Remembering How to Think Small

It’s difficult to practice thinking and seeing small when you first arrive in France. Your cell phone isn’t working, you’ve just tasted one of the best cheeses you’ve ever sampled in your life, you’re trying to speak French every chance you get—and at the same time translating for your husband—you’re gazing at a three-hundred-year-old door, its wood warped and pitted with time, and to the right, off in the distance, you notice an exquisite chateau; the breeze carries a scent from a nearby field, but you can’t quite identify it, you stumble on an uneven cobblestone, your credit card is denied, you discover a fabulous restaurant, where a meal (appetizer, main dish, cheese, plus desert) costs only 15 Euros, you explore a town a river wraps around like a necklace, your jet lag keeps you up for hours each night. . . .

After over a week of living like this, I began to crave small. Not that I didn’t appreciate all that surrounded me. But I needed a break. I needed to slow down, relax, and keep my thoughts from flying in all four directions at once. Yet, even though I’ve been practicing small for several years now, I had trouble. I couldn’t quite shift my vision or my mind. Too much was happening. Too many sights were offering themselves to me. The best I could do was reflect on the power of small, on the ways it has—and will continue to—affect my life.

My first realization involved the difference between life with small and my life so far here in France. For the past week, it has felt as if I am being pelted with all that surrounds me. It’s mostly good, even lovely, but being drowned in lovely doesn’t allow me to sink in and fully appreciate. In fact, it feels uncomfortable. Imagine a spring when apple blossoms rain down on you for days. While at first, the experience might thrill you–all those lovely white-tinged-with-pink petals floating down and brushing your skin—it won’t be long until what initially felt like caresses become pinpricks–as the fallen blossoms accumulate around you, forming an enclosure that interferes with free movement.

Seeing small invites quite the opposite experience. What initially appears beautiful, becomes increasingly so, as it reveals itself to you more and more completely, the shades of pink ranging from blush, to rose, to fuschia; the tiny veins in the velvet of the petals emerging before your eyes; the petal shapes varying from oval to nearly round. Seeing small in this way, renders the world even more beautiful than you ever thought possible.

As you move more deeply into the experience, you find yourself, first feeling grateful to the apple blossom, for revealing itself so fully to you, and then you notice yourself opening up toward that very blossom and its beauty and complexity. Initially, you open up to receive all that you perceive, to let it enter you and settle somewhere within, where it will continue to nourish your spirit for some time. And by opening up, you reveal your own sensitivity and vulnerability. You embrace that blossom.

In this way, seeing small creates a relationship with the object or the moment, or the detail you shower with your attention. It shows you not only how to discover so much more beauty in the world, but also it leads you to sense yourself as part of that beauty—and simultaneously, that beauty as part of you.

By reflecting on and remembering all of this, I already feel calmer and more anchored in my life. And much more prepared once again to take time several times a day to remember to see small.

Rust in Puy l’Eveque

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