There is so much that can be learned from every experience in life, if only we are present and living in the moment. For instance, my children and I went ice-skating together recently. I was already appreciating the evening, because we were in an outdoor rink, and it was an unseasonably warm night for December. We didn’t even need coats.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the ice and I was a bit taken aback by how cautious I was being. ‘Monica’ and ‘cautious’ aren’t two words that usually go together. Now, I’m not counseling that anyone throw themselves back into ice skating without allowing for a readjustment period, especially if, like me, you haven’t been on the ice in a couple years. But I noticed my own trepidation and it occurred to me that we don’t necessarily lose more fears as we mature, but in fact, seem to be inclined to new fears unless we are conscious and make a real effort to dispel them as they surface.
I want to be able to teach my two year old how to ice skate someday! I don’t want to be the mother at the side of the rink cheering her on, I want to be holding her hand – or holding her up for that matter – and experiencing it with her. With this image in mind I forced myself to relax and go faster, bit by bit, until I regained confidence.
Doing circuits around the rink I began to feel really good, and it was more than just the feeling of my blades cutting smoothly through the ice. I noticed that people all around me were helping other people. Some people were helping up the fallen, some were in the process of holding others up. Still, others were gently propelling their partners forward. Teens were helping parents, parents helping small children, and we even saw a marriage proposal right there on the ice!
There was so much kindness present in the small area of the ice rink and I couldn’t help but wonder what if life were like that skating rink?
Being conscious and in the moment during our day to day experiences can teach us great lessons, so too can people, and not just people that you already know or like. Messages can come from anyone. I remember that I didn’t really love my name when I was younger. Living near a beach community (Santa Monica) I was often just called Santa. One evening a waiter had asked me my name, and I expressed how it, at the time, wasn’t my favorite. He responded that ‘santa’ in Spanish is ‘saint.’ He said what’s more important than liking your name is living up to it. Something about that exchange inspired me to greater mindfulness about trying to live up to my name. So often we see people as a means to an end. The waiter for instance, was simply expected to bring us dinner that day. But if we hadn’t engaged with him I wouldn’t have had that important experience.
I read an article about a homeless man that was interviewed by a journalist. He liked to stay on the beach near the boardwalk, year round. When asked why he didn’t go somewhere warmer in the winter he replied, “Why go anywhere? Look at this view!” That view inspires him every day to appreciate the beauty that life can offer. It’s even more incredible hearing this from a man who owns nothing.
There are so many people that we see as a means to an end instead of seeing them for who they are (TSA agents, your barista, bank tellers). Share a kind word with everyone you meet, because often the greatest lessons come from the people you’d never expect to hear it from.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Look for opportunities for connection. Even if you just smile and say, “Hello,” you may be surprised by what others have to teach you.