The Best Laid Plans: Celebrating Joy on the Path March 29, 2021 13:26



 sunrise through bare trees

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 Years ago, long before I practiced meditation on a daily basis, I used to worry when things went according to plan, which seems like a silly thing to do, now that I look back. However, I was convinced that something was bound to go wrong, or that an unexpected glitch would send everything crashing to the ground.

A regular meditation practice has taught me that planning is useful, but being attached to the plans is not so good. Circumstances can shift at a moment's notice, and priorities can turn on a dime. Besides, it's rare for things to go exactly as planned.

This past Sunday, my son-in-law arranged for several family members and friends to meet at a local park. It was a surprise adventure for my daughter. He was planning to formally propose, and he wanted all of us to be there to witness it and celebrate.

Technically, Elise and Christopher are already married. They had an intimate garden wedding last June at our home. However, because of COVID restrictions, they wanted to have a more formal ceremony later this year in order to celebrate with more family members and friends.

Christopher scoped out the best trail in the park, and he arranged for various couples and family clusters to spread out and "hide" on the path. Each person was given a flower to hold.

The plan was for Elise and Christopher to walk along the trail together and "happen to encounter" various friends and family along the way. They would give her their flowers, chat briefly, and Elise and Christopher would continue on the path.  By the end of the trail, Christopher's parents, Jim, and I  would be waiting to greet them both with a beautiful vase full of flowers. At this point, Christopher would kneel down and pop the question.

He even arranged for friends to stop by their house and pick up Kevin, their dog. Kevin would be carrying a flower, too (a squeaky toy version) and he'd be wearing a sign around his neck that read "Will U Marry Dad?"

Keep in mind, nearly 30 people were invited to participate in this event, and some friends were traveling several hours in order to attend. It's springtime in Indiana, which means we could have a torrential downpour, a tornado, or a blizzard all in the same week. So, what could possibly go wrong? 

Well, fortunately, the weather turned out to be absolutely beautiful. We had had a significant rain the day before, but the trails were dry, and a 60 degree day with full sun is about as good as it gets this time of year. 

Most everyone arrived at the park on time. We had plenty of time to spread out along the trail to wait for Elise and Christopher to arrive.

Other hikers paused and asked about our flowers. We let them in on our family plan.

The only hiccup, really, was a garter snake who surprised Christopher's mom while she was sitting on a fallen log, but that wasn't a big deal. No human or snake was harmed in this surprise encounter.

We were all on the path together, and we were all here for a common purpose, to support each other and celebrate this day with Elise and Christopher.

From the woods, we could see their car pull into the crowded parking lot, and we watched as they made their way to the head of the trail.

We could hear their voices mingling with those of friends and family, their laughter ringing through the branches.

At the end of the trail, friends and family gathered under an archway. Kevin, wearing his sign, sauntered behind Christopher, who knelt into soft soil and proposed. 

It was a beautiful moment, and everything fell into place in order for it to happen.

Afterwards, we gathered at Christopher's parents' home for a barbeque and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

It's been my experience that intention has a lot to do with the success or failure of a scheduled event or plan. It's certainly not the only factor, but I tend to find that if the intentions are positive, the outcomes will be, too.

Another necessary component is having a relaxed, flexible mindset. We did not have any rigid taskmasters in our group, thank goodness. Nothing saps the good vibes out of a fun surprise more than an anal-retentive group leader or project manager who insists on a specific time table or arbitrary rules. Christopher had created a clear plan, he shared the general instructions with everyone involved, he made arrangements in advance with a florist and with friends to pick up Kevin, and then he left it up to all of us to do our part. He was relaxed and committed to making this a special day for Elise.

Finally, not worrying about "what ifs," "glitches," and "worst case scenarios" is important as well. These only muck up plans and create unnecessary anxiety for the participants, especially worrying about things that are not in your control (like the weather, for instance).

Plans are important and necessary. They offer a bit of structure and organization to our lives, and they give us things to look forward to. Celebration and joy are equally important. They add meaning to our lives and give us an opportunity to share that meaning with others. Being flexible, relaxed, and having clear, rock-solid intentions not only benefit a personal meditation practice, but they can also help us implement and enjoy our plans and goals.  

This planned surprise proposal was a success for everyone involved, especially for Elise and Christopher. 


Be sure to check out the Middle Moon Malas online shop for one-of-a-kind mala designs to support and nourish your own personal meditation practice. Spring is a time for renewal, and renewing your practice with a new mala is cause for celebration and joy!