There is a lot of talk these days about letting ourselves shine as well as supporting our loved ones to be extraordinary and exceptional. We wonder, “How can my kid (or I) stand out from the crowd?” I am all for being determined to do well in our lives. However, what if this striving for specialness is actually hurting us? What if embracing the everyday, mundane ordinariness of life is what we need to help us become healthier and stronger individually, in our relationships, and in our communities?
I performed an impromptu experiment the other day driving to work. I was practicing breathing and mindful presence. In plain English I was paying attention to my surroundings. Around my neighborhood, the scene was the breathtaking fall foliage. The orange, red, gold and lime colored trees were stunning. I then kept this awe-inspired focus on my surroundings while I continued to drive into the city. Stage change to concrete, grey, box shaped stores. There was nothing breathtaking at all. Usually this would be the time to tune out, go into my head. But wait, it was just as enrapturing as the foliage, as ordinary and bleak as the scenery was. I was fully connected to all of life’s scenes. It was a wonderful, boring, interesting, uninteresting way to be.
We are so acculturated to focus only on the stunning and spectacular that it takes away from our connectedness and the totality of life experience. It supports us to be awake with stunning feats, tragedies, and the extremes of life experience. However we are then not so awake with the moment to moment un-extreme experiences that make up everyday life.
The celebration of extraordinary events and circumstances, while dismissing the rest of life was reinforced in the latest Hollywood blockbuster, Gravity. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stranded in space after their space station gets destroyed. I loved the visuals of Earth, but was disappointed as, once again, the superstar becomes the super - human who ordinarily would have died in the first minute. But since movies are not one minute long, superhuman adventures to the rescue!
We experience a temporary rush of winning and the comfort of safety when all works out in the end. Our hero saves the day, themselves, or the world. Then we can go back to tuning out and going through the motions of our mere mortal lives with our regular bodies and not so happy endings.
But we know that tuning out / disinterest / disconnection is not helping us or our planet. So what to do? Being interested in the concrete grays, our everyday human flaws, the
un-fix-ables, the ordinary-ness of life can be our wake up call. Lets wake up, together.