I’m always in awe of my flowers blooming from seeds that I planted in the spring. Planting, growing, and blooming happens year round all around us every which way we look, but each time I take a closer look I am impressed by nature. Oddly enough even in the face of such miraculous beauty, I noticed that when I want to take a picture I search for the so-called perfect flower. I notice if the petals are a mess or out-of-order I look for a more perfect flower. It seems so silly and absurd when I think about it now, a more perfect flower? All the flowers are perfect. I stopped myself and really examined my thought process. I then took a whole bunch of pictures of this imperfect perfection found in the flower garden. I was looking at them differently. The beauty in the flower is the flower, not the perfection that we impose upon it. The best picture, in my opinion ended up being the great big sunflower bloom with the petals split at the top. I could have “fixed” the flower, or the picture with editing, but I thought better of it. That day took me back to a Ram Das talk that I love about seeing people like trees. In this case flowers, but the same idea. Here’s one quote from his website talking about it.
I think that part of it is observing oneself more impersonally. I often use this image, which I think I have used already, but let me say it again. That when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.
-Ram Das (https://www.ramdass.org/ram-dass-on-self-judgement/)
So, in my case I was actually judging flowers at the moment I realized my mistake. I am a product photographer for catalogs and web pages so my eye is trained to look for a lack of balance or symmetry. I am editing a picture in my mind before I take the picture. So I have to catch myself when it comes to photographing nature and people to see the natural beauty that needs no editing or filtering. This thought experiment led me evaluate how I was looking at myself and others in my life.
I tend to get lost in self-improvement and trying to be better so much that I lose sight of the beauty of where I am now and loving this moment. Nothing is wrong with trying to be better, but when we don’t allow for the place we are right now to be acceptable we lose something precious. Just like I looked at the petals that were bent instead of the whole flower, I look at the my own flaws and magnify the imperfections instead of seeing myself as a whole human being perfectly imperfect.
I practice being mindful of how I see others and drop the assumptions and judgement and allow for that person’s beauty to be seen like a tree just growing this way and that. I allow the same for myself and try to remember that I was just a seed, and I am growing like a tree bending towards the light, living, breathing and being part of the miraculous world which is all interconnected and growing and learning how to love.
This evidence of the universe conspiring to help you is all around if you pay close enough attention.
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream,” said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king. (Coelho)
Whenever I start making choices that agree with my higher self or the intentions that I have in my mind, there seems to appear a walkway almost like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. If you keep following that road there are bound to be some encounters with your flying monkeys and wicked witches, but you just keep following that road and help is all around you. I was running on the path a couple weeks ago, I was hot and struggling to jog when I saw this lady walking, I had passed her earlier and then I turned around so I am now passing her again this time face to face. I took my ear bud out and I was walking now, I said, “Wow, it’s a lot hotter out here than I thought.” She looked me in the eye and held eye contact and with a heart-warming smile she said, “I’m proud of you.” I smiled back and kept walking down the path feeling like God had spoken through this woman, she looked straight into my soul it seemed. I suddenly felt proud of myself and picked up my pace to a trot and made it home feeling renewed. I felt like it was about more than just my commitment to exercise that day it was like a blanket statement for all the work I am doing and the path I am trying to walk on a larger scale. The experience didn’t make sense, I didn’t know this lady, nor could I remember having seen her before and I have not seen her since. This is a path that runs along the main road outside of my neighborhood. Was that person some form of God, an angel or a mere mortal? I don’t know, and really it doesn’t matter but for that one part of the yellow brick road I had my Glenda moment and I am sure there will be more help along the way.
My practice is to pay attention to the unseen current of energy that sort of picks you up and lets you float every once in a while when you are heading in the right direction. This evidence of the universe conspiring to help you is all around if you pay close enough attention. It’s a book you find, a picture you come across, an old letter you read, a friend that calls, a movie you watch, a show you see, a party you attend, a job you find, a meal you cook, a yoga class you take, a trail you walk, a moment you take, a dream you remember, an ice cream cone you taste, a fragrance you smell, a sunset you see, a river you cross, a mountain you climb or whatever pops up along the yellow brick road you are following. Literally and figuratively the universe is with you, inside you and all around you. Once you believe in yourself, there is nothing that can stop you, not even the Wicked Witch her self.
Fast food is a problem and perhaps that’s because we are so detached from the cooking, the source, and the enjoyment.
What if we slow it down a little? What if we think in the grocery store, hang out in the produce section, and see what’s new and fresh? What if we think about our next meal and plan it and cook it slowly while we think about the flavors and the ingredients? What if we sit down and savor each bite? What if we bake some cookies from scratch? What will it look like if we change the thought pattern about making food? (Michael Pollan has a documentary called Cooked, and it’s based on his book by the same name.) Here’s a link to view a preview of his Netflix series. He learns how to cook, bake and take time to enjoy the process as he explains the origin of cooking and really examines where we are right now as a food obsessed culture.
The truth is so glaringly obvious that it’s hard not to see it when it comes to food. Fast food is a problem and perhaps that’s because we are so detached from the cooking, the source, and the enjoyment. For example, I slam a burrito in the car (my food drug of choice) on the way to wherever I must be getting to and then I don’t feel full or satisfied, but that’s ok because there will be a snack bar, food truck and coffee bar every step of the way I am most likely going. Let’s say anywhere there will be people, even a soccer game that last less than an hour, will be met with food that Madeline’s mom packed in a cooler stuffed with enough to feed the pack for 3 months should a disaster strike the soccer field and leave everyone stranded. And who wants to go out for pizza after the game we just grazed our way through? Don’t worry about being hungry there will be more food at the next place and when I get home I will still be hungry because I haven’t really eaten any actual food all day. So, I open the fridge and look for something, I don’t know what I want, just something that is fast and delicious before I head to bed. It’s silly.
I’m saying it doesn’t have to be this way and of course I am not the first person to rant about it. But one thing leads to another and I am just observing my own habits and seeing that once I slow down and slice some vegetables and cook some meat I feel good about the meal I eat. I like to cook, but I have to stay home to do it and that’s the trick. Staying home for a couple hours and thinking about it, caring about the meal and the process is something that is ancient and instinctual for humans. Perhaps we have backed away from the ritual that made a meal sacred and something very spiritual and essential has been lost. And maybe that is why most meals are not filling the void that we have mindlessly created.
My practice for today will be to search for something sacred in the food I am eating and preparing. I want to enjoy the flavors and savor the moments that I am eating and see if I can get back to my ancestral roots of honoring the source of life that makes the meal possible. I might start saying Grace again, why not be thankful for every meal?