September 15, 2017

The Best We Can Hope For | Life Lessons from Kenny Rogers

When I was in college, my roommate graciously agreed to let me use my Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits CD as our alarm clock music. Every morning we woke up to "Lucille," "Ruby," "Coward of the County," and arguably Rogers' most iconic tune, "The Gambler." While Rogers isn't responsible for writing "The Gambler," he brought it to life in a way that makes me feel like he believes every word of the song is true. 

Today, while driving home from work, "The Gambler" was playing on the radio and I felt overcome with emotions. Roll your eyes all you want, but that song kills me every time. 

This got me thinking. There are really only two kinds of people in the world. One is those who recognize "The Gambler" for the brilliant pearls of wisdom it imparts on so many levels, that are relevant across all cultures, across all demographics, and all eras of time. Then there are those people who think it's just a song. 

Lately, I've been doing some meditating. Don't laugh. After years of hearing about its positive effects on people who have difficulties juggling stress and anxiety, I finally decided I would give it a try. 

To be perfectly honest, I have always thought meditation was all a hoax. I mean, the idea of sitting quietly in the midst of a hectic day sounds heavenly, but what does it really do for you? 

Not knowing where to start on my own, I downloaded a meditation app on my smartphone called Headspace. The free version of the app gives you a short series of daily meditations and even though I'm only a few days in, I feel like some of it is working. 

One of the things that has stuck out to me so far is how the guided meditation tells you to let go of your thoughts. It actually gave the illustration of sitting on the side of a road and watching the traffic go by. Seeing each passing car as a thought, coming into frame and then moving along on its way. 

This feels like a new approach because I guess we're prone to want to jump in there and take control. I know I am. But apparently what's really better for us is if we can sit back and let the flow happen. 

In some ways this flies in the face of what I was taught to believe as a child. I remember reading the Bible verse that said you should take every thought captive. That paints quite a picture doesn't it? This idea that your thoughts are all running around on the loose and it's your job to hunt them down and capture them and somehow keep them all in your possession. 

But this illustration from the meditation app sort of makes it seem like your thoughts are flowing and it's not your job to capture's your job to let them pass by. 

The irony is Kenny Rogers in all his wrinkle-free glory is probably somewhere at a meditation retreat right now. He gets it. Why can't we? 

You've got to know when to hold 'em. 

What does that mean to you? First, I think you have to consider what you're holding. I've held onto some things which have served me well over the years. Certain beliefs I can draw strength from in times of trouble. Feeling like I'm part of something much bigger than myself. People who will stand by me, who love me no matter what. 

Know when to fold 'em. 

Folding in a card game means you've looked at your cards and you've assessed the situation and decided it's not worth going forward with the hand. You haven't yet left the table but you're out for now. 

Some folks might say we don't fold nearly enough...taking on too many things that aren't really suited for us. Others might believe we need to take more risks with our little cushy lives. You get to decide for yourself what's right for you. 

Know when to walk away. 

Then there's walking away. Walking away is a peaceful way of ending something. Things didn't get so bad but it's not working for you. Thus, it was time for you to go in a different direction. 

If you have found yourself in a situation like this at present, I give you permission to walk away. Seriously. 

Know when to run. 

And what about when to run? What things in your life have you run from? I know for me there have been plenty. What's more, there were plenty of other things I should have run from and I didn't. We always pay for those dearly. 

When Kenny says you never count your money while you're sitting at the table, I take this to mean the table is where the work is happening and counting the money is sort of like celebrating prematurely. The work's not done so it isn't time to count the money just yet.You'll get to count up your spoils and celebrate but maybe now isn't the best time.

He goes on to say that the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep. This could apply to so many things in our lives. In my case lately, it applies to my thoughts. In reference to that idea of meditation as allowing your thoughts to flow by, I've been trying to figure out what to throw away and what to keep.

Negative, harmful thoughts about myself that keep me stuck in a mindset that doesn't serve me...I'm pitching those straight into the garbage.

Hopeful thoughts, ones that feel light as air, with the soft fragrance of possibility surrounding them...those are the ones I'm working to keep.

The only part of the song I don't actually agree with is the part about dying in your sleep. That's not the best we can hope for. I believe we can hope for so much more than that.