Unplug and open up

Last week I arrived to a lunch meeting about 20 minutes early and decided to keep my phone in my jacket pocket instead of keeping myself preoccupied with the latest status updates on all of the social media sites.  As I sat there and took in my surroundings, it was astonishing the stories that I could envision of the people around me.  The restaurant was buzzing with activity with a lunch rush; staff were hustling by and communicating to each other; one table in the corner was celebrating a birthday; another group of elderly women were toasting to their friend for her recent success; and a couple to my right appeared to be newly in love.  I was able to process all my information through various verbal comments, facial expressions, body language, smiles, and pure energy throughout the room.  Granted, it wasn’t detailed information about the circumstances behind each interaction, but they were all full of life.  Undoubtedly, that experience was way more interesting and incredibly more ‘real’ than any status update I could have read that day.

It made me wonder, how much of the world do we shield ourselves from now in the spirit of ‘staying connected?’   And why is it so difficult to simply sit and observe?  Are we hesitant to observe others or perhaps, even our own self?  Are we afraid that someone will actually look in our eyes and engage us, even if simply through a smile? Or are our own thoughts so chaotic that we don’t want to be alone with them for even a few minutes?

I love forums such as this where I can intentionally seek out particular topics, ideas, and like-minded people.  And I am grateful to share my thoughts and ideas with whoever may want to listen, but we both know that throughout this post I have had the luxury of editing, adjusting, or otherwise omitting information for one reason or the other.  And while I value the ability to appropriately formulate my thoughts before sharing them with the world, there is a limitation to my ability to truly connect with someone who is not able to look into my eyes, hear the tone of my voice, or simply be with me in that moment when I stumble for the right words.  My hope is that we find that balance of engaging with each other as  honestly as we can, in whatever venue we have available to us.  I know that my best and most real self comes out when I unplug and open up to the world right in front of me. And in the end, that is what helps me feel more confident in opening up to this world as well.  (Insert a gentle smile here).

 

Happy guys

Happy guys

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Presence for Presents

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the holidays.  I love anything that brings people together and nurtures connection with each other.  Unfortunately, a by-product of all this connection is the much dreaded gift exchanges and holiday purchases that sometimes overshadow the spirit of the season. This post is created in the spirit of including some presence in the presents of the season.  🙂

Here’s the deal.  The best presents for people are rarely advertised on the front of a store ad.  There are not “limited quantities” of an honest expression of love and gratitude.  Yes, you can put objects in a package and tie a pretty bow around them, but when you are truly celebrating another person it is less like a chore and more like an opportunity.  An opportunity to express yourself and the meaning of your relationship and an opportunity to engage in a delightful experience of kindness.

The catch is that it may take more than a few minutes of late night online shopping to find a true reflection of all these things.  This is where the idea of presence comes in.  I’m not suggesting you spend hours in meditation to figure out the perfect gift.  But maybe spend a few minutes figuring out what each person likes, what words represent their personality, what activities do they enjoy, or what dream have they ever expressed to you?  Sometimes if you can just write down the person’s name and jot down the first 6-10 descriptors that come to mind when you think of that person…it could be helpful in you figuring out something that would truly celebrate who they are.

Another exploration of your presence is to reflect on something that you really want to share with people this holiday season.  What has inspired you lately?  What has made your heart sing?  Is there a way to share that with the people in your life?

Consider this an invitation for all of us to include a sense of presence for the presents we all buy/make and distribute this year.  This comes naturally to some people and not so naturally for others.  If you are needing a little inspiration to get your creative ideas flowing consider these strategies to incorporate presence this season:

-Gift an experience instead of just a ‘thing’.  This could be in the form of movie passes, a coupon for a painting class or workshop, or tickets to a musical concert.  Depending on the experience, maybe you can even share the experience with them!

-Gift positivity.  Create affirmations for your friends.  There are a ton of sites that include affirmations for all sorts of categories ranging from love, friendships, workplace, and spirituality.

-Gift inspiration (in the form of famous quotes, calendars, or photography).  Take your own photo and frame it or type up your favorite quote on cardstock.

-Gift music.  Burn a CD with your favorite songs from this year or something they may not normally listen to.

-Gift gratitude.  Make a gratitude jar/container.  Label it and create a starter kit for them.  If you are feeling particularly grateful, include notes of gratitude from you to them and place them in the jar for them to read later.

-Gift silly.  Create coupons for ‘night off from cooking/cleaning the kitchen.’ or “all day pass to watch sports on tv without complaint.’

-Gift practical.  If you know someone writes a lot, gift them notebooks and pens.  If you know someone who drinks tea every day, pick up a variety pack of flavors for them.

-Gift connection.  If you are missing someone, gift them cards with envelopes and stamps so you can stay connected.

-Gift your gifts.  If you make the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever…gift them to people along with your secret recipe.  This works for any food item that is your claim to fame.  🙂  Include an uplifting movie and you have a family gift ready to share.

Whatever you do….make it fun.  Make it goofy.  Make it real.  And make it personal.  Those are the things that make it meaningful.  Not only do I believe that is the true spirit of the holidays, but I believe it is the core of our spirit each and every day.

Wishing you peace, love, and good health this holiday season.

 

What is your connection?

Family of Elephants

What defines a connection? How do you know you have connected with someone or something and what does it feel like? And most importantly, how do you nurture these connections? Some people may define their connections in direct correlation with the number of friends they have on Facebook or how many followers they have on Twitter, but I am talking about something more; something deeper that is not captured or analyzed by social media sites.

Connections are meaningful experiences you have with someone or something that happens within yourself.  It’s when you think “this person totally gets me and is simply amazing”.  It is an interaction that leads you to want to spend more time with that person, get to know them, and share more experiences.  It is the feeling you have when you feel most comfortable in your own skin.  And when you don’t need words to fill a silent space. Connections happen when you feel like you are a part of something bigger than your immediate surroundings.  It’s a moment when you are standing on the edge of the ocean and you realize how small you are in comparison to the whole world.  It is when you witness nature in a pure sense and feel like there is purpose within you that speaks ever so softly.

Connections are not to be measured, they are to be experienced. They create a space in your soul that reminds you that you are loved and valued and a part of something much bigger than you can even imagine.  It is through real life interactions that connections grow.

If you do nothing else this week, find a way to nurture one of your treasured connections.  Step outside and gaze at the sunset or clouds in the sky.  Feel the breeze on your skin as you watch squirrels play in the yard.  Buy a card and write out a few lines of gratitude why a particular person is important to you.  Or better yet, send them a hand written note.  Have dinner with a good friend.  Remind yourself and the people in your life what really matters.

Of course, I enjoy using social media and other high-tech methods to stay in touch with loved ones.  However, I believe it’s critical to remember the importance of how we sustain our most treasured resources both within and outside of our self.  I’m sure there is an app somewhere that is designed in the spirit of ‘staying connected’, but nothing is as dependable as the internal programming of my heart and soul.  🙂