A Micro-Moment: 6 Words That Changed My Day
Earlier this week I wrapped up teaching the transformational 8-week Compassion Cultivation Training Course from Stanford's CCARE program at Metta Mindfulnes Center in Salt Lake City. In a very short period of time group members learn how to turn toward suffering and make room for shared joy and connection. As a group, We wake up and Rejoice in life just as it is. The benefits are strengthened through continued practice and dedication of living a life of Compassion for ourself and another. Just as we build and strengthen a muscle through exercise, so can we grow and cultivate Compassion through daily practice. When we spend focused time priming the heart and mind to seek out ways to offer and receive Compassion we are transformed. I would like to share a sweet story that illuminates how a simple verbal exchange, a micro-moment, left an imprint on my heart.
I have had a series of surgeries and medical procedures over the last 5 months that have given me insight into the world of Western Medicine, of which I have deep gratitude for modern science and skillful physicians. Holistically, my preventative approach to wellness resides in Eastern Medicine, Meditation, kind body movement and eating a plant-based diet. Yesterday, after 2 visits to medical doctors for treatment of an on-going issue related to my last surgery, I stopped into Real Foods Grocer to pick up a few items to make my daughter's favorite meal. Although part of me wanted to go home and rest a larger part of me knew that cooking this meal for her would bring us both so much joy and nourishment. I chose to listen closely to the part of me who wished to create connection with my daughter. When we pay attention, our hearts guide us to ease and connection. If I were to use a metaphor to describe the opening and closing of the heart, I would offer the image of a peony flower. When closed you notice the petals tightly huddled together protecting what is contained inside. When fully open the petals appear buoyant and supportive of the center and also wildly joyous opening to the sun.
I arrived to Real Foods with a heart partially opened and feeling sad to have spent much of my day in doctor's offices which caused me to miss time with a best friend. I was aware that part of me was physically suffering and part of me was committed to remain open to the present moment experience of the unknown. (Side note: The awesome researcher Barbara Fredrickson calls the ability to hold both sensations "co-experiencing" and she shares through research this is a factor is resilience and life satisfaction). When I walked to the aisle of produce I was struck by the vibrancy of colors and the freshness of the nourishing vegetables in front of me. I could feel my desire to touch and smell each one grow as I paused to notice the details of shape, form and texture. After mindfully selecting and filling my basket with an abundance of parsley, beets, green apples, arugula and ginger I made my way to the check-out line. As I was mid-way through the check-out process a short and elderly "gentle" man wearing a huge smile and a cowboy hat stood in line behind me. He waited patiently to pay for 2 gallons of milk. We made eye contact and smiled at one another and as I began to notice his patience I said to him "You got behind the wrong lady, I am sorry this is taking so long." He smiled both with his mouth and his eyes and said "It looks like you selected a lot of healthy vegetables. I am happy to wait, I WANT YOU TO BE HEALTHY." I could feel his words undoing another layer of petals around my heart. In that instant, I knew I was not alone. The stranger next to me was no stranger at all. He offered Loving-Kindness to me by wishing me well with all of his heart. He may have no idea how deeply his words penetrated my tender heart nor how this softening would carry me through the night in my interactions with my beloved daughter. She and I were both recipients of his Kindness and Compassion.
I shared this story with my daughter while we made dinner that evening. She said to me, "Mama, the way you describe the man at the store is the same way you describe your great uncles who helped take care of you when you were a little girl." Again, another connection, another layer of softening. I smiled and nodded in agreement while she looked at me with a sparkle of knowing in her eyes.
Each moment of the day we come in contact with many people for whom we do not know the details of their life. Each of these micro-moments presents an opportunity to act with Kindness and Compassion. How many times have we shown up frantically to the store, running through our to-do list in our mind, barely making eye contact with the cashier or others around us, or forgetting to connect even with ourself. When we SEEK out ways to act with and to receive Compassion and Loving-Kindness we not only moisten our own heart but our words or gestures may be the heart-felt medicine a stranger needs to moisten and heal her own. As Barbara Fredrickson writes in her book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, she claims that “love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people . . . connect over a shared positive emotion.”