Some people think of a gift as something one receives for a birthday or anniversary. While I can agree that this is the case, I find I have begun to place additional value on the more standard occurrences that are included within my daily experiences, and I consider myself quite fortunate that they are there.
- I love looking at my back yard and can barely contain my thanks for the beauty of the world around me.
- A boy in the classroom I visit twice a week appreciates that I remember his name from when I visited the classroom last year, and is even happier that I remember the nickname he prefers rather than the one provided by the class list.
- A friend with whom I used to speak daily called to say express gratitude for a suggestion I had made that is finally making a positive impact in his life.
What might all of these examples have in common? Just that I had to slow down enough to actually notice them, rather than simply let them fly by without so much as giving them a second's notice.
I am currently teaching mindfulness to students in kindergarten through the fourth grade. I had last asked the children to listen for unusual sounds, sounds that they typically don't pay any attention. Then, when sharing their new, yet old sounds, I heard about:
- water flowing though the pipes
- the soft ticking of the clock
- the sound of a cricket
- buzzing from the classroom lights
- a parent's electric toothbrush
While there is nothing magical in these particular sounds, the point is that they are everyday sounds that, until asked to do so, hadn't been noticed by the children. And, while it's not so important that these particular sounds be heard, it is crucial that we slow down our lives enough to notice the gifts in our lives.
We are all pedaling as fast as we can to get to the game, the meeting, the appointment, the lesson, or the meal. We've made promises to the job, the school, the family, the committee, or the organization, and we don't want to disappointment anybody or anything. But, what about ourselves? Are we taking care of ourselves?
That's what self-care is all about, and it has nothing to do with being selfish, and everything to do with keeping ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally fit so we are able to do for ourselves, and others, in our lives. So, the next time you find yourself rushing to meet some deadline, stop and ask yourself:
- Is this really necessary?
- Is this a deadline that's worth rushing through my day, or can I slow down a bit?
- What have I done for myself today?
If you can't come up with a gift you've given yourself, then it's time to pause and give yourself some consideration. A quiet moment reflecting on the good things around you. Appreciation for the way nature can nourish you. Five minutes to listen to music that fills your soul.
Give yourself the gift of self-care, and spread the magic.
That's when you will find a gift that keeps on giving.
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