Last week we learned that Be Loving applied to everyone we meet, even the people we can’t stand. Be Loving is not false praise or syrupy-sweet patronizing but sincere interaction, and comes from the most sincere place—our humanity. It’s really nothing more than putting our best thoughts, words, and actions forward.
The next part is connected to this.
Do me a favor and take thirty seconds to look around you. Go ahead. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here.
Welcome back. If you were like me, you got bored pretty quickly. I looked at the posters on my wall, my bookshelves, my laptop, my desk, my bed, and my reading chair. As I looked around a second time, I noticed some of the details—the dusty desktop, Jerry the cat curled on my bed, the breath of the winter wind cooling me in this overheated room—but nothing really popped out at me. Like you, since I didn’t know what to look at, I looked at everything with the same amount of detail and attention. I was unaware of what to look at and why, and so I grew bored.
Now, look around you for thirty seconds with this one thought: ‘I am living in a paradise.’ See you in half a minute.
Well? Did you notice a difference? I didn’t, at first. ‘Of course I’m not living in a paradise!’ I thought. ‘It’s winter in Chicago! Also, I’m not rich, I’m not traveling the world, and I’m not living off my writing. Paradise? With my bad back, my student loans debts, and my coffee breath? How the HELL is THIS paradise?!’ But after about ten seconds, something happened. As I kept reciting the words, I began to believe them a little more. When I looked at my robe hanging on the wall, I saw the robe of a man lucky enough to even own such a soft, comfortable thing. I saw all of the books I’d bought, and I felt blessed for having access to great literature and non-fiction at a moment’s notice. The Chicago a site for paradise? A minor inconvenience when you don’t have to live in it. Even my sore back didn’t hurt so much after these humble thoughts.
What happened here isn’t magic, it’s called getting your head right. Call it self-speak, call it self-motivation. Or call it a mantra. Whatever we focus on, that’s what we strive towards; and unfortunately, in our culture of fashions, trends, competition, and status, we strive for money, power, fame, and achievements in order to make us feel good but mainly to leave us feeling incomplete and searching for more.
There is always someone worse off. We’ve all heard that, and we’ve all ignored it just as fast because of the other side of this chain’s link—there’s always someone better. And so, because it’s easer to ignore, neglect, or take for granted what we have, we strive for more more more. We keep busy instead of taking time to reflect on what we have. Case in point, how many pics do you take a year on your phone? 100? 1,000? A billion? Now, how many times do you sit back and go through them, looking at each one and remembering what the circumstances were behind each photo? Once? Maybe twice? Our pictures used to mean something to us; now they are simply signposts on this journey in our lives toward self-importance and self-worth.
Our minds are like cameras, clicking away at the world around us. Our thoughts, which become words and actions, are like pictures spewing out to the world around us, there for everyone else to see except us. Until we reflect on what we’re thinking about, we’re not utilizing the camera for what it’s main purpose is—the capturing of moments to be used for reflection. Pictures show us who we are if we only take the time to study and reflect on them. Being Humble is looking at who we are and what we have instead of what we want.
Schopenhauer wrote once that our youth and our health are never things we feel so much as feel the absence of. We can’t sit back and feel our health, but only notice the lack of it when we have the flu. We can’t feel our youth when we’re young, but only notice the absence of our youth when we try to do The Worm at a wedding like we used to do. It’s an inevitability of our human condition, and a lesson we all eventually learn. But another way to feel this ‘invisible paradise’ is to expose yourself to a contrary lifestyle. Think you don’t live in a paradise? Turn on the local news. Volunteer at a shelter. Or, you take a bus or train to work like I do, simply notice the people around you. Nothing is a quicker reminder of what you have and could lose like walking the city streets.
Our paradise is invisible to us because it’s supposed to be, because if all we did was reflect on how bad our lives aren’t, we’d never live the life we’d want. Like the first part Being Loving, Being Humble is about balance. But that doesn’t mean we should live another year or five years or several decades without taking the time to appreciate what we have and how lucky we are.
Being Humble puts your life into perspective. The next time they get your latte wrong at the coffee shop, take a breath and realize that it’s no big deal. Be Loving to the girl, give her a smile, and be patient. It’s not the end of the world. Be Humble.
So, love the one you’re with. Understand that you can’t always get what you want (but if try sometimes, you might find you get what you need). And most importantly, please know what you got before it’s gone.
Tune in next week for the third part of my new mantra!
Please leave something below because I want to hear your comments about your own mantras and other ways toward self-betterment.
“How many times are you going to get burned before you realize fire is hot, you know? But if you grow up with everybody putting their hands in fires every day, then you think it’s natural to get burned all the time. And that’s the way most people live.”