Often when I drive, I find my mind going to places that I rarely go. Freedom and dreaming up ways to make our world a better place. An easier place to live in. Lately, my awareness has been that Im only seeing the world through my eyes, and not as it truly is. The reality we see in our lives, often is just a reflection of our own heart and mind. Lately, Ive been listening to people talk about themselves. And really, no matter what they say, they are talking about themselves. Since their world, their thoughts and comments are really just a mirror of their own emotional, mental, or spiritual condition.
In all my conversations, this was becoming clearer and clearer to me. Wow, what a way to look at the world. You dont have to even ask someone whats going on in their thoughts, just listen to their words. Thats when it happened.
It was a simple ritual, really. Nothing complicated about it. I walked into the local chain convenience store to engage in the self-service coffee ritual. There was a middle aged construction worker type of man taking his time pouring a cup of coffee into a disposable paper cup. I enjoyed his ritual with him as he tinkered with the condiments of cream and sugar with obvious pleasure. He continued on, unaware of me waiting patiently. Then startled, he apologized for getting in the way. Oh, no, Please, take your time. Im in no hurry. No worries, I told him as he pulled his cup aside to make room for me. We both settled into the intimate rites of proper coffee preparation in a mutual silence of acceptance. It was comfortable. It was nice. It was the way life was meant to be lived, in peace.
My choice of java from the large selection of urns was finally the inexpensive store brand in the glass pitcher. I tried the gourmet urn, my favorite, french vanilla, and it was empty. I wasnt interested in the other flavors if I couldnt have my favorite, so I settled for the regular cup. The man in front of me had moved away from the cashier already and it was my turn to pay. I noticed the coffee girl behind the counter making another batch or flavor in the refill area behind the counter. After I had paid, I called out her., not in the gruff, sarcastic-but-fun-this-is-my-tough-personality voice, but in a nice friendly gentle voice. This is new voice for me. Its a vulnerable voice. One that was a little more work to say.
As a former Marine, used to making matter of fact comments bordering on commands, without feeling or any hint of friendliness, this voice felt very unfamiliar to me. I liked this voice. It suited the new me that I was becoming. It was a sensitive voice that I used to say, by the way, the French Vanilla urn is empty. There! I said it! It came out of my mouth EXACTLY the way I imagined it in my mind. I had done it! And it felt very good.
The girl behind the counter looked up at me and smiled. She held my eye contact, smiled broadly and with ease. Thank you for letting me know, have a great day!
I struggled to put my sunglasses on to hide the tears that formed quickly in my eyes at her polite and gentle response. We connected. That coffee girl and I connected on a level that she probably didnt realize. As I stood outside my body, watching my actions and speech, I realized something that would change my life. I was gentle. I was kind. It was in me. And the coffee girl recognized it. I just know she did. It happened in a split second, that suspended nano-second of time that slows down and becomes the eternity of our lives that imprints us forever as a bonafide human being.
Weve all had them. I had mine with a nameless convenience store worker filling coffee urns, who showed me the inner workings of my heart, and the gentleness that I didnt believe was there, until that day.
Im not talking about the knowing of intellectual knowledge. Im talking about the fullness of knowing, the witness of your spirit, to your soul that wells up from the innermost parts of your being. The kind of knowing that nails your emotions and awareness of who you are inside. This is the kind of knowing that can only be experienced in the transcending of the mundane, into the pure TRUTH of BEING. For me, it happened in a common coffee ritual.
My background of spiritual teaching has always emphasized the sin nature. My evil twin that lurked in my soul was always winning out in battles of good and evil. I knew my sins well. I knew my divinity less. I thought it was fitting for my soul to revel in the self-service coffee ritual, to reveal my heart to me. It was a good heart, a gentle heart. Even the coffee girl could see that. But it wasnt until she returned to kindness to me that I gave to her, that I was able to see my own heart.
Youd think that the mother of four children in her mid-thirties would know such things. But I really didnt. I did kindness as a way of tolerating the inequalities in my daily life, and as an example of being good to my children. There is really no life in doing good when you are not good, but I went through the motions anyway, like so many of us do. We all remember days of gritting our teeth to get through the day with as little toleration as possible, until we get back to our safe places.
Smile and the whole world smiles back? It is only really true when it comes from the real you inside. Your authentic self probably isnt the one you would share in public, much less with the stranger behind the convenience store coffee counter. Try it sometime, smile like you mean it, look someone in the eye, and say, Have a great day. Maybe your life will be changed like mine was that ordinary day.
I saw this wonderful clerks beauty, because finally in the reflection of her easy smile and bright eyes, I saw myself. The brilliance of the gentleness and warmth blistered my consciousness of who I imagined myself to be. I was like her. I was gentle and I was kind. And I needed her that day, to show me, what was inside me all my life.
In the words of Guy Finley, we do what we KNOW. We get what we DO. What we get from life is a DIRECT reflection of our present level of understanding. In every way, we mirror each other. We either bring out the greatness in each other, or we reveal our murderous thoughts of hate, and everything that runs between good and evil. We each have the potential to maximize either quality. What do your lifes deeds and speech say about you? If you are like me, you are painfully aware of your need to shine a little brighter, be a little kinder, and yes, even a little gentler.
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