badger them? Do you cut them out of your life? OR do you let it go? Do you choose people over money? Do you let love trump possessions? Do you pick relationship over getting what’s “yours”? Naturally I get there can be more to the story, and sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves and set boundaries, but I’m speaking more of our general stance toward others, our basic attitude when it comes to life.
Heaven is a choice. It’s here and now when we choose it. Hell is lurking though, and it seems to me it’s what culture preaches to us. What we believe about others, God, reality, life, and ourselves quite literally puts us in heaven or hell here and now. It seems to me choosing to see life as a gift to be shared, celebrations and sorrows alike, is a really practical and applicable way to experience more of the heaven that’s already here.
Did you know the word in ancient Greek for “gift” is the same word for “grace”? I bring that up because gifts are grace. Gifts don’t come with strings attached and we don’t receive gifts for anything we’ve done, gifts are freely given and freely received. The more I see people as gifts, time as a gift, money as a gift, “possessions” as gifts, “work” as a gift, my blogs as a gift, and so on, the freer I become; freer to enjoy life, friends, family, and others. After all, gifts aren’t only made for sharing, they’re also meant for enjoying. I think it’s easy in life to be owned by our jobs, relationships, possessions, money, achievements, statuses, and so on, which traps us in a hell of scarcity and competition. BUT, a gift mentality frees us from the rat race to joyfully give and receive all sorts of goodness.
My tradition/faith has this incredible gift I’d like to share with you: Perichoresis. Perichoresis is the Greek word for the relationship within God in the Christian understanding. We believe the one God is three Persons (Father, Son, and Spirit), who forever pour goodness, care, and joy into one another. They are in a perpetual dance of giving and receiving Love (Perichoresis). This isn’t just the nature of the Divine, though; it’s the way reality is made. We are made to join the dance of Love that’s not only already all around us; it’s within each of us, as we are all daughters and sons of the Divine. Seeing everything good as a gift meant for sharing, and realizing even hurts are better carried TOGETHER is a way I’m joining this raucous and amazing Divine dance of bliss, and I’d love for you to join me. Living with a gift mindset frees us from being owned by things, ideas, status, achievements, etc. It expands our hearts, it lightens our loads, it reduces our anxieties, and it releases our stresses, thus setting us free to dance joyously, wildly, and lovingly through life. What do you think?
Grace and peace,