Earl R. Smith II. PhD

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One of the real joys of mentoring comes when someone I’ve been working with has an epiphany. Most of the time, it comes on suddenly. But there are those times when I sense it building like a tsunami. Either way, the shared joy of accomplishment brings on a celebration.

Recently, someone that I have been mentoring for a relatively short time reached one of these breakthroughs. Hers centered on the realization that her network of friends and acquaintances was far richer and more willing to be supportive then she had thought.

“I have been taking these people for granted,” was the way she started. “I never really stopped to look at them carefully. To ask why they were my friends. To think about how they might help me in my journey. To think about how I might help them. You have brought me to a place where those questions are now center stage. And I can’t believe the abundance in my life. But, more than that, I can’t believe that it was there all the time and I missed it.”

There is a fundamental truth in this experience. I very seldom encounter a person who is completely aware of the abundance in their life. Most often, they think of themselves as impoverished. The discovery that they have had it wrong all along generally brings on a combination of elation and shame.

Mentoring is hard work and getting a person to realize the abundance in their life tends to be heavy lifting both on my part and the person I’m working with. It’s not logical that that should be the case. But I have found it to be true. My theory is that it is the echo of Puritanism – the suspicion of self-bad-faith that dominates Western culture. The underlying belief seems to be, “I am not worthy of such abundance.”

One of my favorite Zen Proverbs go something like this: “If you understand, things are just as they are. If you don’t understand, things are just as they are.” The message there is clear. Things are just as they are whether you understand or not. In your life, abundance is there whether you recognize it or not. And if you don’t recognize it?

Ask yourself the following question, “Why is a Zen monk always smiling?”

© Earl R. Smith II, PhD