WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS?

 

Gerry was walking down a sidewalk in Washington D.C., with a Native American friend who worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It was lunchtime in Washington. People were husslin’ and busslin’ along the sidewalks, and car honks and hurried engine noises filled the streets.  In the middle of all this traffic, Gerry’s friend stopped and said, “hey, a. cricket!”

“What?” said Gerry.

“Yeah, a cricket,” said his friend. “Look here,” and he pulled aside some of the bushes that separated the sidewalk from the government buildings. There in the shade was a cricket chirping away.

“Wow,” said Gerry, “How did you hear that with all this noise and traffic?”

“Oh,” said the Native man. “It was the way I was raised … what I was taught to listen for. Here, I’ll show you something.”

The Native man reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins … nickels, quarters, dimes … and dropped then on the sidewalk. Everyone who was rushing by stopped to …  listen.

Source: Susan Strauss
Passionate Fact: Storytelling in Natural History and Cultural Interpretation (Fulcrum Publishing, 1996) page 9

CONSIDER THIS

We with our busy lives, rushing down highways and byways, preoccupied with our own inner thoughts and expectations, what do we hear?

Where is your focus? What are you paying attention to? What are you listening to?

SHE THINKS I’M REAL

One evening, the whole family went out to dinner at a local restaurant.  Everyone got a menu, even the youngest, Aimee, who was 6 years old.  Since the conversation was an ‘adult’ one, Aimee sat there ignored.  When the waitress took their orders, she came to Aimee last.

“And, what would you like to eat, young lady?” she asked.  Aimee answered, “I will have a hamburger, French fries and a large coke”.

“No”, said her mother.  “She will have a small salad with low fat dressing, baked chicken, carrots and boiled rice”.  “And milk to drink”, chimed in her father.

The waitress looked at Aimee and asked, “Would you like catsup or mustard on your hamburger”?  She said, “Catsup with some fried onions on top please.  Oh, and put a very small piece of lettuce on top to please my parents.  Thank you very much”.

As the waitress walked away to place the order, Aimee turned toward her family and said, “You know what?  She thinks I’m real”.

Source | Unknown. Here it is retold as remembered

_____________________________
Here’s a slightly different version

A family settled down for dinner at a restaurant. The waitress first took the order of the adults, then turned to the seven year old. “What will you have?” she asked.

The boy looked around the table timidly and said, “I would like to have a hot dog.”

Before the waitress could write down the order, the mother interrupted. “No hot dogs,” she said, “Get him a steak with mashed potatoes and carrots.”

The waitress ignored her. “Do you want ketchup or mustard on your hot dog?” she asked the boy.

“Ketchup.”

“Coming up in a minute,” said the waitress as she started for the kitchen.

There was a stunned silence when she left. Finally the boy looked at everyone present and said, “Know what? She thinks I’m real!”

Source | Anthony de Mello, The Heart of the Enlightened
(Image Books, 1997) page 45

 

CONSIDER THIS

Have you ever felt like you were being ignored? Do you ever feel like you don’t matter, you don’t count? As if no one cared about anything you had to say?

When others don’t pay attention to our presence we feel as though we are objects to be maintained or avoided or fixed, rather than real human beings to be treated with respect and dignity. On the other hand, when someone listens to us, we feel loved and we feel real.

THE PHOTOGENIC LILY

One evening after dinner the master and the disciple were looking at some photos. The disciple picked a beautiful photograph of a water lily, held it in his hands, and gazing upon it, asked, “Tell me master, how were you able to take such a splendid picture?”

With a smile, the master replied, “Well, I had to be very patient and very attentive. It was only after a few hours of compliments that the lily was willing to let me take her picture.”

Source | Based on a story told by Henri Nouwen in
Clowning in Rome (Image, 2000) page 87

CONSIDER THIS

Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.

WAKE UP

It was this very first class on a Monday morning. The wise teacher, a couple of years shy of retirement, started the day by asking her class of high school students: “Here is a quiz for you. You are sleeping. You are dreaming. A big tiger is chasing you. You try to run away and you see a tiger coming in front of you. You turn sideways, but every side you turn to, you find a ferocious animal coming after you. How can you escape?”

There was silence in the classroom. No one dared a response.

So finally the teacher said, “There’s only one answer: Wake up!”

Source | Philip Chircop. This is my own retelling of a story I heard years ago.

CONSIDER THIS

It’s all about waking up.  Waking up one enters a whole new world of reality, different from that of the world of dreams. What was a huge problem in the dream state often becomes a non-issue in the waking state.

“Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion — are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.” | Anthony deMello,  Awareness

TEAMWORK

Some people were attending a seminar. The speaker, wanting to wake up the group into full consciousness, decided to start with a  group activity. He gave each participant a colourful balloon. He continued by asking everyone to take some time to blow up the balloon and to write their name on it using the few indelible marker pens scattered around. Then all the balloons were gathered in an adjacent room.

The participants, now in the adjacent room with the balloons, were challenged to find the balloon bearing their name within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other and pushing around others. There was utter chaos.

At the end of the 5 minutes hardly anyone had found the balloon.

The speaker now asked the participants to randomly pick any balloon and give it to the the person whose name was written on it.

Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.

Source | As I recall it being told during a seminar I attended

CONSIDER THIS

God Speaks to us all a little differently, hoping we’ll tell each other. | John Stewart

VIGILANCE

Is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?

As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.

Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?

To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.

Anthony de Mello sj, One Minute Wisdom
(Image, 1988) page 11

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. | Matthew 25:13
  • Are you awake or asleep … distracted or centred and focused?
  • What spiritual exercises do you engage on a daily basis to keep yourself mindful, he artful, alert and attentive?

ARE YOU GOD?

With Christmas coming  grandma was out shopping for gifts for her grandchildren.  While she was at the toy store going through her list she noticed a small homeless girl outside wistfully looking into the store.  Grandma’s heart went out to this little girl.  She invited her into the store and asked her to pick out a gift for herself.  As they walked out of the store, the little girl held Grandma’s hand and looked into her kind eyes and asked “Are you God?” 

Grandma, somewhat embarrassed and somewhat touched said, “No, my dear, I am not God.” 

“Then who are you?”  continued the little girl.  Grandma thought for a moment and said, “I am a child of God.”  The little girl, fully satisfied and smiling, said, “I knew there was a connection!”

Source | Paul Coutinho, How Big is Your God?, page 1

PONDER AND CONSIDER

When people come into your life do they see a divine connection?

THE RABBI’S GIFT

Once a great order, a decaying monastery had only five monks left. The order was dying. In the surrounding deep woods, there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town used from time to time.

The monks always knew the Rabbi was home when they saw the smoke from his fire rise above the treetops. As the Abbot agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to him to ask the Rabbi if he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.
The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot at his hut. When the Abbot explained the reason for his visit, the Rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the Abbot and the Rabbi sat together discussing the Bible and their faiths.
The time came when the Abbot had to leave. “It has been a wonderful visit,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose. Is there nothing you can tell me to help save my dying order?”
“The only thing I can tell you,” said the Rabbi, “is that the Messiah is among you.”
When the Abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him and asked, “What did the Rabbi say?” “He couldn’t help,” the Abbot answered. “The only thing he did say, as I was leaving was that the Messiah is among us. Though I do not know what these words mean.”
In the months that followed, the monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the Rabbi’s words: The Messiah is among us? Could he possibly have meant that the Messiah is one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one of us is the Messiah? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even so, Elred is virtually always right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. Of course the Rabbi didn’t mean me.
He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah?
As they contemplated in this manner, the monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah and in turn, each monk began to treat himself with extraordinary respect.
It so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the beautiful forest and monastery. Without even being conscious of it, visitors began to sense a powerful spiritual aura. They were sensing the extraordinary respect that now filled the monastery.
Hardly knowing why, people began to come to the monastery frequently to picnic, to play, and to pray. They began to bring their friends, and their friends brought their friends. Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the older monks. After a while, one asked if he could join them. Then, another and another asked if they too could join the abbot and older monks. Within a few years, the monastery once again became a thriving order, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.
PONDER AND CONSIDER
  • By assuming the specialness of every person, we build a culture of respect that generates energy, creativity, and magnetism – something that people can sense and feel, and to which they are drawn.
  •  In our daily lives, we can create a culture of respect with every personal interaction we have, whether it is with a store clerk, a dignitary, or a colleague.

DEEP LISTENING

Once two friends were walking down the sidewalk on a busy street during rush hour.  There were all sorts of noise in the city; car horns honking, feet shuffling, people talking! And amid all the noise, one of the friends turned to the other and said, “I hear a cricket.”

“No way,” her friend responded. “How could you hear a cricket with all of this noise? You must be imagining it. Besides, I’ve never seen a cricket in the city.”

“No really, I do hear a cricket. I’ll show you.”  She stopped for a moment, then led her friend across the street to a big cement planter with a tree in it.  Pushing back the leaves she found a little brown cricket.

“That’s amazing!” said her friend, “You must have a super-human hearing. What’s your secret?”

“No, my hearing is just the same as yours. There’s no secret,” The first woman replied. “Watch, I’ll show you.”  She reached into her pocket, pulled out some loose change, and threw it on the sidewalk.   Amid all of the noise of the city, everyone within thirty feet turned their head to see where the sound of the money was coming from.

“See,” she said. “It’s all a matter of what you are listening for.”

Source | Elisa Davy Pearmain,
Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from Around the World, page 14.

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I am learning that silence is not the absence of noise but the refined tuning of the soul to the sounds and movements that usually go unnoticed.
  • What are you listening for in your life?

THE PRECIOUSNESS OF LIFE

Thornton Wilder‘s play Our Town, was written about events that occurred in the very early years of the 20th century in a small town called Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. The main character of the story is named Emily. The story deals with the preciousness of time and the gift of life, the meaning of which we often miss.

Emily dies, and in a conversation she has with the saints departed, she asks to go back to Grover’s Corner for one day. She chooses her twelfth birthday.

She goes back and watches what happens in the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, and outside the house. She notices that people, even the people in her immediate family, don’t seem to notice one another. They go about their busy lives preoccupied. She finally cries out, as if her mother might hear her, “Oh, Mama, Mama, just look at me, look at me for a minute, as though you really see me, just for a moment now, while we’re all together. Mama, let’s be happy. Let’s look at one another and really see each other.” But their life goes on, preoccupied and fleeting.

Emily turns to the stage manager, the character off to the side, who plays a very important role, and she says, “Life goes so fast. We don’t even have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize this while I was living. We never noticed.”

At the end, almost broken-hearted, she asks to be taken back to heaven.

As she’s just about to leave, she looks back, over her shoulder, and she says, “Goodbye world, good-bye Grover’s Corner, good-bye Mama and Papa, good-bye good taste of coffee, good-bye new ironed dresses and clocks ticking and hot baths, good-bye sleeping and waking. Oh life, oh life, you’re too wonderful. Why don’t we realize?” She then turns to the stage manager and says, “Does anybody do it? Does anybody really notice?” The stage manager answers, “Some do, poets, saints, artists, but very few.”

Source | Thornton WilderOur Town

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Many go through life stuck in a rut, numbed and hypnotized by boredom, distracted, preoccupied, anxious and worried about too many things. Let the poet, the saint, and the artist in you to awake and see, awake and notice, awake and really pay attention.