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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

I just saw a couple of tiny ants scouting my house to see if it’d be a good place to forage. I also saw I had a grain of rice, which I picked up and threw away so they wouldn’t report back to send more scouts. They may just be ants, but I would rather they stick to areas where they wouldn’t come to harm as I clean my kitchen.

I’m thinking of how much food one grain of rice would be for ants that size. It makes me think of how far a lot of things in my life would go for other people… or animals or insects! I’m realizing they could take me farther as well, so long as I stop to make good use of them.

It also occurs to me that things I am picturing as a really big deal probably don’t loom so large for those who are already experiencing them. Some things to let settled into my head as I settle it down to sleep.

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Today’s moment of zen was stopping to observe my lunch. I had a couple of leftover gluten free wraps that had gotten a bit dry, so I toasted them a bit so they were crispy. I had grabbed leftover refried beans from dinner, and mixed in some nutritional yeast and green jalapeno hot sauce for some flavor. It was what I had available.

I paused to note that it really didn’t look like much of a lunch. I tried it though, found it was sort of interesting, and decided to enjoy it. In the end, it turned out to be a nice change of pace that left me in a good mood.

And nourished!

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I’m working at home this morning, and I turned to my home computer and saw where I had started a post last night before falling asleep. I’m not sure anymore what I was going to say.

I’m sitting here with a young puppy whining and barking to play some more, a sun conure squawking about how he wants to play too, and a fussy toddler leaning on me because he’s glad his mommy’s home and he wants attention.  All while trying to figure out how to arrange numbers on a spreadsheet so they help me pinpoint details in a nebulously vague issue.

Within all of this, the moment strikes me as part of a truly beautiful life. Every single annoyance is just one little part of something or someone for which I am truly grateful.

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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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