Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Songs of Gratitude

During my daily commute this year, I’ve had the fortune of experiencing the song and sound of some extremely talented  musicians I had not heard before on the street or in the subway.  As I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I’m grateful for this year, those moments of enjoying the offerings of these artists have come to mind.  One day an African drummer joined us on the shuttle train and sang from the depths of his soul unlike any drummer I’d heard before.  He didn’t just have skillful and clever technique, but his soul was singing to us with such gratitude and joy, even those possessed by their electronic gadgets were forced to look up and pay attention.  Another time a gentle spirit of a singer/songwriter offered commuters  a tender melody he had written that once again got the attention of everyone on the train.  Then there was the day an opera singer presented a voice that was so moving people were actually following him off the train, telling him he belonged on a much grander stage than a dumpy subway car.

Having been a performer myself for over 30 years, I appreciate the courage it takes to place oneself in front of strangers and share a gift that brings you immense joy.  Aside from sharing their creative talent, when an artist presents their work to you they are inviting you to connect with your own creative expression.  The more we honor the seeds of creativity within ourselves, the more we are simultaneously honoring that in others and vice versa.  Creativity doesn’t necessarily come about through an established art form, but through the myriad of ways we present ourselves to the world.  Our unique creative expression can shine through when we share our sense of humor or our personal insight, or in how we care for our loved ones and problem solve our daily lives.  Each one of us has a distinct life experience that separates us from the crowd while paradoxically bringing us closer to a sense of oneness with others, sharing in the vulnerabilities of our human experience.  What performers like these street musicians are doing is holding up a mirror that reflects and honors the unique beauty that is carried within all of us on a soul level.  By being fully present with this creative force within ourselves and others, we are cultivating a state of gratitude  for all that we are and not just what we see on the surface of life.

As we enter the shortest and coldest days of the year, mother nature gives us the opportunity to quietly listen to how the divine speaks to us, to find our inspiration from within and to explore how this voice can be expressed in a way that serves others.  This is what it means to celebrate the lightness of life that so many different religions hold ritual for this time of year.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Little Acorns



Several years ago, around this time, when the sun starts noticeably fading earlier in the day, I was at the laundry mat when a small but quite beautiful gift was given to me.  Having just added my clothes to the washer, I watched the machine fill with soapy water and turn with increasing speed as my mind simultaneously filled with the waters of disappointment over something that had happened earlier in the week.  I decided to step outside and let the cool autumn air clear my head before I started drowning in these discontented thoughts. 
Just as I turned to leave, there were three young children who had managed to create a blockade of carts along the aisle leading to the door so no one could pass.  I could see that annoyed look on the faces of the nearby adults.  It’s that look of disapproval so tightly contained that it seeps out the sides, spilling out everywhere.  No one was saying anything to the parents and yet it was obvious people wanted them to come over and tell the children to settle down.  As I walked toward the chaos, I initially imagined I would find a way to politely tip toe around everything by squeezing past the carts.  However, just as I arrived at the cluster of children and carts, the girl was standing there staring at me.  Suddenly my inner child popped out instead and made a funny face at her.  I heard myself asking, “Can I squeeeeeeeeeeeze past you?”  She replied with a look of sheer delight that an adult was actually communicating with her on her level.  She giggled and said that before I could pass, she wanted to paint my fingernails.  She pulled out the tiniest bottle of nail polish I’d ever seen and proceeded to paint my pinky.  It took four dips into the bottle before the one nail was completely painted. 
Her little brother and cousin came over to see what we were doing.  One of them pulled a handful of acorns out of his pocket and all three children began telling me about their day in the park.  They were so enchanted by these little acorns they’d found on the ground that you would have thought they had traveled through some magical forest in a fairy tale instead of Central Park.  They told me all about the castle they had seen, the squirrels that were running around and the rocks they had climbed which to them seemed like mountains.  As I listened and smiled, I noticed the blockade of carts had disappeared and no one seemed terribly annoyed with the children anymore.  After about 20 minutes had passed, the girl looked at me and exclaimed, “You don’t have any acorns!”  And with that, she pulled out as many acorns as her little hand could hold and gave them to me.  As I held the acorns, a gentle blanket of warmth wrapped around me and my whole being felt a joy and oneness with the world.  I thanked her for the present and promised I would keep the acorns in a special place.
As I went home that day with my bag of clean laundry and pocketful of magical acorns, I realized the disappointment I experienced earlier that week had been replaced with a sense gratitude that was smiling in every cell of my being.