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On Sunday mornings about 10 AM I am walking a labyrinth (lat/lon 44.05095-121.36225) a short walk below the Unitarian Universalist church, which begins its meetings at 10:30. Usually, I am alone with my thoughts while taking the walk and I have a personal procedure for doing these meditative walks. A labyrinth in Bend OregonI pause for a moment at the entrance and formulate something I want to think about for a few minutes and then I ask myself for permission to enter the step up to the level of the stones and walk the approximately 276 steps around the labyrinth. Lately, I have been relating to the stones themselves and thanking the many unknown and now unknowable people who have brought a stone. I say unknowable because I have brought a stone every Sunday for two years, about 100 stones in all, and after a few weeks have forgotten which ones I brought of the approximately two thousand stones that make up the labyrinth. Some people’s stones are easily identified, and some are even marked with a human symbol of some sort. There are about one thousand stones in the inner matrix and almost that many surrounding those to form the complex figure.

Yesterday, the idea was to practice paying more attention to the needs of other people, and to cultivate that as a habit I imagined the stones were sentient and spoke to them with the words “How may I help you?” Obviously, the stones responded to my words in that mute way that is so characteristic of nonsentient stones, silence. But the exercise continued with me observing the next stone along the path that came to my eye and then looking at it carefully for a few steps as I approached and then saying those words, “How may I help you?,” when about two steps away where I could see it clearly. I then looked at it carefully and observed as many of its unique qualities as possible in the few seconds that it was near.

That procedure was repeated about thirty times going into the center and about thirty more times coming out. Each stone is uniquely shaped and many are covered with spectacular colors, textures, and mosses. This time, in addition to those details, they were about half covered with frost, which emphasized those patterns.

My experience over the next two hours was that I was noticeably more attentive to the people I encountered. I never said the words “How may I help you?” to anyone, but I could feel it latent and I was watching for other people’s needs and responding to them more easily.

Anyone can do this experiment just walking down a street and saying, or just thinking, “How may I help you?”

By being more aware of helping other beings with their needs you become more aware of your own needs and what you need to do.