“Do small things with great love” – Mother Theresa
I’ve always been an introvert, re-charge being on my own, and come to introspection naturally as a habit as well as from practice.
As I reintegrate myself back into my work and broader social life as part of what appears to be my new post-cancer planet (or at least a “no immediate cancer emergency” world), I find myself drawn to deepen and apply my learnings and lessons from the past 18 months.
During the last year and a half, the practice of noticing and appreciating what surrounded me in the moment I was actually in became more than a good idea, it became a deeply meaningful tool to help center and ground me in the midst of fear and ambiguity.
This type of mindfulness has translated into prioritizing the micro over macro: small instead of big; narrow and deep rather than shallow and broad. Leaning into the subtlety of a quiet intimate conversation, the delighting in descriptive turn of phrase capturing an isolated moment of life, stumbling across the variations of moss on a fall hike.
In a world obsessed with progress, consistent forward momentum, and always more, more, more, opting for small over big, subtle rather than flashy, selective instead of universal, can be an unusual and possibly uncomfortable choice.
But here’s why small is beautiful:
Small is all
As a child, I loved small things. My obsession might have started with the miniature ceramic figures my neighbor saved for me from the brand of tea she drank. I later saved my weekly allowance to buy tiny animal figurines, delicate furniture for my dollhouse, and other small curiosities.
Life at its most basic is also made up of small things: moments, creating patterns and larger shapes when strung together. By paying attention to the moment you are in, you actually soak up more of what is actually happening. Noticing the details of now allows you to drink it all in and appreciate the experience more.
Breathe, look, and deeply experience this moment, as it is, now: what do you notice? What is here to appreciate?
Less is more
Despite cultural messages to the contrary, we actually can’t do it all, not even in a lifetime of effort. Since you’ll only exhaust yourself in trying, I wonder why do we even think it’s possible or desirable.
Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, think about what really matters most to you. Consider not only what you love, what gives you energy and joy, but what drives you crazy as well: there is information for you on your key priorities and values in both places.
By deeply knowing your priorities and values, you hone your focus, and actually become more effective in the areas that matter most to you.
Think big, act small
Understanding what is important to you – your commitments, your values, your priorities – gives you a map: the parameters of your universe, the ground you stand on, the horizon you aim towards.
At the same time, we only move towards the future and our goals in small, repeated, daily actions. Look to the horizon, and keep your feet moving. It’s OK if the steps are small: they will add up as you take them.
What are you deeply committed to? What do you value? What are your key priorities?
How will you act in alignment with those commitments, values and priorities?
(And if you want some breathing room, and space to see your horizon as well as clarify the steps to get there, don’t miss my free mini-retreat session on December 15th. Details here.)
Over to you
In the Comments below, I’d love to your thoughts on the art of small.
What wisdom, beauty or joy do you find in focusing on the little things in life?
How do they point and guide you towards your priorities or values?
How are you taking the small steps, daily, towards what matters most?
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Photo credit: Hanna Cooper