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Monday, August 9, 2010

Creating Moments


I recently attended a George Winston concert. I sat on the edge of my seat when he played one of my favorite pieces, “Variations on the Kanon by Johann Pachelbel.” I’ve listened to it countless times so the tune is familiar to me. That’s why, when George started to play around at the end of the piece, I sat back, folding my arms tightly against my chest. He was definitely hitting the wrong keys. By the end of the song he was so obviously playing around on the piano like my children that I found myself laughing at his antics. As I listened to the concert I had the amazing realization that these songs, this music I loved, all began in this man’s mind. It was created inside him before it ever tinkled across a keyboard. He owned the music in his mind.

The same realizations come to me when I wander
The Gardens at Thanksgiving Point. Alan and Karen Ashton had these acres of heavenly beauty in their minds before they were a reality. As you walk the gardens it’s hard to imagine the cow haven and alfalfa fields they used to be. "We wanted to create something for the people around us," says Alan. "We had been blessed financially and with a large family. We wanted to give something back to the community and the families in our area. Our vision for engaging educational activities was constantly expanding; line upon line, precept upon precept. Each time we got an idea there were additional things that complemented that idea, so it has grown. It has been exciting for us to think about the beautiful and wondrous things that gladden the heart and enliven the mind."

In both cases something more was created from something less; music from silence, beauty from cow pastures. Though we may not have trilling music running through our minds on creative torrents of thought, and we may stand in cow pastures and think of only cows and pies we still have the same abilities as Winston and the Ashtons. We can create elements of our lives through what we choose to think.

The awakening moment will be the one where you realize you have a choice about what you’re thinking about. I recently ran across a woman twice in the same day. She was an old acquaintance who did not like me. I thought of her for a whole week after that, a crease in my brow, stewing over why she might not like me. The truth of the matter is it’s none of my business what went on in her head years ago. The mind is a brilliant, private sanctuary. It’s no one’s business what goes on there except the owner’s. With that simple truth in place we should never worry about what other people think of us. It’s none of our business. Our business lies within our own minds. I digress. The point is, without realizing it, I was wasting valuable thoughts for a week. I could have been thinking of pleasant things, creating better moments in my life.

In our relationships, especially the contentious ones, we tend to dwell on imperfections. We can stew over these imperfections, replaying contentious moments in our minds for hours. If I sit down to draw a rainbow and continually think of a raincloud my paper is going to have a raincloud on it when I’m done. If you wish you had a better relationship with someone but continually think of the imperfections in your relationships, the imperfections of the people you associate with, that’s what you’ll always have. You need to practice in your mind, creating the relationship anew. Imagine yourself having happy relationships with the people around you. This doesn’t mean the people around you become more perfect. Rather you begin to accept them for who they are. You begin to take power in your relationships by refusing to be offended. You begin to value them for their potential and the potential of the relationship you can create with them.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey teaches about your
circle of influence. The basic concept is, as you master your circle of influence it will grow. You may look at your family situation and feel helpless, thinking you can’t make a difference. Where is your influence? It grows like a ripple in pond water. Begin by influencing where you can. It may begin with a sock drawer but you have control over it. You can own that sock drawer and create order out of chaos. You can choose to own your words, your moods, your actions, and interactions in the relationships you value. You’re exactly half of every relationship you have. You have control over half of every relationship. It is a rare thing indeed to extend kind, sincere words and have yuck returned.

Granted there are occasions where the other person in your relationship makes it as impossible as possible to have pleasant interactions. There’s a way to survive these people too. I highly suggest the book How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing With Toxic & Difficult to Love Personalities by John L. Lund.

I exercised this circle of influence concept years ago with my grandmother. She was very dear to me but she never hugged me. In my teenage years I decided I wanted to hug my grandmother. The first time I hugged her she explained she wasn’t a hugging person. “Yes, but I am,” I said simply. Over the years as I chose to hug her she began to choose to hug me back. At first it was a one sided hug. I chose not to be offended. I accepted her for who she was, a loveable non-hugging Grandma. By the end of her life it was an embrace of sincere emotion on both sides.

One day when her daughter was visiting, my grandmother and I embraced when it was time for me to go. As I left the house my aunt said to me in unbelief, “She doesn’t hug anyone.”

I smiled sweetly, enjoying the moment. “She hugs me.”