The Ripple Effect of Your Grace-Full Life

ripple_effect“Each decision we make, each action we take, is born out of an intention.”
~Sharon Salzberg

It never ceases to amaze me how much everything matters. To say that all things are interconnected is an understatement. Really, everything you do, say, and think is part of the whole and, in some way, affects not only yourself, but everyone and everything else.

This is a powerful teaching that invites each of us to take full responsibility for the choices we make. Even the tiniest ones have a ripple effect. Do you come from fear or from love? Are you in resistance or aligned with life?

Answer these questions truthfully, and you will begin to understand the practical significance of your day-to-day choices.

The Ripple Effect

A friend of mine manages a restaurant where the chef is a tough, controlling character. Some might call him a bully. He rules the roost by forcing the orders to be prepared in a certain sequence even though it doesn’t make sense, then doesn’t allow the kitchen staff to speak to one another to coordinate. This leaves the salad maker standing idly when there are salads to be made and all eight food preparers shaking in their boots in response to his angry outbursts.

See the ripple effect? One person affecting eight people directly who have low morale and undoubtedly take their work stress home. Let alone the servers, the management, and the restaurant patrons waiting for their food. Then the effect on everyone they come into contact with…and on and on it goes.

There must be a better way.

This morning I stopped at a diner for breakfast. I was greeted by a lovely Indian man who literally bowed to me in greeting and was served by a waiter just oozing with sweetness. I left with my heart singing, and now you are the fortunate recipient of their kindheartedness coming through me. May it ripple out everywhere.

The Ultimate in Taking Responsibility

What is amazing is that being a bully or an angel is under your control. Your starting point may be a place of suffering and alienation. You might be absorbed in self-pity or terrified to connect.

This is not a problem because transformation is always possible.

Once you understand that what you say, think, and do matters, you can become meticulous about the choices you make in any moment.

Your Unique Ripple

Begin by contemplating the ripples that flow out from you.

  • Does your way of being serve you and everyone else?
  • Are you at ease enough within yourself to choose wisely, not haphazardly?
  • Are you lost in emotional reactions, or are you conscious and aware?

I spoke with a 94-year-old woman recently who told me she is ready to die. She looks back on a life well-lived, feeling satisfied and content. She is at peace.

I know I don’t want to be on my deathbed with doubts and regrets, and I imagine you don’t either. The moment you have is this one, and the potential impact of your choices – every single one of them – is profound.

Your Grace-Full Life

You can’t help but be part of the whole. This is not only your life that we’re talking about. How you speak to your loved ones, the energy you bring to your work, how you spend your down time – it all matters.

If you are stuck in being reactive, if you find it difficult to make choices that are beneficial in any area of your life, then commit to taking care of business. Look into yourself and tell the truth so your habits can begin to unravel. Make a project of being aware, even in the hardest of situations. Get the help that you need so you can live your grace-full life.

When you truly understand the power of all your choices, what do you choose?

I’d love to hear…

Flourish in the Face of Fear Intensive starts January 13: Are you ready to go deeper in your exploration of what limits you to discover freedom from fear? Consider joining the 3-week “Flourish in the Face of Fear Intensive.” I am so excited about the possibilities it offers you because it is chock full of practical, straightforward information you can apply to the moments of your precious life. Please click here for more information and to register.

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20 Comments

  1. avatar Celia
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    This makes really interesting reading and I couldn’t agree more. It ties in beautifully with The Dalai Lama facebook status from yesterday: “The creation of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin from the level of the individual, and from there it can expand to one’s family, to one’s neighborhood, to one’s community and so on.”

    2011 for me has been the year I started to focus on being more mindful in my everyday life. I also tried meditation for the first time and all this has made me a much calmer and happier person. I find myself smiling “for no reason” (although I’d argue being alive and healthy is always a good enough reason). One of my closest friend has recently said about me that I was “one of those rare people who really lives in the moment” and that it is very “refreshing”. This felt like the best compliment I could ever have… If all I ever achieve in my life is to “ripple” a little peace, a little happiness around me, I will die in peace.

    • Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      So beautiful, Celia. You have made the decision for your own peace of mind to be more mindful – and now you are reaping one of the benefits – the ripple effect.

      I am celebrating with you. Being present is refreshing – only this moment…so alive!

  2. avatar Clare
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    When I do my weekly shopping, I go to two different stores. The first store I go to, everything is well stocked, the people that work there are extraordinarily friendly and helpful. They will search for an item for you, if it isn’t on the shelf or in the produce. The second store a go to (a major grocery chain) is normally not well-stocked, the employees are clearly disgruntled and are anything but cheerful. They have a required line they repeat at the check-out “Did you find everything you needed today?” However, if you say no, they simply shrug and proclaim “we must be out of it”. It is such a contrast; I always going away thinking how lovely it must be to work at the first store and what a drudgery it must be to work at the second. The other day, I left a bag behind and had to call the first store. I was so grateful that I had left the bag behind at the first store and not the second. I really would have dreaded calling the second store. What a difference a positive corporate culture can make for everyone.

    • Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Clare. It’s the little things that are potentially huge. But you can see how each moment really matters. May we all be inspired from this.

  3. avatar Bonnie Perry
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Yes, reminds me of a quote from THE LITTLE PRINCE: “What is essential is invisible to the eye”. Its like a energy source flow that flows out in waves and boomerangs around back to wash over its source before flowing on again. Awareness of it comes with a contentment that is its own reward. It isn’t necessary to know exactly where it will go because you just know it will go wherever is most appropriate.

    • Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I appreciate you making this important point, Bonnie. It is not our business to know our essence so that it ripples out in any given way. Our job is only to be clear in the moment within ourselves. Then what happens as a result is mysterious, glorious, unknown, surprising, and so often awe-inspiring.

  4. Posted January 11, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Hi Gail,

    I always believed that our life is the sum of our choices. But the actions we take and the choices we make do not only affect ourselves, but everyone around us. This is turn affects others which creates the ripple effect you speak of. Everything is interconnected and things that happen today may have their roots way back in the past.

    I like how you encourage us to take responsibility and to consider the impact that our actions have on others. Indeed the things we say and do say, do and don’t do can set off a chain of events that we may not even be aware of or realize. It is truly not easy to maintain our grace under all circumstances, but being aware of our actions helps.

    All we have in life is moments and each one of them matters. So it is best to be careful about how we use them.

    I always try to be careful about what I say and do. There are moments that I slip and forget myself. But being careful and aware is certainly better than not being careful at all.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

    • Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      Great to see you, Vizier.

      It hits home that every moment matters when we really contemplate the effect of our actions. They truly ripple out everywhere. The freedom of one affects the freedom of all – which inspires diligent and consistent investigation of our inner world. We get to be happy, which supports the happiness of all.

  5. Posted January 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I like to leave places I visit a little happier than I found them by smiling at strangers, saying hello or complementing them. I’ll ask the disgruntled woman at the grocery checkout how her day is going and really listen for a response. And she’s usually surprised. It’s amazing how many people are surprised by smiles and acts of kindness.

    • Posted January 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      I love this, Paige. Many times I come across a grumpy person and know that what they need is love and caring attention. Who doesn’t soak it up like nectar? Beautiful to hear how you are living so heart-fully.

  6. Posted January 12, 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    my shrink used to say that too! we affect more people than we know
    and good things we do, even if we dont know we are doing, such as a smile we give a stranger, can have long lasting ripple effects!
    Noch Noch

    • Posted January 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Yes! That’s it exactly! I love hearing how your understanding is deepening.

  7. Posted January 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Another excellent article. And yes, everything matters. Including the gorgeous images you always find for your posts. This one just took my breath away. Where do you find them?!

    • Posted January 14, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      This one was from flickr, Galen. It’s wonderful to hear that what ripples out is not only the words and the intention behind them, but the perception of this image that touched you. Beautiful confirmation of the totality of the ripple effect.

  8. Posted January 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Gail,
    There’s so much truth to your words. A while back I blogged about a man working in a supermarket. I was in a cranky mood that day, but as I wheeled my cart through the aisles his singing started to lift my spirit. He didn’t care what people thought about him…he was just happy and he was making others happy.

    Thanks for your words!

    • Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Father Michael,

      Another beautiful example of the ripple effect – where we join in the heart.

  9. Posted January 17, 2012 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Your words rippled into smiles in my life this morning, Gail. Thanks for that!

    Your post reminded me of a recent meal at a restaurant where the server told my wife and I: “You two are like the nicest people that I’ve ever served.”

    We just thought: WOW! We hadn’t even noticed doing anything out of the ordinary. But we realized just what an impact any chance encounter can have. During such moments, it pays to just be nice.

    • Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      So true, Dr. Mike. And what I love about your story is that it was effortless. You weren’t trying to do anything or have any specific effect. You and your wife were being your natural selves – and that’s what rippled out. This is the inspiration to clean up all our inner messes, so we can live with ease and joy. Then it effortlessly flows everywhere…

  10. avatar Llywellyn
    Posted January 22, 2012 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, well thought out. Thankyou.

    I think it is extremly important that we all try to make sure that the ripples we send out, or the influence have on others is positive.

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