Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

I’ve been looking back into the past and noting all of the days that I could have done more with, and opportunities I sort of wish I’d pursued better.

Then I realized the significantly more numerous days that were pretty good, or even flat-out fantastic. And I remember all of the opportunities I did go after, and how they taught me that I can’t always tell where they’ll lead me. I also remember the ones that really didn’t work out for me, and how grateful I am now that I can see how far they’d have led me toward a life nowhere near as good as the one I now have.

Just wanted to share.

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One of our Commander Brain’s traits is that it likes to pretend that all of its frameworks and ideas are original observations based on an objective view of the facts before us. It can be trained otherwise, of course, but this self-referential bias is pretty common.

The difficulty with this is that unless we can dispassionately explore the roots and origins of our perspectives, we’ll be held hostage by hidden biases and subtext. So long as we leave them in the dark, these strings from our past can dance us like puppets based on judgments we never consciously made. And when we might otherwise see things in a new way and develop a stronger point of view, we might over-rely on these pre-judgments because we don’t know their foundations lay outside ourselves. What we don’t know about what we think we know will cause us to mislead ourselves.

As a bit of a test, I might suggest watching for something to come up over the next few days where you catch yourself in a mental habit. See if you can trace back the earliest time you felt a similar impulse or feeling, as clues to where it originated. Find out whether you can clearly define where the idea was first encountered, and who or what presented it to you. If it was hinted at by someone else, see if perhaps you can sense what prompted it for them, and what relationship that has to your current situation.

Of course, sometimes these “hidden origins” can come up out of the blue as an innocuous surprise. Not long ago, I was putting together some thoughts about Buddhism for someone, and came across something I hadn’t read before.

I have this habit of trying to finish every grain of rice when I’m eating a meal with rice, or otherwise “clean my plate”. However, I think of it most with regards to rice, with the impulse to eat each bit out of respect for the food and all who had worked to make it possible.

It wasn’t a fully conscious thought, but when I did think of it, I thought perhaps it had originated from my abhorrence of waste. Also, I do have a feeling that food is a sacred link in the chain of life, so it’s important to be conscious of it and give thanks. But then I came across someone writing about her Japanese mother having told her that seven gods of fortune live in rice, and it would insult them to leave a grain uneaten. I then read of a Filipino mother telling her child that leaving rice uneaten would make God angry, and then of Chinese and Vietnamese grandparents warning that their child would marry a bad and ugly person if they left any rice…

Where did this habit of mine come from, I now wonder? I think I must have heard it somewhere, perhaps while reading a text on Buddhism, or perhaps at the Hare Krishna temple I used to visit for meal-sharing, decades ago. I am searching for a clear memory and not quite finding it.

Doing this search, though, has given me a fresh chance to examine this habit of mine, and decide whether it’s worth keeping. While I’m not as obsessive-compulsive about it as I once was, I do still feel a strong desire to make good use of the food I am blessed to receive. I do want to keep habits that help me remember to be grateful, and do my best to honor these gifts. Now that I’m aware there’s a lot more to that one little habit of eating every grain of rice, it makes me even more aware of this practice and its importance to me.

That’s the upside to examining the roots of our feelings and beliefs: we don’t just get to improve on the ones that don’t serve us. We also develop a deeper sense of meaning in the ones that do, helping them serve us better.

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I was talking with someone about something she really hopes comes through the way she’s wished. She has so very many plans contingent on this one thing, that she just doesn’t know what she’d do if it doesn’t work out that way.

Goodness, do I know that feeling. I also remember all the times things absolutely seemed like they were on the verge of working out exactly how I had hoped-wished-dreamed-begged them to. I remember that anxiety, that hope, that trepidation…

And I remember the utter frustration and varying degrees of “negativity” when they failed to come through.

But a funny thing has happened over the past couple of decades: I have found myself living a fantastic life, that I wouldn’t have had if those other dreams had worked out. I’ve gotten here down a series of steps I wouldn’t have thought to wish for, but I’ve taken leaps of faith in following.

So my advice was to hold onto the hopes, certainly! Beyond that though, I’ve found it’s helpful to have some faith in your life for delivering what you really need to find happiness and success on your path. We don’t have all the information, and we don’t have all the answers. This means we don’t really know whether our happiest, most successful life lies down one particular path, or another.

In times like those, I’ve been trying to practice being grateful to my Inner Self for helping me navigate my way through. I’ve tried to be grateful for the great times that we’re working to create together, and the support I need when they aren’t going so great. I’ve found holding the gratitude in the present moment has helped me receive more to be grateful for in the moments that followed.

Not to say I always succeed in holding that gratitude, but I feel it’s important to practice feeling what it feels like. That way, it’s that much easier to find again when it’s needed most.

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My moment of intentional zen today was while commuting to and from work. I tried to keep from slipping into the autopilot that is common with commuting, for a start. I then tried to slip out of the autopilot that is just part of daily life in general.

I watched the sky as it got brighter, appreciating the colors around me. I admired the trees, and breathed in the sunlight. I felt a deep appreciation for the world and life I enjoy, even if it does involve having to get up in the morning and commute in to work.

This appreciation helped me connect more fully to the start of my day. I figure, to be truly grateful, I need to begin with actively experiencing the gifts I’ve been given. Through this engagement with these gifts of life, I’m feeling more able to share them.

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There’s been someone I interact with on a mildly regular basis, and we get along fairly well as a rule.  In the past while though, he’s started to develop this bad habit in dealing with me that has started to get under my skin.  I’ve been doing pretty well in not taking it TOO personally, since I know it’s not just me he does this with.  I haven’t been succeeding completely, though.

Today, I caught myself thinking and feeling the same type of thoughts and feelings that are implied in the way he’d been behaving.  I didn’t act on them or verbalize them, thankfully.  But I had them.  And this made me stop to think further.

I’ve read that we tend to attract or observe in our lives the sorts of things that are reflected within us.  And if that’s true, it would probably vary whether it started “outside” or “inside” ourselves… and it probably wouldn’t matter.  If “THEY started it!” isn’t exactly the best defense for one’s own bad behavior, then it doesn’t sound like a great excuse for one’s own bad thoughts or feelings.  Not when they are left untreated, and therefore become habitual.

So I decided to try to treat myself for symptoms of judgmentalism with regards to this subject.  (Being human, that’s something I keep revisiting, so I try to take each flavor of it as I’m ready.)  I decided to take a breath, take a step back, and put what had annoyed me into perspective.  I’m helping my Commander Brain recognize that it’s not in control of how this other person treats me, and that this one recent habit is still very minor in light of our overall positive interactions.  I’m also reminding us that this thing that triggered our judgmentalism is truly no big deal, and extremely fixable with some patience and effort on the part of Analytical Brain and Problem-Solving Subconscious.

Writing about this is helping, as well.  My Commander Brain still sort of resists being called out like this, but we’re both recognizing this is describing a process in effort to give a decent example for others who are going through something similar.  As Commander Brain recognizes that absolute perfection isn’t expected of it, it becomes more open to accepting where it falls short, so that it may embrace the steps toward becoming stronger and more sure-footed.

Thank you for joining me in this step on my journey.  If I hadn’t committed to coming and writing each day I’m able, I likely wouldn’t have tried to come up with something to write about.   Without sitting down to communicate this thing I’m working on, resolving it would have been much harder.

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I find myself wanting to write about gratitude, and am trying to think of what I want to say about it.  Gratitude has become such a daily habit for me, I recognize it as a crucial part of my life.  In fact, I think I’ll write about how that came to be.

A while ago I read about the importance of a “gratitude practice”, in which we take moments throughout the day to feel grateful toward something or someone.  It really struck me because it wasn’t talking about gratitude the way I usually heard of it: you know, something that was expected of us.  Instead, it spoke of gratitude as a gift we give to ourselves, to enrich our own experience of life and those around us.

The deeper meaning of gratitude isn’t just to fulfill an obligation to recognize the blessings in our life.  Rather, it’s to more fully allow them to BE in our life.  By opening our hearts in gratitude, we open the space to receive more fully.  We do more than repay the kindness with that lightspark of gratefulness; we create room in our hearts to take in more.

There’s a harmonization that occurs within a grateful heart.  We complete that link within ourselves that connects us to a higher, more receptive resonance.  That’s why it’s important to pause even within the most frustrating or painful experiences and find a way to be grateful — not for the event itself necessarily, but for being blessed with what you need to endure and overcome, and maybe for what you will have learned and gained for having done so.  Does that make sense?  By finding a way to open a space of gratitude in our heart, we receive more of what it is that we need.

And that leads to the flipside of gratitude as well: the willingness to share wisely and well.  If we are to keep the flow open to receive, we must give what is needed of us (and we can wisely spare) to others.  This does two things.  First, it gives others the opportunity to connect with us through gratitude, opening their hearts as well.  Second, as we complete this connection of gratitude, we open ourselves to receive more so we have more to share.  It’s a full circle, one that keeps itself turning one we learn to get it going inside us.

Exploring that perspective truly has enriched my life, and yes, I’m grateful for that!  I’m also grateful for the opportunity to share this with you.  May it open something inside you that will help you enrich the lives of others, as well.

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Things I’m thankful for:

  1. Massachusetts has elected their first female senator, Elizabeth Warren
  2. Thanks to Wisconsin, the United States of America has elected our first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin, who is also Wisconsin’s first female senator
  3. Maine and Maryland are the first states to affirm by popular vote the right of two people to marry whom they loved, regardless of gender
  4. Minnesota is the first state to reject by popular vote an attempt to deny that right as an amendment to the state constitution
  5. Colorado and Washington are the first states to legalize marijuana with strict regulations, taking us one step closer toward ending the failed War on Drugs and gutting the support pillars of the deadly Mexican cartels
  6. Maryland also upheld a law allowing in-state college tuition for children whose in-state high school attendance and parents’ in-state tax-paying qualifications, even if they weren’t documented immigrants

There’s so much more, to be sure, but these are my top six right now.  I have a very positive and loving view of human nature, and a faith in one another that’s reaffirmed by trends such as these.  The more we’re getting to know the stories of the diverse people around us, the more we’re coming together.

That’s all I have time for, but wanted to share.  Take care!

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I’ve been thinking about writing a whole lot more than I’ve actually found the time for.  You know how crazy things have been lately, with time seeming to speed up while the task list just keeps getting longer.  That’s why I wanted to sit down to let you know how very much you mean to me.  You’re a beautiful, strong person, and I want the very best for you, always.

I know things haven’t always been going the best for you lately, but hopefully things have been looking more up than down.  Yeah, I know there’s things you’d hoped to be doing better on, but I also know you’ve been doing your best, given where you’ve been at.  It may not always feel that way, since you know you can do so much better — I know I can, at any rate.  But the way to get to that better place isn’t to beat yourself up over what you’ve done wrong.  What it takes is remembering what you’ve done right, and work out how to do more of that.

We’re coming into the wrap-up phase of this year, and I know we can use this time to get our goals synched up a little better with our realities.  The trick will be to figure out where we’ve been spinning our wheels and letting ourselves get off track.  It’s not that we need to work harder, it’s that we need to let go of things that are taking our time and energy away from where we really need to focus.  Relax and recuperate, sure, but things that are just fidgeting or, worse, making us fret or fuss, those are what we need to learn to let go of.

Anyway, I’m rambling again.  I just want to make sure you know how very important you are, and how much you’re capable of.  I sincerely believe in you, and I’m here if you need an ear or a shoulder, or even just a cheerleader.  I don’t care if we’ve never even met, you mean a lot to me.  You’re a fellow human being and that makes you family, and I love you, dearly.

So take care, and do something nice for yourself today.  And if you get the chance to make someone smile, give it a shot, so you can share in a little more happiness in this world.  You definitely deserve it.

Much love,


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So today marks the first official day of my week-long vacation.  I’m staying in town, so it feels “just like another Saturday”, and I’m wondering whether I’m sufficiently enjoying the day, seeing as it is “First Day of Vacation”.

So I’m taking a moment to breathe.  I’m noticing that this is the first truly sunny day we’ve had in a while.  My son is in a handful-but-joyous mood.  I’m feeling fairly rested.  I just pulled a freshly baked loaf of bread out to cool.

Gosh, this is a wonderful day.

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The most important lesson of my most recent cocooning is the deep and powerful importance of getting enough sleep.  And I mean restful, truly sufficient sleep.

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson through not always getting it.

Now, the first step in getting enough sleep is the one I too-often skipped: making sure I was going to bed at a decent time each night, early enough that I would be assured about eight hours before I had to start waking up.  Okay, so there’s been times I’ve needed more than that, but I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t even giving myself eight consistently.  That was wrong.

Now the second step is actually being able to get to sleep.  This has been a lifelong problem for me, and it took me a minimum of an hour to get to sleep, usually up to two.  In fact, no matter what trick or tip I followed I just couldn’t get my mind to settle down and let me sleep.  That is, until I put together a certain meditation as an extra credit project for a class once.  Since I don’t think I’ve shared it before, here it is:

I get myself all ready for bed, tuck myself in, and close my eyes.  As I take a deep breath I count “Ten”, and imagine relaxation creeping up through my toes and through my feet.  As I exhale, the tension flows out, allowing the relaxation to creep further up to my knees.  I deeply breathe in “Nine”, and the relaxation creeps up my legs, and with the exhale it encompasses up to my waist.  Breathing in “Eight”, the relaxation comes up to my torso, and breathing out brings it to my shoulders.  Breathing in “Seven” encompasses my shoulders in relaxation, which spreads down through my arms and fingertips as I breathe out.  I then breathe in “Six”, and the relaxation moves up through my neck, filling and spilling out the top of my head as I breathe out.

Breathing in “Five”, I feel myself being carried through the energies of relaxation toward a soothing, starlit darkness, leading me toward somewhere special.  The inbreath of “Four” brings me into view of a space that I find very tranquil, and peaceful, and save.  With “Three” I am entering this space, feeling its welcoming embrace surround me.  Breathing in “Two”, I settle down into it, and with “One”, I am fully present within this sanctuary.

Breathing in and out this soothing air, I see glowing helpers coming toward me.  They could be angels or faeries or lockboxes or even shining spheres – whatever it is that I feel to be good caretakers of precious things.  One of them pauses before me, waiting to accept something from me.  I take the thought that’s foremost in my mind, and place it into their expert care.  I ask them to please be a good caretaker of this very important thought, and to work on it while I sleep.  They take it and move away to do their work, making room for the next one who takes my next thought, and so on, and so forth.  Sometimes I organize them one by one, and sometimes I just dump the tangle thought-mess into the box and let the caretakers sort them out.

What this does is re-assures all the many worries and concerns and hopes and fears that keep me awake… it reassures them that I recognize their importance.  I understand and appreciate that I can’t just shove them out of my head, and I make sure that they’re being taken good care of while I get much, much-needed sleep.  And if I find myself thinking other thoughts, I let a caretaker come up to receive it, then let it move on.

If I don’t fall asleep before I run out of thoughts, I take my empty mind and replay a song that I find soothing, over and over in my mind.  When I find my mind drifting I let the thought go and get back to the song.  When the lyrics start getting goofy and nonsense, I know I’m on the path to sleep.

When I awake in the morning, when I remember to, I ask the caretakers to please bring me back any thoughts or concerns that are ready for me to take up again, and that I’m ready to work with.  Any and all answers and resolutions are picked up with gratitude, and things that need to be worked on longer in my subconscious I let stay with the caretakers.  (And I do sometimes get really good answers, either immediately or during the day!)

I then breathe from one to five, drifting away from the space and back to the waking world.  I then breathe in “Six” to bring energetic wakefulness in through my toes, all the way up through to my head while breathing “One”.  Then I’m more alert, rested, and ready to face my day!

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