I’ve never felt comfortable being indoors on beautiful summer days. So recently, I convinced the girls and our dog, Baci to pack a picnic lunch and go for a long walk around the Brookline reservoir. The sun was shining, the geese were flocking, and we were enjoying the beauty of the water together. All that was about to change.
Our serenity was instantly shattered when Baci spotted, sitting right there in broad daylight, a vicious-looking coyote on the water’s edge. The coyote’s head was down, teeth bared, eyes wide open and body stiffened. Baci’s low rumble turned into massive action, rapidly pulling the leash and me toward this beast.
Baci was in full fight/flight mode and so was I. My chest and neck tensed with adrenaline and my sweating hand began to slip off his leash. As we charged closer, I noticed something strange about this coyote. It was still. Very still. As in made of rubber still. A coyote statue that someone has staked into the ground.
Relieved. Deep breaths. And recognition– our lives are like this. Somedays, a lot like this. Misreading a situation, interpreting danger when things are actually safe, thinking someone said or did something hurtful when in fact nothing of the kind actually happened. Even my car does this when I put my purse in the front passenger seat. The seatbelt sign and bell ring relentlessly as if an unbuckled person was in that seat, when actually no one is there.
As Shannon L. Alder reminds us, “most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, ‘What else could this mean?'” A simple and profound question. In fact, it’s brilliant because it puts space between the situation and our thoughts. It interrupts the train of thought that sees something, creates a story about it, and boom, sends us off and running, full-on stress response.
What else could this mean? Such inquisitiveness in our relationships may help us see with more clarity, whether it’s to better understand an ambiguous look from our tween/teen, a confusing message from a loved one, or a complicated circumstance. If we interrupt the story in our heads with this question of curiosity then we connect to something beyond the tangle of ego and it’s fear-based reactions. We can explore our experiences with our hearts willing to see clearly and willing to learn. And that opens the door to wholehearted love, patience and presence.
As parents, we are in the position of setting the tone for our family life. We can set it with anxiety and hyper-vigilance, or we can set it from a place of less distortion, of more trust. It’s up to us. I believe we are in service to the greater good when we are not wrapped up in anxiety-mode. It’s understandable how we can get there, and it’s equally understandable that we long to get out of there.
Today, would you join me in asking , “what else could this mean” when you see something in your world that doesn’t make sense or that is upsetting? The question may reveal that something really is wrong, but more likely it won’t. And if something actually needs to be addressed, wouldn’t it be everyone’s best interest to fix it from a place of centered openness?
Everything we think, every action we take, shows the world what is in our hearts. Let’s live our lives from our center, from the values that inspire us, from this place that asks for the truth and receives love as its answer.