thought work

Arguing with Mother Nature

The magnolias started flowering in mid-January.  And I got sad.  And then I started making calculations, and wishing.  Wishing for things to slow down.  Wishing for time to stop - for the trees to stay in their pink and white spangled glory.  Wishing for the flowers not to fade, for the green leaves that follow the flowers to wait a little longer.  You see, my mom is coming to visit in about ten days.  And last year, around Valentine's Day, our star magnolia tree in the yard was full of fragrant, saucer-sized blooms that looked like this: And the city was awash with pink.  And I wanted my mom to get to see that this year. But everything is too early - it's going to be over by then.

So, a couple of weeks ago, when I drove past a tree in crazy full-pink bloom, I would argue with Mother Nature in my head.  I thought things like, "Can't this just wait a little longer?"  or my favorite - a simple, "Nooooo!"

Not a great way to enjoy one of the most spectacular annual natural treats in the city.

Then I realized what I was doing.  I was refusing to enjoy something beautiful because I wanted it to happen at a different time.  I was seriously arguing with reality.  No matter how hard I wished or what kinds of imagining I did, the trees were not going to suddenly go back in time to fuzzy buds.  They weren't going to wait.  And I could be present and enjoy it, or miss it completely.

How many times do we do this? We do it with the weather -- it's raining right now as I write this -- will it still be raining for the big parade tonight?  Who knows, but I don't think I can mind control it to stop! We do it with people we know and love.  How many times do we find ourselves trying to change someone else with our thoughts- convincing ourselves that everything would be fine and we could enjoy ourselves if they would just act differently, for heaven's sake!

The truth is, the only thing we really have the power to change is our own viewpoint.  Our own lens.  Life gets a whole lot lighter when we aren't trying to get other people to be different or make the weather the way we want.  It gets lighter when we stay in our own business - taking care of what we really can do something about.

So the past few days, I've been admiring the trees.  Smelling the blooms.  Enjoying the fallen petals.  Remembering that this blooming doesn't last, and reminding myself to enjoy this beautiful, rainy, flowering, present moment.

When my mom gets here there will be plenty of lovely, special, and perhaps even surprising things to enjoy, even if they aren't pink magnolia blooms.

Creating our reality: A moon story

Our minds are very powerful.  They are experts at providing us whatever evidence we need to believe the thoughts we have.  And here's a story about one of my favorite examples of this spectacular capability. Back when I was a teacher, when I would begin a unit on the moon with my eighth graders, inevitably a good portion of them would insist that the moon is never out during the day.  These were not sheltered children.  They were kids who went camping with their families, played soccer, took vacations to exotic locales.

But in their minds, the moon was out at night.  They'd gathered lots of evidence to support this thought, from Goodnight Moon to werewolf movies.  And when they saw the moon at night, their mind stored that image as more proof that the moon is, indeed, out at night.

So why did they not notice the moon out during the day, like in the photo above?  Statistically, the moon is out during the day just as much as it's out at night.  So what happened?  How could they miss something so gigantic and obvious?

Well, they had no thought to support that evidence.  So they didn't even see it.  Until I walked them out of the classroom to look up at a blue sky with a white moon.  Even then, some students could not fathom that it was the moon.  "That's the sun!", they said.  It took a lot more evidence mixed in with compassion and patience for them to form the thought, "The moon is sometimes visible during the day", and then they could begin gathering the evidence to back up their new thought.

We so want to trust our mind.  It seems so smart, so capable.  It stores so much information for us.  But it can't hold evidence for thoughts we don't have.  And it's great at holding evidence for thoughts we do have, even if -- perhaps especially if-- those thoughts are negative.  Hey-- it's just trying to protect us--  to keep us safe -- so we don't get too big for our britches or dream too big.  It's so good at remembering all the reasons why we can't do this or that - even ones that date back to something someone said to us in second grade.

So what do we do?  We make new thoughts, so we can provide the space for new evidence - for all the good stuff we might be missing - stuff as big as the moon!