Drawing Circles: Finding Meaning and Progress in Simple Things

12/02/2013 11:09 am ET | Updated Feb 01, 2014

My toddler sat at the kitchen table with a crayon and a pile of scratch paper. She sang as she drew circles and spirals on the page.

"Whatchadoing?" I asked.

"Drawing circles," she responded and returned to her song. The sound of the crayon on the page mixed with her joyous singing etched itself upon my memory and seemed to be one of those seemingly simple pictures that our minds hold for later when they surface and serve as a foundation for greater understanding in our lives.

I'd forgotten this incident. My daughter is in her 20s now, and I have more pressing issues on my mind, like caring for chronically-diseased patients in my practice and developing collaborative efforts to advance integrative veterinary and human medicine.

As I rode my bike early one morning, I meditated prayerfully on the meaning of the nonprofit foundation I lead. I peddled along my morning path attempting to answer the questions, "What are we doing? What do we need to do next? And why are we doing this as a group?" Always conscious of the motion of my body and the coordination of that movement as up-and-down motions are translated into circles that move me linearly, I am continuously in a state of awe at what our bodies and minds can accomplish. This usually leads me to statements of gratitude as I make my way around the bike route.

"Thank you to my parents for a body that can ride and for the time they took to teach me so many important things. Thank you to my wife who so generously puts up with my fixations and 'round-the-clock work. Thanks to my staff for giving me stability to do this work. Thanks to my patients for providing the opportunity to find things that may help them and others and for teaching me the meaning of real love. And thanks to my profession for the training and camaraderie that advances the work. Thanks also the Spirit that drives us all."

As I expressed my gratitude mindfully, the memory of my daughter drawing circles surfaced. I thought of her joy and happiness in simply drawing circles and then thought about the development of her nervous system and coordination needed to decide to create something that interested oneself.

They were good circles. And that made me smile. Upon that realization, another thought surfaced.

We are, each one of us, drawing circles by the process of our lives. We are born, take our first breath and then begin the process of taking from the environment and then transforming our talents, abilities and resources into a circle of created things. As we live, we create safe space and in that space inspect and create things for many reasons. We keep the good things, throw out the bad things and others take those bad things and convert them to useful resources once again. As we live, our circle meets the circles of others, and we find areas of intersection, of congruence and of discord. We move in and out of these circles in our lives always working to find something more -- something more beautiful, more effective, more useful, more profitable, more satisfying, more fun.

In that activity we gain experience and hopefully wisdom, which can be shared as people see fit.
If we become mindful of that simple process, then living takes on a new light. We can consciously draw our circle, put Truth and Love into that space and then begin to add things that align with those two great foundations. No matter what area of life we pursue, those two things must inhabit the circle and once they are there they allow us to value and align other things more correctly. And if we are successful in doing this we find that others are also similarly tasked and are happy for company in their activities. We expand our circles to include others and develop fellowships and relationships that allow us to create where creation was impossible or too difficult.

I laughed. It occurred to me that this drawing circles is all I am doing anywhere in my life. In some areas I am a pioneer and draw a circle that others join. In other areas I am ignorant and don't even know a circle exists. As I go through life, someone who cares for me, or someone I care about eventually draws my attention to these circles, and I get to make a conscious choice to pursue, associate, contribute, ignore or destroy each of these areas of life.

A life lived becomes the story of how the circles met and interacted and what consequences arose from the decisions made along the way. And at the end of that life we look back at the circles and understand how we came from point A to point B. That can be interesting, but it is more about how we found Truth and held Love in all those interactions and how they allow us to do incredible things together if only we will reach out, take someone's hand in friendship and build circles that benefit all involved. If we do that then it is hard to have real, long-lived enemies. What else would enlightened, free Beings seek?

So how about it? If you are sad or depressed or ill, take a moment and consciously draw a circle. Put into that circle the good things in your life. Take the bad things and really examine them. Are they bad and destructive or merely annoying? Can they be better understood and transformed into strengths and opportunities? Start making choices about what you put into your circle and what you put outside. Don't worry about being right because you can change your mind as you learn more. Simply look and start putting those good things into the circle, and transforming those things there to more properly align with Truth and Love.

My motto is, "Seek Truth and healing follows." That is circle building. It is the entire integrative health movement in a nutshell. Heck, it might even help politics if people stopped name calling and actually started looking at facts that really help people maximize the benefits of their freedom.

Some will laugh at this, but some will try. I hope you have some success, and if you do, please share your story so others can become more mindful and aware. To expand awareness an relationship might just be one of the most important aspects of building a true civilization.