Friday, February 7, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 5

This was kind of a difficult post for me to write. And I was really surprised by that. After all, who wouldn't agree that energy, enthusiasm and empathy are great attributes to live life by? I think that any reasonable person would immediately see the value of having the 3 E's in one's daily toolbox, so what's there to talk about? Right?

Well, upon further reflection, I thought that, while we might have every intention of living with this attitude, often, life circumstance might make it difficult to actually follow through on this intention. I mean, if you're dealing with illness, or working in an environment that doesn't align with your true self, or struggling through financial worries, the last thing you feel up to doing is working up a sense of energy or enthusiasm. But, think about it this way. Is being down in the dumps going to improve your situation? Wouldn't you rather open yourself up to new possibilities that may help you find solutions, or at the very least, give you a different outlook on present circumstances? 

I always keep in mind that idea that time stands still for no one. So, if the minutes are rolling by anyway, why not make the best of them? Does this mean that we can't ever feel sad or angry? Of course not. Feel what is appropriate and necessary to feel. And then, and this is the important part, move on! Don't wallow. Just as actions can become habits, so can ways of being. 

Ever known someone who, regardless of what happens, is never happy? Can find something to criticize in every situation? How do you think they got to be that way? 

As for empathy, I think that it's one of the most significant human traits. It's the ability we have of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes and feeling what they feel. Ever heard of the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would have them treat you. It's so basic and important that even very young children, who have not yet been taught society's rules, instinctively understand it. Often they express it as, "It's not fair!" Being empathetic is also a central aspect of many spiritual paths, often expressed as an attitude of non-judgement. 

While the 3 E's may not come easily, they can be cultivated on a daily basis. If you catch yourself at any moment not living with energy, enthusiasm and empathy, the solution is easy. Take a deep breath and invite these ways of being in. It's really nothing more than an attitude adjustment. 

In parting, I'd like to pass on this allegorical story, which has been shared many times all over the internet. I believe that it's a valuable reminder about how attitude affects not only our lives, but the lives of everyone around us.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. 

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flower of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band, he could see it - in his mind's eye, as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and, after making sure that he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. the man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse replied that the man had been blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, "Perhaps he simply wanted to encourage you."

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