If we're open, life gives us opportunities to learn spiritual lessons, often in unexpected places.
Close to my house, and on my way to just about every place I drive, there is a five way intersection. If you’ve ever been through a five way intersection, you know that things can get a little dicey when there are more than a couple cars at any one time. As long as everyone can count, and follows basic rules of courtesy, things can flow pretty smoothly. Introduce an uncertain or aggressive driver into the mix, however, and things can go bad very quickly!
As the surrounding towns have grown, and traffic at the intersection has increased, a decision was made to replace the intersection with a rotary. This will, hopefully, make traffic flow more efficient and gridlock nearly impossible. Construction began this past spring and has continued through the hot days of summer. On average, I go through the construction site six times a day.
Six times a day, times seven days a week, times about sixteen weeks equals roughly six hundred seventy-five trips through the construction site. Given the numbers, I now consider myself somewhat of an expert on rotary construction. As such, I’d like to share a few important lessons that I’ve learned while waiting at the soon to be completed rotary. These lessons apply not only to construction sites, but to life in general. They are not new but, I think, are worth repeating.
1. Practice patience. You will always encounter times when you have to wait, in traffic, at the checkout line or for that return call. Choosing to wait with patience, as opposed to annoyance or irritation, will do wonders for your overall emotional and physical well-being. Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies are interconnected. Science has now shown that our attitudes affect our DNA. When we shift our attitude from anger, irritation or resentment into appreciation, joy or acceptance, even for less than a minute, we begin a cascade of positive change in all of our bodies.
So, next time you have to wait, why not take a few deep breaths, say a few words of appreciation to yourself, think of something that brings you joy, or smile for no reason. Your mind, body and spirit, as well as the people around you, will feel much better.
2. Stop being a victim. This may come as a surprise but the powers that be did not decide to do this construction project just to ruin your day. It’s not about you. The next time you find yourself slowed down or perhaps disrupted by some random occurrence in your life, listen to the conversation in your head. Is it full of “poor me”, self-pity, blame and resentment? Change your perspective for a moment. Think about the workers who are standing out in the heat and dust all day, or laying tar in 100 degree heat. Would you rather be them, or perhaps the person who had the accident that’s causing the pile-up? Probably not. It would be healthier to be grateful that you have air-conditioning in your car and can close your windows against the heat and dust or that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. As the saying goes, attitude is everything.
3. Stop complaining. Recognize that there will always be detours in life and ruts in the road. Once you decide to accept them as gracefully as you can, your mental and emotional well-being will improve. Begin to notice how much you complain…about the weather, the traffic, the state of the economy, your significant other, etc. Complaining keeps you caught in a cycle of negative energy which affects your mental, emotional and physical well being. Try to stop complaining for short periods of time, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, an hour and then work up to a full day. Try extending your no-complaint behavior for a week or more. You will probably be surprised at how much you complain as a matter of habit. You’ll also be surprised at how good you feel when you stick to your no-complaint diet.
4. Trust that this too shall pass. You’ve heard that the only thing that is certain is change. What is true in this moment may not be so in the next. When you are faced with a traffic back-up, a disruption of internet service or a broken vacuum hose, don’t react as though you’ve just been diagnosed with a rare fatal disease. These things are temporary and, in the bigger picture, just not that important. On a scale of 1-10, ask yourself, “how important is this?”, and allow for a shift in perspective. Breathe, remind yourself that it is temporary and choose to ride out the disruption with grace and ease.
5. Go with the flow. At the rotary, as in life, it is much easier to go with the flow. In fact, if you go against the flow in the rotary you will likely run smack into another car coming head-on. Going against the flow in life may not have such immediate or drastic consequences, but have no doubt that there will be consequences. When we try to go against the flow, force things to happen, insist on doing it our way and ignore our inner guidance, we experience resistance, frustration and anxiety. Our busy, over stimulated lives keep us from hearing the still small voice inside that is trying to get our attention. Consciously create some quiet time for yourself to hear that voice and begin to align yourself with your inner voice. It will keep you moving much more easily and effortlessly with the flow.
We don’t all have a construction zone in our neighborhood, but we do have plenty of opportunities in our daily lives to experience irritation, frustration and annoyance. I invite you to make a commitment to approach these opportunities with a new perspective. Imagine how much more pleasant the world we live in would be if we all practiced the simple steps I’ve outlined.
If you want to live in a more peaceful, harmonious and loving world, it is up to you to begin to live your own life that way. In the words of Gandhi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”