I temporarily misplaced my paper calendar last week. Panic ensued! No back-up calendar on my phone or computer. No way of knowing what appointments I had scheduled the next day or next week or ever. I know I’ve written a book on resilience, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have my own learning curve about coping with what my mind can perceive as potential disaster. And I know someday I’ll transfer my calendar to my phone and computer, I’m sure. But I’ve experienced many times that my paper calendar is usually faster than any digital device, so I hadn’t made that transfer yet. Realizing in those first moments, faster… but irreplaceable.
I searched my house top to bottom twice. Drove to my office just in case. Looked through my car cursorily, because I was “sure” it wasn’t there. Practicing hand on the heart and mindful self-compassion, but that wasn’t finding my calendar.
Discombobulated, I drove to pick up my friend Lynn for our much-looked-forward-to Sunday morning hike. I was disoriented enough to take the wrong streets to the “wrong” trailhead. Lynn offered to search my car for me, just to calm me down and bring me back into a sense of presence. She was so thorough; she had new eyes and no pre-conceptions. She looked through my red backpack in the trunk and…voila! I had no memory whatsoever of putting my calendar there; had never, ever put it there before. I was very, very happy to have my calendar back, and then began pondering how things can be so lost, and so found, with no consciousness on my part either way, and how to account for the universe taking care of us in this way.
I later shared my story with a clerk at the local bookstore, both of us waiting for another clerk to find a book I had ordered that somehow had gone missing. She related to me how she was about to travel internationally recently, looked and looked and looked for her passport; nowhere to be found. In despair, she had sat down on the floor in her bedroom and cried. And there, under her bed, was her passport.
All of this reminded me of David Wagoner’s poem, Lost:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
I know there is a tremendous grace operating in the universe. I know we can do our part, put in the effort, learn our skills and behave as wisely in our lives as we can, and still experience moments when things go missing, when we’ve mis-judged or weren’t paying attention, when something goes terribly wrong, only to experience in the next moments or days things righting themselves again, the right friend or friendly clerk showing up at the right moment to help us out, the universe somehow catching us and holding us up.
My friend Dave Richo calls this grace. In his book The Power of Grace: Recognizing Unexpected Gifts on Our Path
“I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how it happened, but everything just fell into place.”
“We have all said things like this and have wondered where the “special gift” came from. We have found out, again and again, that more seems to be going on in our life than can be accounted for by our own efforts or our own level of knowledge. We keep noticing that something more is afoot in the world than just ourselves and what we do. Our forward move on life’s path does not seem to be based solely on our accomplishments, merit, or our sense of worthiness. Something seems to helping us, an empowering force around us that yet seems to be within us.
“If we look back over the episodes and milestones of our lives, we notice that often something beneficial was happening that was not the result of our choice, effort, or expectation. We were somehow guided to or given an impetus to make a leap into something new. That special assistance, unearned, unforeseen, unplanned, often unnoticed, is a description of grace, the gift dimension of life.”
I’m deeply grateful for this gift dimension of life and learning more and more to recognize it as it happens, or to reflect upon it moments, or years, after it has happened. It is a discipline, a practice, to notice moments of grace when they are happening, or even long after they have happened. And a trust in the benevolence of life deepens when we do.
1. Pause for a moment, and tune in right now to what graces of life might be supporting your life right now. The fresh air you are breathing, the health in your body and the clarity in your mind that allows you to contemplate and reflect, this moment of being alive and able to be thoughtful.
2. Notice what moments of grace might have occurred recently, you found something you were looking for or a friend called just when you needed support, even if you didn’t know you needed support. Remember, and savor. Notice the “more” that seems to be operating behind the scenes, behind your conscious awareness, that keeps you afloat.
3. Remember previous moments of things falling into place and see if you can begin to see the grace of the universe empowering you, holding you, supporting you.
4. To whatever extent noticing the moments of grace in your life is becoming real for you, take a moment to be grateful that this is so. We do our part, we show up, we make the effort. And something “more” is operating on our behalf as well. Always.