It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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How to Discover the Gifts in Front of You

giftsinfrontofyou “One does not see anything until one sees its beauty.”

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told she could have gone home at any moment. She manages to click her heels-- instead of punch a fist into a wall-- or a witch. I want to help you click your heels, find home base, and maybe even rock the world of those around you—especially during the holiday season. 

Let’s stop looking for love in the future—or hunting the wizard. Let’s find the love that’s right in front of our faces, because it is here, right now. A Course in Miracles teaches, that if we’re not seeing the love, we’re not seeing. Well, that makes me a big fat bat-- but lately, I’m turning into an eagle.

I’ve been what I call “mind blind.” So sure I knew things, and that things would always stay the same, --that I couldn’t see precious opportunities in front of me. 

The other morning, I woke up sad and peeved with myself. I was thinking about these photos, tons of them, black and white, faded and yellowed, with Polaroid serrated edges, stuffed in a desk drawer in the utility room of the house I grew up in. Bits and pieces of my father’s early life. Even letters he wrote on composition notebook paper as a soldier. My father, one of the great mysteries of my life. And I had never asked about them. And now they’re gone. He’s gone. And everything had been right there.

I look back now and think: how could I have lived for more than two decades in that house and never looked at those pictures? They had always been there.

But familiarity blinds us to possibility and opportunities. 

There’s a blunt arrogance we live with most every day. It’s the assumptions we have about people-- that numb us to the love.

Many of us don’t see our parents as human beings. They’re characters in our own stories, not people in their own right: flesh, blood, decision points, shame, or unspoken loves. Living at home, I’d defined my parents. My father was angry. My mother was docile. I didn’t seek to understand them. I was more interested in having them understand me.

Both my parents are gone now. I have such a hunger to know them. My parents’ house burned down in 1998 and my father died in the fire. That dark desk drawer with its secrets, stories and clues, no longer exists, except in the moments when it comes to haunt me.

I don’t want you to miss your chances.

As the holiday season arises, it’s easy to get caught up in tinsel and activity, rather than in seeing the ordinary magic all around you. Please don’t fall asleep. Please don’t assume that what’s available to you now-- is always available. Dare to become truly alive…which is a dedication to endless appreciation. Dedicate yourself to noticing others and the facts of your life with tenderness. It’s a lens of love that helps you slip past appearances, and continuously encounter the new. Some of the love you so desire-- is available in plain sight.

The writer Oscar Wilde says: “One does not see anything until one sees its beauty.”

I remember on a warm spring day, some decades ago, I smoked pot with my best friend Colleen, in her backyard. As we began to relax, I found myself practically worshipping the color of my friend’s painted wooden fence. Oh, God, but it’s cliché now that I write about it, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t pure and holy because it was: I saw the color of that fence for the first time. I couldn’t believe it was right in front of us, this magnificent display of sensory genius. For the next half hour, Colleen and I, both budding writers, started brainstorming the best possible Pantone attribution for this color. We needed to name this glory. We wanted to capture it for all of humanity to know about. It wasn’t a brown fence. It was Mystery Mahogany. Chocolate Plum Memory. Sable Sonata, and maybe something to do with a puppy.

Yes, of course we had to eat a bag of pretzels and maybe a tiny gallon of Maple walnut ice cream afterwards, the price of seeing with your taste buds, known as munchies. But that experience has often left me wondering. What else am I missing? What other elegant or uproarious expressions of genius are right in front of me? A week later, visiting my friend again, the fence returned to being “just” a painted fence, the one that had always been in the background, while we talked about important things, for example, like how our thighs were expanding at the speed of light.

But I had seen that fence. I had loved that fence. I had stumbled into wonder and it had changed me. And then I slipped back into familiarity and everything raw and alive became invisible again. I lost my curiosity. The shades were drawn. I lost my availability to the wild, divine present moment. And with a moroseness, I thought of as normal, I disconnected from that wild, divine current within myself.

No, I don’t suppose we’re supposed to walk around stoned, or fall into reverie over a paint color or repeat a line to death that we think is the funniest thing we’ve ever heard. I don’t have time anymore to wonder if gutter is really a word, and I do cherish being clear minded. That said, I’m still committed to seeing , to waking up in my life, following the cues and clues, and slowing down to observe what’s really all around me.

This holiday season, (and always!) when you’re with acquaintances or family, stay present. Bust your assumptions. Take things in. Ask yourself, where am I taking someone or something for granted?

Because, like all of us, you’re being pelted with beauty. It’s snowing petals, stardust, perspective, and new chords of music and Jesus and Buddha and Athena and ---whoever else you need--- are everywhere blessing us; they’re cleverly disguised as your bald uncle with the stooped shoulders asking you again: “Why didn’t you stay with finance?” Don’t be so literal or reactive. Look at your uncle like I looked at that fence. My goodness, the sadness in his eyes could open your heart to ten thousand mercies. The shine in his eyes, nonetheless, could you make you bow. 

You don’t have to answer his questions. You could answer his real question.  Yes, I love you; you are infinitely loveable.

No, you haven’t done anything wrong.

Yes, all is well. Namaste.

You have these chances right now. They will disappear in an instant, because that’s life. Some of you remember the days after 9/11. No planes flew. It was days of cosmic, eerie silence. I hadn’t ever particularly listened to the commercial jets fly overhead. But then I longed for the familiar noise. I wept in their absence.

What had always been there was now missing. And I saw how much I had taken ordinary, yet unthinkable riches for granted. Planes overhead. Freedom to travel. A country that was boringly innocent of violence.

Everything is rapidly changing. And we are ever standing on holy ground. The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning says: “Earth’s crammed with Heaven, and every common bush afire with God; and only he who sees takes off his shoes.” 

For those of you who are seeing family this holiday season, maybe you can stop “seeing family” and start seeing . Stop seeing your assumptions, judgments, or caricature. Become a holy witness, a painter who sees the true colors. Ask questions. Listen to stories. Your loved ones may need to tell you things. And you may need to know who they are now--- or who they were. Discover the clarity and healing that awaits you. Dare to walk into a “familiar situation” and see it from curiosity rather than from damnation. 

This is a practice. See if you can listen with love-- because love can make everything new. Learn what’s important to your neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. Take everything in while it’s available. Because darling, every house is going to burn down.

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