Seeing the Gift – zen habits zen habits
By Leo Babauta
There are a number of common blockers for creating powerful change in your life:
- Feeling that the effort is pointless
- Resisting the effort
- Frustration with yourself or others
- Disliking the activity
- Feeling an urge / compulsion to do the old habit
Each of these can derail your efforts to create something new. And to be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of these — they’re wonderfully human traits. But to create powerful change, we have to learn to work with them.
Today I’d like to introduce a magical tool that I call Seeing the Gift.
If you deploy Seeing the Gift, you can work with any of the above deterrents. Let’s take a look.
What’s ‘Seeing the Gift’?
In any activity, in any person, you can find a gift. Sometimes it’s obvious — the person in front of you is kind and generous, and you feel them very easily as a gift. When you are watching a sunset out in nature, you can feel the wonder and joy of the gift of that moment.
But other times it’s more challenging — the person in front of you is being annoying, or you’re going through illness or injury, or the project in front of you is boring and hard. In some situations, or with some people, we resist seeing the gift. We want to just complain. And that’s OK! Let yourself complain, and see the gift in expressing the frustration or despair in your heart. How can that emotion be a gift to you?
If you continue to sit with that emotion, you’ll relax a bit. Then you can look deeper. While the person in front of you is being frustrating, there is something they’re offering you. There is a gift in them, if you are willing to look. Are you willing?
If you’re taking on an overwhelming or boring project, it can be hard to see the gift — but if you sit with it for a little longer, you’ll find it in the silence. You’ll start to realize what this project has to teach you. It will start to change you.
The Gift is what it has to teach you, how it changes you, how it connects you to the divine, to yourself, to everything around you. The Gift is the sacredness of the moment and of you. The Gift is a profound realization of the wonder of life.
It’s always there, if we’re willing to look.
How to Use ‘Seeing the Gift’ for Powerful Change
Let’s take each of the “deterrents” to change that I mentioned above:
- The effort is pointless: It feels like you’ll never accomplish what you want to achieve, so it feels pointless to even try — this feeling of pointlessness stops every one of us. Could you see the Gift in trying even if you don’t get to the goal? Could the effort be a Gift no matter what the outcome?
- Resisting the effort: You have the project sitting over there waiting for you to start it, or you planned to work out today … but you’re resisting. Everything else seems more urgent, so you put it off. What if you paused for a minute to sit still, and see the Gift in the project or the workout? What if you let that Gift call you to the change you want to make in your life and the world?
- Frustration with yourself or others: The person in front of you is obnoxious. Or you aren’t living up to your expectations. These kinds of frustrations with yourself or others can be a huge deterrent to creating something new in your life. What if you paused for a few minutes, took some breaths, slowed down … and looked for the Gift in this person, or in yourself? Could this frustrating person be teaching you something unintentionally? Could there be something beautiful in them for you to find? Could you find the gift in the sacredness of your frustration?
- Disliking the activity: Sometimes to accomplish a goal, we have to do something we don’t like. This will often cause us to decide the goal isn’t worthwhile. But what if there could be a Gift in this dreadful activity? Could we find it, and allow ourselves to claim the Gift? This gives us access to more possibility than if we shut out every activity we don’t like.
- Urge to do an old habit: Let’s say you’re trying to change your diet, or go on social media less … the best of intentions can be derailed by an urge to do what you normally do. But an urge is just a momentary sensation in the body, nothing that has to dictate our lives. What if you could just sit with the urge for a moment, and see the Gift in that sensation? What if the moment of the urge is simply what change feels like, and the Gift is learning to be with the sensation of change?
As you can see, Seeing the Gift can unlock powerful possibility. All it takes is a willingness to sit for a few moments, and a willingness to see.
May the Gift unlock new possibility in your life.