Before I tell you this story, it is helpful to have some context. My wife, Marnie, brought the phrase “It’s all love” into our marriage.
Sometimes we use it jokingly – like when one of our dogs chewed a favorite pair of my shoes. Sometimes we say it seriously – like when we are worried about one of our children. We use this phrase to support each other and remind ourselves how precious life is even when we are annoyed, disappointed, or anxious.
I began a practice of stopping and saying it to myself several times during the day. (I have a timer app on my phone and a watch that vibrates on my wrist as a reminder.) As I say it, I take two or three deep breaths and smile gently until I can feel it in my body – a sense of appreciation, gratitude, and kindness. The practice is more than saying it – it is important to feel it as well. The practice is to connect to the love that I have access to at all times. The teaching of all lasting wisdom traditions is that we do not need more stuff, the approval of others, good weather, or the right wardrobe to access this incredible human resource.
Okay, so here’s the story. About a month ago, I was driving to see a new client. I was wearing my typical work clothes – a button-down oxford and khakis. I had my morning cup of coffee next to me. Someone stepped off the curb to cross the street in front of me, and I stepped on the brakes to stop quickly. My coffee went everywhere. It was like a little tiny caffeinated volcano erupted onto the dashboard, my pants, my shirt, and all over the floor of the car. My whole body instantly tightened, and I could feel my nervous system searching for someone to blame. And then, clear as a bell, I could hear a kind voice in my head – “it’s all love.” It wasn’t something I consciously said to myself, it was a pleasant surprise that just showed up. All that practice led to the helpful reminder when I needed it.
I pulled over, cleaned up the spill, and went on my way to my appointment. I did not put any more energy than was necessary into dealing with the situation. I still had a big coffee stain on my pants, but this moment was the highlight of my day because I had experienced it with unusual grace.
I have been sharing this with my clients, and here is something one of them sent me recently:
“It’s all love.” That expression has changed our home. It keeps me coming back to some acceptance. A few times already I’ve been all caught up at work, and then I see the little pink slip I have on my computer with the words “it’s all love”, and I come back to myself, to this moment, instead of rushing ahead. My husband often reminds me “it’s all love.” It’s really hitting home, a home run actually.
It might be helpful for you to know that my client is facing significant challenges. Her husband is struggling with a chronic illness, and they are having a hard time getting health insurance. She works full time, and they have a young child who has been sick for a long time as well. Something I have learned from many of my courageous clients is that even when life isn’t easy, we can practice loving more fully.
Many of us spend time hoping that circumstances will work out the way we want them to. But we live in a profoundly complex and unpredictable universe, so we cannot know exactly what the future will bring. Rather than clinging to the hope that things will be the way we want then to be, we can develop the faith that no matter what shows up, we have the internal resources we need to deal with it.
This practice does not erase hardship or discomfort – this practice makes us more resourceful in the presence of hardship and discomfort.
So what wisdom can come from a spilled cup of coffee? As human beings we have the choice of looking to the world around us for the love that we seek or cultivating it internally independent of our circumstances. And who knows — it may just show up when we need it most.