If you have lived on this planet long enough, it is likely you have days or moments that are as clear today as they were when they happened. One such memory for me was during my time at university in the 90s. I was in my second year, it was a spring morning and I was late for class. As I hurriedly wove my way around and through the other people walking to campus, I heard someone behind me shout out my name. I turned my head and found my friend Carolyn waving. In that moment I realized, in my rush, I had sped right past her on the sidewalk without even a glimmer of recognition. I gave her a big smile and a curt wave and turned around like a woman on a mission.
“Sorry, no time for a chat. I need to get to class,” I shouted into the air, “but let’s visit soon!”
A few days later I had a knock at the door. It was friends telling me Carolyn was dead; she had killed herself while at home over the weekend. The shock and disbelief caused by Carolyn’s death was a real challenge for my younger self. Our last interaction haunted me for many years. Why had I been in such a rush? Was that class really so important?
The truth is that often in the rush of things, the people in our lives—the ones who we work with, live with and interact with—fall to the background as we strive to get things done. In our hurry, our focus on the outside world gets blurred and the details—the humanity—of those around us is easily overlooked. In the weeks following Carolyn’s death, I vowed that I would never take another friend for granted; that I would make the time to connect and be with those who I care about. I wish I could say I have been able to follow through on that vow. In the 25 years since her death, there have been countless times I have allowed my busyness to get in the way of my ability to connect deeply and meaningfully with others. From friends, to students, to colleagues, to family members—so many missed opportunities because I was too busy doing something else.
Jack Kornfield, in his book The Wise Heart, offers up a concept he calls sacred perception: the act of slowing down and truly taking the time to see what is special or noble in others. According to Kornfield, when we cultivate deep respect for others and when we purposefully seek out what is special and unique in those who we come in contact with, not only do we shift our own way of seeing, but we help others connect to their own goodness - their inner nobility.
Kornfield shares a practice (see below) in his book that has become a real gem in my own life. This practice is a daily reminder for me that everyone I come into contact with is noble in their own right. It is my job to be curious enough to see it.
To this day, I sometimes wonder if it would have made a difference if I had stopped and walked beside Carolyn for a few moments that morning. In all likelihood, it wouldn’t have changed how things played out for her that weekend. But what it may have done is allowed me one last opportunity to honour what was special and noble about my friend. Life, after all, is so precious and at the core of it all is the beauty and divinity that surrounds us every day.
We just need to slow down enough to notice it.
Before you start your day, set a clear intention that during the day, you will look for the inner nobility of three people you will come into contact with. Identify these three people before you start your day, and carry your intention in your heart as you speak, interact or work with them. Notice how this perception affects your interaction with them—how does it shift your conversation or your work together? How does it shift how you see this person? How does it impact how you feel, or even how you see yourself?
(*modified from Jack Kornfield's book, The Wise Heart)
Feel like you rushing through life?
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