It was Monday and freezing. And I was tired. Up since 5am, I’d already taught a class all morning, dealt with TSA and an erroneous airline ticket, and now was walking back to catch the 5:30pm train home after a quick coffee with a friend and colleague. Well, that is, if there was going to be a 5:30 train – you never quite know these days. My intention to take time during the day to meditate at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was quickly becoming one of those fleeting “nice ideas”. As I trudged down Park Ave (although “trudging” and “Park Avenue” certainly don’t seem to go together…), I noticed a lovely church, with its door open. My first thought was “Somebody should shut that door! It’s freezing out!” My second thought was, “Maybe it’s an invitation to come in.” A quick glance at my phone (my watch had stopped – another interesting occurrence that day) assured me I had 10 minutes to spare before continuing my trek to Penn Station.
Cautiously, I went through the open outer door and came into a lovely vestibule. I peeked into the main worship space of this Roman Catholic church and saw a few women in the pews praying or meditating. And I decided to join them.
The beginning of the year is an interesting time. I’d taken a few weeks off to spend with family and was slowly getting back into meetings and networking events. Invariably, the first question asked when talking to someone, besides “How are you doing?”, is “What are you doing these days?” This is a question I’ve been struggling to answer. Yes, I am more than grateful for a steady corporate training gig, but outside of that…I’m not really sure what I’m doing. Not having an immediate answer these days is not only uncomfortable, it’s frowned upon. We find ourselves nowadays, as a wise friend pointed out, in a “Reaction State”. Something happens and it is expectedthat you have a reaction or opinion or answer. Immediately. And if you don’t, it connotes some type of uncaring, or ignorance or worse.
So here I am, in this uncomfortable place where not only am I personally unclear of my path, but am in a socially unacceptable space where I can’t provide an immediate answer when asked. A double whammy.
What to do? In the past, this ambiguous stage would have sent me into a panic, with a need to find definition, clarity and something to DO IMMEDIATELY! Or I’d retreat and go into a depression for a while. Fortunately, I now realize the futility of either option and have learned that these times of not knowing are fertile grounds for growth. Not fun or easy, mind you, but when embraced can be quite transformative.
This is the attitude with which I headed into that church on Monday. My intention was to sit quietly for 10 minutes and allow thoughts, ideas, insight and that small still voice inside to be heard. I closed my eyes…and they immediately opened back up. Strange. So, I closed my eyes again. And again, it was like trying to force them closed. I decided not to fight it, and instead sat quietly and just looked around. It was a stunning place – one I’d like to return to from time to time. And the message I got? “Keep your eyes open”. Don’t shut down to ideas – look what is coming into your path. Look around and see what is needed and who needs help. Trust that you will see the answers.
A few days later I was on my way to a networking event and was listening to the radio. On came the song “Stacy’s Mom” – an oldie but goodie that my daughter and I sing on road trips. We have our little routine with it and if we did karaoke, this would be our song. It made me smile and of course I had to call her to bring her into the experience. I was still smiling when I turned the station and there was a Chet Baker song. I couldn’t believe it: We had recently been to see “The Band’s Visit” on Broadway, and one of the characters would use the line “Do you like Chet Baker?” to impress girls. I had never heard of Chet Baker until that show. I was grinning as I entered the event with these two songs in my head. And then, while chatting with a colleague, I look up on the wall of the restaurant, and there are several gold records of Jason Mraz. I adore Jason Mraz! It was just one more interesting event in a series of interesting events that evening!
Later, when reflecting on the evening, I posed a hypothetical question to myself: “Let’s say, in the spirit of keeping your eyes open, that included keeping your ears open too. If that is true, and these three musical references were “a sign”, what would they be telling you?” Here is what I came up with:
- Stacy’s Mom: A song that is only important to me because of the connection to my daughter. So, this was a reminder that Family continues to be the number one focus in my life.
- Chet Baker: The play, “The Band’s Visit”, is the true story of an Egyptian band that ends up in the wrong Israeli town and is taken in by the townspeople for the night. It is through this act of kindness that they discover that underneath it all, there is a lot more they have in common, than what they are conditioned to believe.
- Jason Mraz: Jason’s music is consistently about love and kindness. It lifts me up and inspires me.
My word for the year, which came to me during a New Year’s Eve meditation, is Love. There is no doubt in my mind that these messages, received through quiet reflection and opened eyes/ears, is reinforcing that theme.
The world needs more kindness. And love. I’m ready to do my part. Eyes – and heart – wide open. And what will I do? I still don’t know. But, I do know how I will BE: moving forward with Love and Kindness! How about you?