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What Do You See?

Navigating my return to Boston after several weeks in Europe has been a bit of an adjustment. While I was away, I didn't think much about the fact that I don't have a real "home" base at the moment. I also didn't worry about filling out paperwork for upcoming nursing contracts or making appointments for things like getting my teeth cleaned. I wondered if I would feel a little letdown from the high of the river cruise. In the end, it was simply about moving into different energy, yet I was aware I could have gotten swept up in feeling sad that I was no longer gliding down the Danube.

Years of Mindfulness training and meditation have given me invaluable tools for dealing with the constant changes in life. In fact, one of the first things I learned, handed down by Buddha himself, was the principle of anicca or impermanence. Nothing ever stays exactly the same.

Some days I feel like I breeze through life. Other days, especially when I'm transitioning or moving from one phase to another (as in, vacation mode to work mode), I know I need to call on some techniques that I can easily access after years of practice.

Just a day or two after landing back in the USA, I had someone ask me if I could help them because they were feeling very depressed. I wasn't sure, especially since I've had similar conversations with this person in the past without feeling like I did much good. Maybe it was because I was feeling particularly mindful in my own process, but I started to notice certain things this person might be able to use to feel better.

As we stepped out on her porch there was a gorgeous, hanging plant with big purple flowers spilling over an attractive pot. One of my first thoughts was how brilliant the colors

were and how much it brightened up the corner where it hung. I was stunned when the person I was with immediately said, "What's that ugly sticker on the pot?!? Someone take it off; it looks awful!" It was a tiny price tag near the bottom. I never even noticed it at first yet that was all she saw. Next, she complained how brown some parts of the grass were while also fretting that it looked like it might rain. Her next few comments were about how old the outdoor furniture was (even though it was in excellent condition) and how dirty it had been until someone had cleaned it off. Her final observation was that it was chilly and she needed a sweater.

I was sad that she felt depressed and I also understood that the way she saw life contributed to her despair. Who knows which came first -- maybe she viewed the world from her gray point of view or maybe the world looked that way because of her approach. It doesn't matter. We can always make the effort to look at our lives in a better light.

Over the next hour or so, I did my best to help her see the flowers instead of the price sticker. We talked about the possibility of rain helping the dry lawn. I pointed out that even though the lawn chairs were old, they still held up well, especially since a family member had done such a great job cleaning them off -- they sparkled. Finally, I hoped she could see that getting a sweater was a really easy solution to a little cool air.

I get it. It happens. We all have our days when we walk into a room or situation and only see the faults and problems. The next time that happens try turning around, walking out and then, walk back in and ask yourself, "What can I see now that I didn't see before?".


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

is a sassy Queen-ager whose mission is to co-create a happier, healthier life with and for others.

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