The Gift of Lemons

Lemons 2I began my morning bike ride with a somewhat heavy heart. Some big, unexpected changes had just dropped into my life. While I knew that ultimately these changes would be for my good, I couldn’t help but feel some grief for what I was being called to let go of. I was hoping a nice long bike ride would help to lift my mood.

As I headed down the paved walking/biking path along the canal, I was pleasantly surprised to find that someone had left a box full of beautiful fresh lemons, free for the taking, at the edge of the path.

These are NOT like the average grocery store lemons. These are big, juicy, fragrant, fresh-from-the-tree lemons, closer to the size of a small grapefruit than the size of my fist. Someone with a tree or trees in their yard and an excess of fruit had generously left these for the passers-by. Grateful I had my panniers on the back of my bike, I helped myself to half a dozen.

I continued my ride with a lighter heart, buoyed by this random, anonymous generosity. The gift of lemons.

Ironic, isn’t it? How often we’ve all heard the old adage, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” (or is that margaritas?!) Life had just handed me a lemon with this unexpected change, so what was I going to do with it?

I got to thinking about all the times I’ve learned to do that – to make lemonade – in small ways and in big ways. And the times when I haven’t. The times when I’ve just let myself get all puckered and sour about something. The first option is a lot more pleasant, and it really is a choice.

I’ve often spent my morning walking and riding time listening to some recorded lectures from Bill Harris (of Centerpointe) about the 9 Principles of Conscious Living. It’s no accident that these lectures were playing through my iPod earbuds this very morning.

Principle 1 is to let whatever is be okay. It may not be what we wanted, but if it has happened, we are already having to deal with whatever consequences it may carry. We can only make things worse and add a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering by resisting what has already come to pass. We can choose to accept what is (whether we wanted it or not) and move on much more peacefully if we let go of our resistance.

Principle 9 is that NOTHING HAS ANY INTRINSIC MEANING. The only meaning an event or experience can have is the meaning WE GIVE TO IT.

Oh, those were two very powerful and difficult lessons for me to absorb when I first began listening to these recordings about a year after my son Cameron died. The first time I heard this “NO MEANING” business, it really pissed me off! If there was no meaning to Cameron’s relatively short life and relatively horrific and dramatic death – then WHAT WAS THE POINT?!

Turns out the POINT was the meaning I would choose to CREATE about that experience, and the journey I would take to get there.

Anyhow, back to those lemons . . .

What clicked for me this morning about the gift of lemons was not only about how we turn our own lemons into lemonade, but how we also gift others with the same opportunity. After we’ve learned to make our own lemonade, are we willing to share the recipe?

I suppose that is what I have hoped to accomplish by writing The Deep Water Leaf Society and within my coaching practice. Not exactly teaching a recipe, but teaching a path to discovering your OWN lemonade recipe each time life hands you a lemon.

Another angle on the gift of lemons is about those times when WE become the unwelcome experience to others – we cut someone off in traffic, we bring them unwelcome news, we cause them grief in some way (whether intentionally or unintentionally).

I’m not advocating that we go out of our way to be someone’s lemon, but on some level, isn’t even that a gift? Every lemon becomes an opportunity to make lemonade – to practice letting what is be okay – to create powerful and amazing meaning that helps us to evolve.

So. There was this  box of lemons on the canal bank this morning, an anonymous gift from a stranger.

“Here. I have lemons in my life. An overwhelming abundance of them. Too many for me to deal with, but I KNOW how valuable they are. So, here. I’m sharing. Take a few and go figure out how to turn them into something delicious.”

A Thanksgiving Prayer


Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  And on that day, if no other, there’s a tradition of saying a prayer of gratitude for the food that we eat. And of course we give thanks for the friends and family that gather with us and for all the other blessings in our lives.

But I got to thinking today, what is it we are really grateful for when we give thanks for our food?

The good taste and the full belly for sure. But a meal is so much more than that – it’s a symphonic masterpiece comprised of more notes, movements, instruments and players than we often consider.

There’s the person who prepared the meal, using a recipe that was handed down from her grandmother, who got it from her grandmother – the one who brought it over from the old country.

There’s the work that we do, which gave us the income that allowed us to pay for the groceries that went into the meal. And behind that the customer or the boss who values our work enough to pay us for it.

There are all the workers in the grocery store where we bought the food – the butchers, the bakers, the stockers, the baggers, the check-out clerks. And the folks who drove the delivery trucks that brought the food to the grocery store. And the farms where the food grew and the farmers who worked them. And the sun that shone and the rain that fell on the fertile earth so those crops could grow.

What about the carpenters who crafted the table and chairs at which we sit? The factory workers who moved stoves and ovens and refrigerators through that assembly line so we could conveniently store and cook our food. And the linemen who keep the power on so we can use them. And the builders who built the home for us to put them in. The architect who designed the home with a beautiful kitchen to cook in. The dreamers and investors who envisioned a town where once there was only desert.

There are all the moments of our lives up ‘til now – the challenges and successes, the joy and the pain, the choices made along the way. They’ve all come together right now in this moment to bring us to this table with these people enjoying this food before us. It has all come together to feed us, mind, body and soul.

It’s an incredible collaboration. A Divine Conspiracy that we can trace back to the stars we were born under, and beyond that back billions of years to the Big Bang that birthed those stars. And behind all of that, to the Creative Force that birthed everything.

So let us bow our heads in gratitude. Let’s take a deep breath. And with the in breath, let’s open ourselves to receive the immense blessing this Divine Collaboration represents. And on the out breath, let’s send gratitude to everyone and everything involved.

When I think of it this way, I am filled not just with gratitude, but with awe. And I know that one breath is not enough – for this huge, timeless collaboration, this Divine Symphony, plays out not just through the food we eat today, but through every single blessing in our lives.

The notes, the movements, the instruments, the players. Can you hear the celestial sound?

If we gave thanks with every breath remaining to us, it still might not be enough. But it would be a good place to start.