Success is a double-edged sword. It produces great things. But it also exacerbates busyness and over stimulation. The pressures and demands increase dramatically with success. And the proverbial “burning the candles at both ends” becomes more and more a reality with painful consequences. What have many successful people learned to do about this?
Research from the Associated Press shows*: The average attention span in 2012: 8 seconds The average attention span in 2000: 12 seconds The average attention span of a goldfish: 9 seconds Clearly, we've got an attention span problem in our culture.
And considering that the majority of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours communicating, what kind of communication is actually happening every day with such short attention spans?
Think about this for a minute. The ability to communicate and be present with each other is one of the most important things we learn as humans. Dr. Jack Bennett, a life coach who explores happiness, behavior change, and personal development, emphasizes, “Giving someone our full, undivided attention is fundamental to our business and interpersonal relationships."*
The outcomes are hugely significant. Effective communication creates a bond of closeness, reduces conflict, enhances personal and professional relationships, and in many cases, helps you get more of what you want out of life.
But, when faced with the chance to listen to what someone has to say, to tune in and "be present," most of us are falling short. We're busy thinking about ourselves, what we're going to say next in conversations, or our errands, our work or in so many cases, we're busy focused on electronics. We're simply not paying attention.
Graham D. Bodie, professor of communication studies at The Louisiana State University, in extensive research about outcomes to paying attention, reveals that people who are good listeners are more liked, rated as more attractive and garner more trust than those who are less proficient at listening. They are also high academic achievers, have better socio-emotional development, and are even more likely to get promoted at work. Fairly significant outcomes, I'd say!*
So with all this research reinforcing the importance of paying quality attention to each other, why do we do so little of it? Why have we allowed our attention span to decrease through the years rather than increase? Why is our emotional intelligence more stunted than ever before in spite of being confronted with more information about what it takes to live mature, effective, and healthy lives? Why is our communication ability so poor? Do we simply not know how? Or are we so self absorbed and lazy that we refuse to engage in the work?
Four Secrets to Paying Attention Well
Here are four things to work on that improve our attention capabilities.
Observe - Eye contact - Mindfulness - Empathize.
Choose to observe - notice the other person. What is their body language saying? Can you mirror it? What are you seeing about him or her right now? What does that tell you about what they're feeling? What do you observe about your own body language? What feelings or thoughts is that communicating? Communication involves two people interacting together. You can't improve what you don't observe.
Choose to make eye contact. This establishes a connection, a bond, and indicates you're interested. On average, according to experts, the appropriate amount of eye contact is 50% while speaking and 70% while listening. If, as the saying goes, the eyes are the windows to the soul, you pretty much have to notice the eyes in order to connect meaningfully to people.
Choose to be mindful. Effective listening is about not just having your mouth quiet but also your mind quiet. It's keeping yourself from the tendency to be thinking about what you're going to say next or other more pressing issues in order to be "fully present" to the other person. The more you practice mindfulness outside of interpersonal communication, the more you can perform it inside.
Choose to empathize. Here's the way one author puts it: "Empathizing with someone is really having the ability to understand the 'humanity of a situation' and knowing what it means to be in the other person’s shoes."
We all want to be understood and validated. That's what helps us be more fully alive and ourselves. Empathy from others gives us that gift. You can give it, too.
"When we truly feel listened to, in the emotional sense of the word, we feel more satisfied with our relationships. What’s more, people who have a high EQ—emotional intelligence—are capable of making better decisions simply because they have the capacity to see a situation from someone else’s perspective." (Dr. Graham Bodie) *
There's A Price For Not Paying Attention
The Bay area news reported recently on a young university student who was riding the MUNI when a complete stranger suddenly shot him as he began to exit from the train. The MUNI cameras recorded the whole situation.
What made the event even more tragic was that the perpetrator had his gun out in the open for a long time while standing there on the train, even using it to scratch his nose at one point. But no one noticed it. In fact, no one even noticed the entire exchange. As the cameras so blatantly recorded, everyone in that car had their heads down, eyes glued to their phones and tablets. They simply weren't paying any attention to anything other than themselves.
We're living in a culture that is becoming increasingly self absorbed. Our human connections are paying a price. Communication is being stunted and more and more ineffective. People just aren't listening and paying attention to each other in meaningful, healthy ways.
But we can choose to be different. We can choose to pay attention. We can choose healthy and effective communication with each other. We can practice and learn.
* This reference and several of the research reference points are thanks to Ashley Neglia, "The #1 Skill of Extremely Likable (and Successful) People" (Grandparents.com, 9/26/2013)
So, without defining the word "faith" in that sentence in any kind of religious or spiritual sense, what does the statement mean to you? Why might it be important to your life?
Some of us, like me who has the strength of Futuristic--the ability and drive to paint a clear picture/vision of a preferred future in a way that is compelling and inspiring--are inclined to dream a lot, and spend time defining the dream, outlining it, specifying it, clarifying it, painting it in as great detail as possible. Our temptation is to stay in that mode of thinking to the exclusion of doing the work of taking steps to get that vision. It's the tendency to live in the clouds of dreams and vision without ever getting back to earth where the actual steps have to be taken. We want to make sure we have all our ducks lined up in a row lest we jump "too quickly."
So King's statement is a powerful nudge. Faith is first about taking a step toward the dream. Moving forward, even by one step. Faith is fundamentally a willingness to move ahead rather than sitting still to wait for more complete information.
Reflection: Are there any places in your life where you find yourself stuck, sitting still rather than moving forward? Can you determine why you're not moving ahead? Are you waiting for something? What? More information? A more complete picture of where you think you're going? Are you afraid of taking a step? Why? What's keeping you from forward momentum?
Notice the second dimension of faith in King's statement. Faith moves ahead even when the whole picture isn't clear yet. You don't have to see the whole staircase in order to take the step. There's an emphasis in this definition of faith away from the future back to the present.
The January 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler highlighted an unusual cultural exchange between a 30-year-old Maasai warrior from the Serengeti and high school students, led by 55-year-old librarian Paula Busey, in Littleton, Colorado. The kids raised money to bring this Maasai warrior to their community where he taught them about his culture and his people's wordview. Our core value, he said, is to work at preserving communities and traditions. And then he gave a significant observation:
"American kids are obsessed with becoming adults, with finishing university and starting to work. I understand they have anxieties. But I tell them the Maasai don't think about tomorrow. We just try to make today excellent. And if today is excellent, tomorrow will come."
Imagine living life more like that--refusing to constantly be thinking about the "tomorrows" in everything we do. Imagine learning the art of living in the moment. Experts call this Mindfulness (I think MLK was using the word "faith" for the same concept)--being fully present in the moment--savoring your one step--choosing not to allow the constant mental chatter and obsession with what's next or what's coming up or how am I doing with all of my "stuff," to affect this present moment--to discover and savor the beauty of this moment, this little step.
Reflection: One of the great mantras for this mindfulness practice is, "In this moment, I have everything I need." Say that to yourself a few times. What does it feel like? Does it feel foolish to you? Why or why not? Try making this a regular saying you repeat at different moments throughout the day. See what that does to your attitude and presence.
It's not to say that the future isn't important. We all have to plan ahead. But our human tendency, especially in our culture, is to obsess on the future and it's every known detail. And then to worry about the details we're sure must be important but we just can't seem to see or anticipate yet. Either way, we're losing out--because we're not appreciating what is here right now, in this moment. We've consigned ourselves to living in worry and anxiety over things that haven't even happened yet.
But here's the reality: Yesterday is gone forever; tomorrow hasn't even happened yet; the present is all we have. Why ruin it?
You don't have to see the whole staircase to take your first step.
Remember Indiana Jones in the scene from The Last Crusade where he brings his group to the edge of the precipice? They have to get to the other side but the chasm that separates them is wide and deep. Impossible to bridge.
Indiana Jones pulls out his notebook which contains the map and instructions, finds their current location, and suddenly realizes that there's an unseen bridge that actually spans the chasm. But it will only appear once you take the first step. Would you take that step, even if you couldn't see the whole bridge?
He holds out one foot over the dark abyss. Then he lowers that foot down into what looks like pure air and space ... and leans into it. Suddenly, his foot touches something and immediately the entire bridge materializes into view. And the group inches its way across the divide to the other side.
Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.
Reflection: What would it be like for you to follow the Maasai tradition of not thinking about tomorrow but just trying to make today excellent? How would that attitude and intention impact the quality of your present moment? What faith do you have that will embolden you to stick your foot out over what feels like an empty abyss and set it down even when you can't see clearly ahead? What is one even small step you are being nudged to take right now, in this moment, that you need to take?
There's a reason why all religious traditions refer to mindfulness as a spiritual practice. It's a discipline that has to be developed. It takes practice. Serious intention and choice. Over and over and over again.
Think of all the great social and spiritual movements in this world that would never have materialized had this concept of faith not been acted upon. Martin Luther King, Jr., who made this statement, was one of the greatest visionaries in the world. His "I Have A Dream" speech painted a powerful vision of a future he longed for. But he never completely knew the future, in every detail. There were outcomes he never anticipated. There were moments he even doubted the reality or possibility of this Dream of equality and justice for all people. But he still took the first step every day. He acted in a courageous and intentional way each new day. He refused to let himself become paralyzed into inaction or to allow lack of clarity about the future to impede his forward momentum each day. One step at a time. But one step.
Every life transformation begins with the faith / courage to take the first step forward. Don't worry about having to know everything about the future. Just take the first step forward. And then the next step will become more clear. And then when you take that step, the next step will become clear. Act on what you do know--take one step.
This week my wife and I were in New York City for some business. We had never taken the public tour of the United Nations Headquarters before, so we got our visitors passes and went. I was very moved as the guide took us around the headquarters building and described both the history of the UN and the many initiatives the UN continues to work on around the world. One of the most impressive statements to me was on a plaque: "Peace like war must be waged." Turns out actor George Clooney used that statement in a public service announcement to highlight the important work of the UN Peacekeepers. Here's the 60 second spot:
"Peace like war must be waged." We often don't think of peace in those terms. We talk about fighting wars, waging battles in order to have territorial, national, and international victories. War is synonymous with action and powerful initiative.
And yet peace takes the same kind of energy, intentionality, and powerful initiative. Peace doesn't just happen. You can't sit around and hope for it. You have to work for it ... hard! You have to want it so badly that you're willing to expend lots of energy and personal resources to obtain it.
Here's what Clooney's ad stated: “Peace is not just a colored ribbon. It’s more than a wristband or a t-shirt. It’s not just a donation or a 5 K race. It’s not just a folk song, or a white dove. And peace is certainly more than a celebrity endorsement. Peace is a full time job. It’s protecting civilians, overseeing elections, and disarming ex-combatants. The UN has over 100,000 Peacekeepers on the ground, in places others can’t or won’t go, doing things others can’t or won’t do. Peace, like war, must be waged.”
Think of all the peace movements in history--the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King, Jr., Indian independence and equality with Gandhi, the women's suffrage movement for voting rights and greater equality. None of these or any others just happened. Peace had to be waged just as hard and as strategically as any war in history. Huge obstacles had to be overcome. And those peace battles continue needing to be waged even in our present in order to build on the successes of the past and bring about ever greater levels of equality.
Peace like war must be waged.
I'm thinking a lot about this as I prepare for a public speaking series here in San Francisco in 10 days (3 nights: October 19, 26, November 2). My topic is "Living Worry Free: Developing Inner Peace in an Age of Anxiety." Here's the link for the invitation.
The reality is, inner peace isn't something that simply happens or shows up in your life, either. You can't just sit up on top of a mountain like the stereotypical guru meditating peace into your life. Since most of us have to live "normal" lives in the "real" world, we can't be on retreat 24/7 away from the hustle and bustle. Meditation is, to be sure, a highly significant tool (I'll be talking about that in my series).
But for you to have the ability to live life in the midst of all the chaos, uncertainty, anxiety, worry, stress, and busyness with a deeper sense of calm, contentment, and nonanxious presence, you're going to have to work at it--develop the ability--wage the battle to experience and enjoy this deeper place. You're going to have to battle all the forces in our culture and world and our own divided selves that can keep you from that inward attitude and experience.
So how are you waging for peace in your life these days? What strategies are you utilizing to build a deeper inner peace?
It can be strategies as simple as thankfulness--keeping a regular gratitude journal--or mindfulness (the "be here now" mantra which says, "In this moment, I have everything I need").
Believe me, as simple as using those tools might seem, we all battle internal walls that make it challenging for us to utilize them. I'm going to talk in the upcoming series about what these obstacles are and why they're so difficult to face. But if we neglect these available tools and resources, we push away the possibility for lasting and meaningful inner peace.
Wars are fought in this world to protect something of great value. Even the desire to expand territory comes from a place of fear to protect something. Imagine how many human lives have been sacrificed for these causes.
Even so, peace--that inner place of sacred calm--must be established and protected at great cost. But instead of being motivated by fear, the development of peace is motivated by love. And the reality is, our motivations impact our strategies.
What are the ways we can proactively engage in this protective pursuit? How can we protect our inner sanctuary where God's presence dwells so that we are empowered to show up in life with more calm and peace, grounded in the divine goodness?
That's what I'm going to talk about in my upcoming series. And I'll blog about each session so those of you who can't be here in San Francisco in person can get in on this hugely significant content. For some of you, some of the strategies will be new. For others of you, they will be reminders. But for all of us, we will be able to center on the truth that even in the midst of chaos both outside and inside us, we can clear the way for a peace which passes all understanding which radiates out to transform our worlds in profound ways.
Peace like war must be waged. The United Nations is on to something here. Maybe we need to emulate the passionate and intentional initiative in our spiritual lives.
We all read about it in the news last Monday. Many of us saw the video. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, 31, a Guatemalan immigrant who went to New York City in order to help his family back home, made his living as a day laborer, and when the economy crumbled, so did his job prospects. He wound up homeless, first living in shelters and then finally on the streets. A grainy surveillance video trained on a street in Jamaica, Queens, on April 18 captured the final moments of Mr. Tale-Yax’s life: A couple argues, Mr. Tale-Yax comes to the woman’s aid, the man stabs him in the stomach and runs away.
The video has made headlines across the globe, not just for its brutality, but for the indifference it seems to convey. It shows Mr. Tale-Yax lying face down for more than an hour on a sidewalk on 144th Street, near 88th Road, his life slipping away on the pavement as dozens of people walk past him. Over an hour later, the paramedics arrive to find him lying in a pool of his blood. They pronounce him dead at the scene.
I would be curious to interview the 2 dozen or more people who walked past Hugo as he lay there on the street Monday evening. What did they notice? Anything unusual or just another New York City scene? If they did notice, what did they feel or think as they saw him? Did they immediately assume he was simply another drunk passed out on the street corner? Or they did see him as one of "those" illegal immigrants who shouldn't be here and doesn't deserve the City's help? Did they simply not know he was in any trouble? Did they perhaps naturally or even unconsciously ascribe the whole scene to a normal urban landscape - it's just the way it is here in the City? Did they notice something wrong but assume someone else would call it in to 911? Were they busily on their way to an appointment so they couldn't take the time to stop? Were they afraid to get involved (after all, here in the City even good samaritans get hurt - this story is a good example of that danger)?
Why would over 24 people walk by a hurt and dying man without even stopping? Makes you wonder, doesn't it. What might you have done?
His brother Roland refused to watch the video when he was first told a tape existed, but found he could not avoid it on the local news. He was in shock, he said, that nobody helped his brother.
"Any animal that is hurt on the street, the city or anybody walking by goes to rescue it. But in this case, he saved this woman's life, and where was the conscience of the people around him?" Rolando Tale-Yax said. "They have to realize that it could be a member of their family who is the next victim. … I just hope it doesn't happen again."
Perhaps this sad and tragic story provides some insight as to significant steps you and I can take to act more compassionately as a general life style.
One, change indifference. Contrary to popular opinion that indifference is simply at the core of who we are as humans - it's evidence of our fallen nature - original sin - so we'll sometimes say, "Oh well, it's just the way we are - we're wired for indifference" - recent research shows otherwise.
In reality, there is actually a biological basis for compassion. There is a specific part of our brain that is wired for a compassion response. Experiments with both mothers with their babies and people presented with images of victims of suffering showed similar neurological reactions. The region of the brain associated with positive emotions literally lit up. "This consistency strongly suggests that compassion isn't simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains," writes Dacher Keltner, PhD , a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
The good news is that an attitude of indifference can therefore be radically changed. It's not in fact who we are as humans. We don't have to shrug our shoulders in a spirit of resignation. We can do something about it.
Two, practice compassion. Recent neuroscience studies suggest that positive emotions are less heritable—that is, less determined by our DNA—than the negative emotions. Other studies indicate that the brain structures involved in positive emotions like compassion are more "plastic"—subject to changes brought about by environmental input. So, as Dr. Keltner observes, "we might think about compassion as a biologically based skill or virtue, but not one that we either have or don't have. Instead, it's a trait that we can develop in an appropriate context."
This is why all of the major religious traditions in the world see compassion as a spiritual practice. And each tradition has developed ways to practice this trait. And here again, the latest neurobiological research shows that our bodies have a built in system to facilitate this practice.
For example, helping others triggers activity in the portions of the brain that turn on when people receive rewards or experience pleasure. Every compassionate act causes a pleasurable physiological response. In addition, behaviors associated with compassionate love—warm smiles, friendly hand gestures, affirmative forward leans—actually produce more oxytocin in the body which is the hormone that promotes feelings of warmth and connection to others. This suggests compassion may be self-perpetuating: being compassionate causes a chemical reaction in the body that motivates us to be even more compassionate. So the more we practice acts of kindness and compassion to others, the more we are rewarded for it and the easier the skill becomes. Transformational spirituality is a practice, a discipline, a developing of ourselves into who we were designed to become.
Three, develop mindfulness. As Mr. Tale-Yax's tragic story indicates, people are often so caught up in their own lives (for whatever reasons) that they don't notice or pay attention. I've seen this in myself at times: I'm walking along the city streets often caught up in my own internal world of thoughts, planning, projections, inner conversations, trying to get some place in a hurry, that I really am missing most of what's around me. If someone would suddenly stop me and quiz me about what I had seen in the last 10 minutes, I would stutter and stammer somewhat incoherently (except about the details of my inner conversations).
One of the key spiritual practices that so many traditions suggest is mindfulness - the ability to step into the present moment - to be truly aware and conscious right now. This, too, is a skill that needs to be cultivated. Try walking somewhere and paying attention to what's around you - what do you hear, see, smell, feel? Try more meditation at home - spend time sitting and becoming more aware of your self, your heart, your body. Widen that attention to what's around you. Really notice.
Four, use empathy. Hugo's brother Roland made the painful observation that if people would simply recognize that the suffering person could be a member of their own family, they would probably respond differently - be more proactive with their compassion. He's describing the use of empathy. The power of empathy is the choice to put ourselves in other people's shoes, to enter their space for a moment, in order to try to understand what they're going through. It's often begins by asking ourselves the simple question, How would I feel - what would I want - if I were in that situation right now? But then it always goes beyond to the next question, What is that person feeling or really wanting or needing? Though our personal responses might differ from that suffering person's, research indicates that the choice to enter into empathy actually helps to motivate altruistic behavior.
Four tangible and siumple ways to overcoming indifference and stepping into compassion. I'm not completely sure how I would have responded last Monday evening had I been walking along the sidewalk where Huge Alfredo Tale-Yux lay dying. I would hope I would've at least stopped to see if he was alright. I really hope I would've also gone beyond that simple step and gotten whatever help I could for him to save his life. Imagine living in a world where people practiced compassion so often that they became really adept at it - a world where indifference was an anomaly rather than the rule. It's time to unleash the powerful biology of our lives and let our true wiring go wild. For the Hugo Alfredo's of the world.
[Please SHARE this blog with people who might be interested! Invite them to subscribe and receive every new post via email – hit the button on the right to subscribe.] There's a Zen story about an old zen master who was dying. All of the monks gathered - in a kind of restrained eagerness - around the deathbed, hoping to be chosen as the next teacher.
The master asked slowly, "Where is the gardener?"
"The gardener," the monks wondered aloud. "He is just a simple man who tends plants, and he is not even ordained."
"Yes," the master replied. "But he is the only one awake. He will be the next teacher."
Apparently there's something about working in and being present to the natural world that produces a kind of "awakeness" toward Life. The famous painter Vincent Van Gogh expressed this same reality: "All nature seems to speak ... As for me, I cannot understand why everybody does not see it or feel it; nature or God does it for everyone who has eyes and ears and a heart to understand." (The Complete Letters, 248, I, 495)
There's something spiritually stimulating about being in nature and allowing it to speak to your heart and mind and soul. There's something powerful about getting close enough to creation to hear its song and listen to its rhymes. Every major religion in the world recognizes the spirituality of nature and provides various ways to become more "awake" to the voice of the Sacred that speaks from the world all around us. It's pretty amazing what we begin to notice when we're being more mindful and aware of everything we see, hear, and feel.
I was sitting in the waiting section of the oil change garage off of the busy Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco last week. My chair was close to the garage entrance so I could see the street. I was thinking about the upcoming spiritual retreat we were taking with my Second Wind spiritual community, the retreat theme this year being on the spirituality of nature. My initial response to what I saw and felt in the midst of my very urban environment was to heave a sigh of relief knowing that it wasn't much longer until I was going to finally be out of the city into "real" nature where I could hear God's voice and feel closer to the Spirit of life. But then, as I looked outside the huge garage door and saw the cars driving past, hearing the traffic sounds, I was suddenly struck by a significant reality: I was surrounded by "nature" right there in the middle of my huge city. It wasn't just the green trees on the median of this busy boulevard, or the birds I saw flying overhead. The heart and soul of nature was also evident in the awe-inspiring creative spirit that went into the design and construction of today's modern vehicles - the intricate, micro "creation" of computer chips and boards running the cars and trucks, the impressive design of the engines propelling vehicles toward their destination, the guys changing the oil in my car, running back and forth, using their appendages skillfully to service my amazingly constructed automobile (even though I kind of hate my old car these days and wish I could get a nicer new one). Even the sounds that we so much associate with "anti-nature" (car horns, exhaust pipes from loud buses and trucks, traffic, construction sites, loud voices) are in fact the sounds of life, all of which involve the divine spirit of creativity, artistry, invention, passion, desire for the best in life). And when that perspective hit me, I became aware of "nature" in the middle of my city in new ways that led to a deeper appreciation of God's Spirit all around me. I had a very meaningful spiritual epiphany right there on busy Van Ness Avenue - I encountered the God of life in the sanctuary of Jiffy Lube!
Living with our "eyes" more open wherever we find ourselves, suggest the spiritual sages of all time, produces a deeper experience of life and an increased connection with God. Nature is where life is; and life is everywhere. I do realize, in addition, that being in environments that are more silent and quiet and environmentally natural is extremely conducive to spiritual depth and connection, as well. But it's amazing how often even when we're in those settings we simply don't see or hear the Sacred Spirit of life very deeply - we're too busy "doing" instead of simply "being" attentive. Intentional mindfulness helps make the connection.
The Hebrew poets in Scripture manifested this intentionality with nature so profoundly in describing their experience of God. Their poetic similes and metaphors were filled with an environmental awareness that opened their hearts to the Divine Creator. One pointed to the other. God was both in His creation and the Master of Creation. Looking at one was like looking at the other. They facilitated experience, one with the other. Notice this example:
"O my soul, bless God! God, my God, how great you are! beautifully, gloriously robed, Dressed up in sunshine, and all heaven stretched out for your tent. You built your palace on the ocean deeps, made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings. You commandeered winds as messengers, appointed fire and flame as ambassadors. You set earth on a firm foundation so that nothing can shake it, ever ... What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations ... The glory of God-let it last forever! Let God enjoy his creation!" (Psalm 104)
There is a profound spirituality associated with nature that is accessed by developing a greater mindfulness or awakeness or awareness of what you're seeing and experiencing. That's why, at Second Wind, we value the natural world and desire to enjoy it, honor it, respect it, care for it, and share it often. And we also value the city we live in as a place where God's breath blows and moves and stirs up life, too. As urban dwellers, we're learning to feel the divine breath energize us and bring us to life in the middle of our urban "forests," where the voice of God sings to our souls the music of life.
This last weekend, on our Second Wind retreat, our closing "ceremony" was to write a collective psalm of praise to God, each one of us writing two lines describing our personal experience of the weekend, and then putting them all together into one song. After taking a few minutes to compose our two lines, we stood in a circle and read our lines in one complete collective psalm. I'm telling you, it was a profound experience for me as I listened to the richly diverse and meaningful ways everyone had encountered God and experienced the depth of life through the retreat time, described in some wonderfully poetic tones. Our intentional experiences of heightened awareness and awakeness, including times for reflection upon and observation of those experiences, revealed a significant spiritual epiphany for all of us. The power of keeping our eyes, ears, hearts, spirits, and bodies open to Life!
As Van Gogh once said, "Oh! My dear comrades, let us crazy ones have delight in our eyesight in spite of everything - yes, let's!"