Gifts Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Every person, experience, or event holds the potential of a gift

I am sorting through old files and rediscovering little gifts of wisdom from the many people I met on my travels twenty years ago.

It causes me to wonder, would I have ever read Seven Arrows if I had not met Jim in an art gallery in Florida? Would I have worked in that gallery if it wasn’t for a car accident that stranded me in Lake Worth? Would I have been driving so late along I95 if I hadn’t delayed my departure from Key West to write Bambi a letter and post it? And would I have met Bambi if I had ignored the advice of an American friend to change my ticket to fly into San Francisco instead of Los Angeles to gain a positive first impression of The States?

For it was in that friendly and open city that I checked into Bambi’s bed and breakfast in the heart of China Town, telling her upon my arrival that I was there to find a publisher for my book. To my complete astonishment she was so excited to learn what my book was about she said, “I have been praying for a teacher…and you’re it.” Not only did she give me free accommodation, take me sightseeing and to dinner where we talked for hours, but she bought a car for me to travel where I wished across the States, and afterwards deliver it to her brother in New York. It was a dream come true!

After the accident, a friend kindly reminded me that “there are no such things as ‘accidents’ and you are exactly where you are meant to be.”

So there I was, stranded in Lake Worth and wondering what would happen next. That’s when I went into a gallery and showed the owner some photographs of my paintings. Next thing I know I am running the gallery for six months and teaching painting classes in the back room while the owner is overseas.

And that’s when I met Jim, an artist and teacher, struggling to come to terms with the recent break-up of his marriage. “You need to learn to love yourself,” I said. And as I shared my hard won wisdom, he shared many things with me – including the book, Seven Arrows, by Hyemeyohsts Storm. It was the beginning of new learning, for I opened it and began reading…

If you and I were sitting in a circle of people on the prairie, and if I were then to place a painted drum or an eagle feather in the middle of this circle, each of us would perceive these objects differently. Our vision of them would vary according to our individual positions in the circle, each of which would be unique.

The personal perceptions of these objects would also depend upon how much more than just the different positions from which we looked upon them. For example, one of us might suffer from colorblindness, or from weak eyesight. Either of these two physical differences would influence our perceptions of the objects.

There are levels upon levels of perspectives we must consider when we try to understand our individual perceptions of things, or when we try to relate our own perceptions to those of our brothers and sisters. Every single one of our previous experiences in life will affect in some way the mental perspective from which we see the world around us…

According to the Teachers, there is only one thing that all people possess equally. This is their loneliness. This is the cause of the Growing, but it is also the cause of our wars. Love, hate, greed and generosity are all rooted within our loneliness, within our desire to be needed and loved.

The only way that we can overcome our loneliness is through Touching. It is only in this way that we can learn to be Total Beings.

So, if that car accident hadn’t stranded me in Lake Worth, I would not have had the transformational experience of Touching people’s lives. I would not have taught art to adults in the gallery’s back room and discovered the therapeutic properties of painting, nor would Lydia, one of my students, have introduced me to an art therapist who showed me how she used art while working with traumatized children.

And Lydia wouldn’t have introduced me to Katherine, who showed me the powerful results of sharing my writing when she returned my manuscript and said, “I don’t feel lonely any more. Can we talk?” And when we walked along the beach one day and I asked her to draw a circle in the sand to represent how much she gave, for she had a habit of over-giving and exhausting both herself and her finances, I would not have seen myself, for she drew a huge circle, hopping and dragging one foot in the sand.

“Now draw a circle that represents how much you allow yourself to receive,” I said. Katherine drew a small circle with her finger inside the larger one, no bigger than a dinner plate. “How can you keep giving that much when you only allow yourself to receive such a small amount,” I asked.

Katherine looked at the circles, a shock of new understanding creeping across her face. “Now I know why I feel so empty,” she said.

The gift of Katherine in my life was to help me understand that loving oneself is like having a plug in the bath. Obviously, without a plug, a bath will never fill. And Katherine would never feel full if what she received she instantly gave away because she felt she didn’t deserve it. So with self-love as the plug in the bath, we can allow ourselves to receive while we continue to give until we are full to overflowing.

As a result of allowing herself to receive the wisdom we shared during our times together, Katherine gave herself a gift: the courage to follow her dream to become a Deputy Sheriff. Not only did she graduate as top recruit, but a few years later she won “Deputy Sheriff of the Year Award” in her county. I can only guess at the huge amount of good she did in the community.

During that six months in the gallery, there were many lives I touched, and whose lives touched mine. It enabled to me to learn so much about the power of touching and learning and giving and receiving that I felt full to overflowing. I was able to feel that we are all connected as One, and that what I give out to others (good or bad) in the form of love, jealousy, hate, generosity, compassion, empathy will come back to me, for all these things spread outwards like ripples when a stone is cast into a pond. Then, after hitting the bank, the ripples rebound to the source. So it made me reflect deeply upon how we treat each other. Again I opened Seven Arrows…and read:

If you have one hundred people who live together, and if each one cares for the rest, there is One mind. The Power of this single mind is a great one, and is a means of keeping sickness from among them. If there are but one or two among them who hate, there is little threat to any of the hundred. But if ten of that hundred do not care for the rest of their brothers and sisters, then there is a threat.

The threat is one of sickness… We are each a living Spinning Medicine Wheel, and each of us possesses this power to destroy or create. When ten of the hundred do not care, it makes our Shield that much less capable of stopping sickness. This sickness strikes out at random and can hurt anyone.

I think about the truth of this now during the week leading up to Christmas. New Zealand papers report about the couple who stabbed each other to death, the five-year-old who was beaten and found dead in bed, and the indescribable torture endured by a nine-year-old child police found locked in a cupboard suffering from starvation and dehydration, and that five other people knew about the abuse that went on for almost two years.

Papers also report the outrage over the continued opulent lifestyle of a failed finance company’s founder while investors have lost their life savings. A ripple effect of anger is spreading over the millions of dollars in property he bought at their expense. It highlights the fact that one person’s greed can bring poverty and hardship to many. We only have to remember the Bernard Madoff’s of the world to understand this.

Then yesterday for me there was a shining light of optimism that things could change for the better, for I listened to a Tony Robbins talk at T.E.D. in which he told the story of how his family had no money or food at Thanksgiving when he was 11. To his astonishment, strangers knew about this and left a hamper of food on their doorstep. With his father’s words echoing in his ears, “No one gives a sh*t,” all he could think of was that strangers cared. He made the decision then that he would care about strangers.

At seventeen he saved up enough money to give two hampers of food to families at Christmas and Thanksgiving. The following year he gave away four hampers of food and increased the numbers each year until in 2007 he gave 2 million hampers of food to strangers in 35 different countries.

Although Robbins grew up in poverty, his attitude developed the inner and outer wealth that he now shares with us today. And he has a powerful message to share from his experiences: “Giving fills you up.”

And as if to reinforce this message, a dinner guest last night told me about a Christmas he shared with a group of strangers during his loneliest and most depressed years living in London. A man sitting next to him said, “I know where you are at. You are depressed. But you can cure your depression by giving to others. For three weeks, go out into the street each day and give a rose to a stranger.” My friend followed his advice. The surprise and joy on people’s faces as he handed them a rose elevated his mood so much that by the end of his three weeks of giving, his depression had vanished.

So, if I had not had that car accident I would not have met Jim in the gallery, who shared with me his love of what he was learning from Seven Arrows. The gift I received is that I have now become more conscious of the enormous power we all have within us to do either great harm or great good. And ultimately we base all our choices upon how we perceive every person, situation, or experience. Imagine the powerful outcomes that even the slightest shift in perception could make.

How much more happiness could you create this Christmas through giving, or even by changing your perception of family, friends, or past experiences?

I wish for you the best Christmas yet.


Gifts Found in Unlikely Places

October 13, 2011
What you may call a disaster could actually become the greatest gift in your life. This is what I learned when Zeehaen, an eighteen-meter steel yacht my husband and I had bought to sail the world, foundered on a sandbar while at anchor, flooding the interior when she rolled into deeper water. After the high drama of a fight with salvagers…

Christchurch, and what can be learned from disasters

March 05, 2011
The second earthquake in Christchurch happened nearly two weeks ago (on February 22, 2011), but for many, the memory of it and what they have lost, will haunt them for years to come. My heart is with those who lost loved ones, for they can never be replaced…

Read about Seven Arrows
Watch Tony Robbins’ talk at T.E.D.

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