The Greatest Blessing in the Whole World is Being a Blessing

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I had a realization somewhere in the last year. I took a pause from asking God for the things I wanted and started asking what (S)He wanted from me. I declared daily, “God, use me for Your highest purpose! Show me how I can use my unique gifts and talents to be of service to the world.” It was at this point that I became uber-aware of the miracles occurring all around me.

In the past, if I had an inkling to say or do something, oftentimes I would ignore it for fear of judgment. After I prayed this prayer, however, I acted on my intuition, knowing that God was answering my prayer. There have been so many instances since that day where God has used me to be a blessing, and has blessed me in return.

One day, I was walking to meet my friend Caitlin to go hiking. I confused the cross street we were meeting at, and ended up sitting and waiting for her on a stone wall outside of a popular plaza. After a few minutes, the parking attendant, an older Indian man, came over and began speaking with me. We made some small talk about his job before he blurted out to me that he didn’t like black people. I was shocked. Why would he think it was okay to say something like that to me? I remembered my prayer and decided that cursing him out would do no good and decided to try another method. I asked him why he disliked black people so much. He told me that all the people that park in his lot are respectful, except black people who often yell at him and try to physically assault him. I told him I was sorry to hear that he had had this experience, but reasoned with him that these were just a few people, and not reflective of the entire race. He wouldn’t listen. He had had so many bad experiences that nothing I could say would change his mind. I explained to him that he was having these experiences because he expected to have them and that my experiences were quite the opposite. I explained that he could change the way he experienced people and events by changing his thinking. I told him verbatim, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  At that moment my friend texted me clarifying the correct street she was on. As I went to get up to leave, a beautiful black family in an SUV slowly pulled into the parking space directly in front of us. The black man looked directly at the Indian man, bowed his head, and put his hands up in the prayer pose, respectfully thanking him for doing his job. The indian man looked at me with the widest eyes I’ve ever seen. Once again, I looked at him and repeated, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” and happily walked off. Continue reading

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Fear: Decoded

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I was just watching a clip from a Brene Brown speech. She was talking about formulating her speech and she mentioned that people want to hear 99% perspiration, not inspiration. People would rather hear the how-to’s than the airy-fairy, this is how it could be inspirational speeches. I feel like that’s why a lot of times we feel super motivated after watching a great speech, but if there’s no real life application, the excitement dissipates rather quickly. However, when a speaker gives tools and tangible action steps, the inspiration and motivation often carry us much further.

I’ve found this to be the case for a topic that I see play out again and again, fear of other people. It’s all well and good to tell someone to love other people, to be open-minded and compassionate, and to follow the golden rule. We’ve been told these things since childhood, yet how often do we see just the opposite occur. We go through life fearing people and in turn, end up missing out on countless opportunities. The #1 fear in the world is public speaking. That means that with all the scary things in the world; nuclear war, sharks, plane crashes, etc., nothing scares people more than other people. The fear of judgment, the fear of not measuring up, and the fear of looking stupid leave many people paralyzed in a small bubble of familiarity.

I spent a great deal of my life in this bubble. I remember being the “shy girl” as early as sixth grade. I had tons of friends that I was comfortable around, but I felt anxious in many social situations. I always excelled at school and sports and was friends with the “popular kids,” so I didn’t really realize how much of a problem my fear was until I left high school. I had told myself a story about how people liked me once they got to know me, but that I needed someone to vouch for me for this to be the case. I had always had the love and protection of my best friend, but when I left for college I was totally on my own and it wasn’t pretty. Over the next several years, in situation after situation, I experienced the same painful pattern. I would come into a new environment and feel fearful. My fear would cause me to behave in a shy manner, which was oftentimes interpreted by people as me being stuck up, weird, or some other undesirable adjective. As I grew into myself, I started feeling more and more eyes on me, the scariest thing imaginable for a shy person. Speaking in class gave me anxiety and I dreaded even having to say my name aloud at the beginning of the semester. I avoided the dining hall 99% of the time and I held back from speaking my truth in many relationships. Unable to forge new bonds, I held onto certain friendships that dimmed my light immeasurably. After college I moved from city to city, and my fear followed me to each new destination.

When I was living in San Diego a few years ago, I read Jay-Z’s book Decoded. At the end of the book, Jay talks about his first time meeting Oprah. He said they connected speaking about one of their favorite books, Seat of the Soul,  by Gary Zukav. Highly respecting both of their opinions, I immediately ordered Seat of the Soul. In it, Zukav speaks about the evolution of the soul and aligning our souls with our personalities. He explains that we have versions of the same event/circumstance happen over and over again until we decide to made a decision to change our part in it, the “role” we continually play. I decided to test this theory out. For years when I would see people, I would either smile meekly or quietly say hi, if I spoke at all. There was a member of management at my job that I often had this weird interaction with. I would quietly say hi and she would do the same, then we would awkwardly be in each other’s presence for the next ten minutes or so, before other co-workers arrived. While meditating on the words in Seat of the Soul, I recognized the huge potential for growth in this situation. I recognized my pattern of feeling shy, the action I was taking (meekly speaking or smiling, the same thing I’d done time and time again), and the stifled feeling I would feel after the interaction. I decided that if I could make one small change, as Zukav suggested, that I could change this pattern forever. The mere consciousness around the situation brought light to it. The decision to act differently had implications far beyond the realm of what I thought was possible at the time and led to me cutting chains that had entangled me for the majority of my life. The one small action I decided to change is what I call, “say one more thing.” I decided that I would apply this with every person I came in contact with. If I came across a person I would normally not speak to, I would say “hi.” Simple, right? If it was someone I would normally just awkwardly mumble “hi” to, I added something along the lines of, how’s your day going?” Things started changing immediately. I began feeling much more comfortable being myself and my relationships got deeper and stronger. “How’s your day going?” turned into conversations and my genuine interest in others led to connections and bonds I never thought possible.

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