I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.
It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.
Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.
Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”
Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.
I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.
Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”
I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.
My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.
Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.
Image: Author’s own
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged appreciation, attitude, beauty, brainwashing, communication, compassion, death, drop, energy, family, friends, future, generosity, gift, gratitude, grief, heart, heartbreak, help, holidays, human beings, humanity, impermanence, inspiration, instagram, letting go, life, living, love, loveability, loved ones, material, mitch albom, morrie schwartz, nature, ocean, past, peace, people, photos, physical, present, robert holden, rumi, sadness, sharing, shift, silence, smartphone, society, spain, spiritual, spirituality, stillness, tears, thinking, thoughts, time, togetherness, truth, tuesdays with morrie, understanding, universe, values, vulnerability, waves, whole
Here are a couple of small steps I’ve recently taken outside my comfort zone…
I was getting ready for a night out with the girls (no matter how old we become, I refuse to call them anything different), when my sister offered to do my makeup. She has a real flair for beauty so I agreed. After she had bronzed and highlighted and made my cheekbones look higher and my lips fuller, she asked: “Can I put fake eyelashes on you?” I hesitated. It would surely be the first thing everyone would notice about me. What if they looked so great that I no longer felt my own little lashes were good enough? Imagine if I was chatting to a cute guy and he looked at me in horror as they slid down my face. “There’s something terribly wrong,” he’d stammer, his face pale.
In case you haven’t noticed, I think too much. I blinked uneasily before blurting, “Why the hell not?” And they looked fantastic! As I walked up town towards the busy night club, I shielded my eyes from the wind and rain and demanded that my friend tell me if my eyelashes fell off. They didn’t.
This morning, I offered to cut a woman’s toenails because she’s in pain and can’t bend to do it herself. Before, I would never have willingly taken on such a task but I told myself, What’s the difference between her feet and mine? She was surprised and pleased and relieved. And she was humble enough to allow me do it. This simple act reinforced for me the beauty of connection and oneness, vulnerability and helping another human being out.
These two experiences are examples of tiny moves away from my comfort zone. You don’t have to run fast or leap far to challenge yourself. Today, I dare you to do something, anything, that you wouldn’t have done before. And if you can do that, imagine what else you could do…
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." Neale Donald Walsch
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development
Tagged bravery, challenges, comfort zone, courage, dare, disgust, doubt, fake eyelashes, fear, girls, humanity, imagination, kindness, makeup, neale donald walsch, night club, night out, pain, sister, thinking, worry
We spend far too much time in our heads – worrying, remembering, giving out to ourselves, complaining… Imagine how much energy we waste on our thoughts… Do we really need them? Could we go on without them? Picture how free we would be if we cut most of them out…
"I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time." Charlie Brown
It’s extremely difficult to break the habits of a lifetime but it is possible and so worth it. Everybody’s got to start somewhere. So, here are a few simple exercises that you can try right here, right now…
1. Close your eyes and really feel what it is that you’re feeling. If you’re anxious, find out where that anxiety is. What parts of your body are affected? Give it a colour, a shape. Allow it to expand. There is nothing to fear. When we move out of our thoughts and into our feelings, we take a huge step towards being present.
2. If you’re experiencing pain somewhere in your body, don’t run away from it. It’s trying to tell you something – that you need to take a rest, slow down, make a change… Give the pain a name. Describe how it feels. I know it’s “sore” but what else? What’s the first thing that pops into your head? Homeopaths find the most effective remedies when people describe their symptoms in peculiar ways as it really narrows down the search (there are thousands of remedies). Is the pain digging or dragging, stabbing or burning? Does it feel like tiny needles or grains of sand? Is it hammering or pulsating? When you acknowledge the pain and allow it to express itself to you, it may shift or alter or even disappear completely.
3. I found this next exercise in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now…
“Close your eyes and say to yourself: ‘I wonder what my next thought is going to be.’ Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.”
How long did it take before a thought came in? Are you amazed at how quickly one invades your mind? Did you notice the gap in thinking – the stillness, the “state of intense presence”? Wasn’t that nice? Do you want more of it? Don’t worry, you don’t have to force anything. The more aware you are, the wider the gaps will become.
Being present is being aware. Of what you’re experiencing right now. Not what you think about it or what you think you should do about it. But what simply is. It’s so simple, in fact, that we dismiss it for that very reason.
"Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." James Thurber
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development, Spirituality
Tagged anxiety, awareness, bad habits, charlie brown, Eckhart Tolle, emotion, energy, feelings, freedom, homeopathy, james thurber, now, pain, present, problems, remedy, rest, self-expression, sensation method, stillness, the power of now, thinking, thoughts, visualisation, worry