Paradise, it would seem, is all around me. But not quite. While my body is enjoying the present vacation moment, my mind has a different idea. It has noticed discarded cigarette butts lying in the sand, creating a stark contrast between the incredible natural beauty and the way it is treated by some vacationers.
As I notice more discarded butts on the beach, my mind begins making judgments. Trapped in incessant thinking, my mind is on a roll.
• What is the matter with these people?
• Don’t they know filters don’t decompose?
• This is disgusting.
My mind is creating so much noise that stillness, the sound of the waves, and the feel of the sun and wind are lost. I am not enjoying the beauty that is present because I am obsessing on the negative that I see. Strong emotion emerges in the form of annoyance and anger. The anger builds in intensity and energizes my mind, which, in turn, produces more judgmental thought.
• They should be fined.
• Unconscious beings!
The thoughts and emotions feed each other, their mutual support demonstrating proof of their correctness. The vibrational frequency of my body is now caught in a negative spiral and, amazingly enough, I create suffering for myself in the midst of this incredible beauty that surrounds me.
Not able to stop thinking, and overflowing with judgment, I am only slightly aware of the inner pollution I am creating in response to the outer pollution I observe. “How do I turn this off?” I wonder. “Where is the switch to get me back to paradise?”
“Get present,” a small voice from within responds. “You are resisting the what is of the present moment.”
I have heard that voice before and have learned to trust it. I decide to do as it suggests and immediately begin to pay attention to what is happening around me at this moment. I notice a small child carrying a paper bag. He is collecting seashells, I assume. But he doesn’t appear to be in the prime shell-collecting area. Yet he seems to delight in finding treasure after treasure at his chosen hunting ground.
When he gets close to me, I can see that his bag contains litter, including paper, cans—and cigarette butts.
“What are you doing?” I ask him.
“Picking up stuff,” he says.
“Why?” I continue.
“What do you mean?”
“We come here once a year as a family and we’re grateful.”
It is then that I spot the letters on the paper bag: G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E. The young boy’s father appears at this point and explains. “What you’re seeing is my family filling gratitude bags,” he explains. “We’re so grateful for this beauty that we give back to the universe by helping keep it natural. Each time we come to the beach, which is several times during our week-long stay, we each fill a bag with ten pieces of trash and dump it in the barrel before we go up to the pool area. It’s a great way to help my children learn the importance of expressing gratitude for all the blessings in their lives, especially for this incredible place where sand, water, and sun come together in such splendor. Plus, it helps keep the beach clean.”
I thank him aloud for the explanation and silently for jolting me out of the negative snarl my mind had created. Later that day I recycled grocery bags for my family to use in the same manner. For the rest of that week we continued the tradition of using gratitude bags to express our appreciation for the beauty we were privileged to experience.
Today, I am grateful to the family from New Jersey who helped me turn my mind from disgust to appreciation and my paradise interrupted into paradise reclaimed.
Thank you, New Jersey family.
CHICK MOORMAN is co-author of Teaching the Attraction Principle™ to Children and author of Talk Sense to Yourself: The Language of Personal Power. A foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. He, with Thomas Haller, publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up, order a book, or obtain more info about how he can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit his website: www.chickmoorman.com