I was sitting with my feet in the water on the edge of Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona.
The water looked like glass, the reflection of the trees standing above shown as a pristine mirror image. I wondered if I had ever seen a creek so still. Then by sheer unconsciousness, I flicked one of my toes underneath the water. It was ever so slight, but this small vibration changed the entire creek in a split second. Just imagine, one slight movement of my toe altered the tranquility of the water. The ripple became mighty and grew wide. I watched those waves travel across the creek until I couldn’t follow them anymore.
The concept of the ripple effect, this idea that our thoughts, words and deeds can have a far-reaching effect is likely not a new idea to any of us. Yet, have you ever actually sat and thought about the depth of this idea?
Recently I learned some history about Julian of Norwich who had been a medieval mystic living in the 14th century. She lived as an anchoress, one who lives a strict religious life. During a near-death experience she had sixteen visions; she called them the revelations of divine love and wrote a book about them. You may have never heard much about Julian of Norwich, if anything.
On the other hand, it is likely that you have heard of Florence Nightingale, “The Lady with the Lamp.” She is the woman who made way for the modern nursing profession and changed the course of public health by following her calling and passion. Her brilliance and ambition were unmatched and her written work, Notes on Hospitals and Notes on Nursing, revolutionized health care. The reason nursing came to be viewed as a respectable profession is because of the courage of Nightingale. As it turns out, the writings of Julian of Norwich had great influence on Florence Nightingale. What a ripple!
How many positive world changers in history have stood on the shoulders of an equally great predecessor? We may not always see how the ripple reaches, yet, we know it does.
How about these miraculous bodies we live in? Human beings are a ripple of energy. How does our heart know to pump and lungs continue to breathe us to life? What an incredible ripple of electrical impulses that stimulate this magical machine we call a body! Everything we do, feel, embrace, think and hear is a result of an electrical impulse that the brain interprets.
What a ripple of intelligence beyond our comprehension!
Our personal ripple effect has power beyond what we often give credit for. We may have heard some version of this story. The angry customer yells at the salesperson that goes home and rants at her husband who then rages at the child who eventually kicks the dog. What a ripple of pain and discontent.
Mother Theresa so eloquently said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” I tend to think that when she made this statement she was not referring to the pain ripple, but rather, the ripple of life-giving energy. Yet, it’s true. We create ripples in each moment. Our ripples can add to pain and suffering in the world or empower love, peace and harmony.
Have you ever actually watched a ripple you created, perhaps tossing a pebble into a lake?
When considering this image, we can see how even a thought can cause a ripple. I once heard a tale about a man who was walking to a neighbor’s house to ask a favor. On the way, he had worked himself into a negative frenzy by considering all the ways the neighbor might reject his request. By the time the neighbor opened the front door, the upset man shouted, “I don’t need your help anyway!”
There’s a ripple in how we speak to someone, how we think upon a situation and, of course, how we decide to act in any given circumstance.
I once brought a meal, baby gifts and some TLC to a new mother who I had heard was living far from her home country. You can imagine my surprise when five years later she greeted me at the door of my new home in an entirely different state to thank me for the kindness I shared with her years prior! To be honest, I had forgotten the event, but she hadn’t.
We can empower our lives by asking ourselves what ripples we are creating each day. We create ripples with our written and verbal words, attitude, beliefs, thoughts, feelings, body language, actions and reactions.
I think the mystic philosopher of ancient China, Lao Tzu, paints a clear picture of how this ripple can look in our lives.
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
May our thoughts words and actions create ripples of joy, peace and harmony.