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What is Gratitude?

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It is not unusual that I would be thinking about, and writing about, Gratitude on this day, Thanksgiving Day, 2018. And, my thoughts and perspectives have changed about both Thanksgiving, and about Gratitude over the years. In a way, it feels somewhat strange to change my perspectives, and in another respect, it is so much more at ease to view both Gratitude, and this holiday, in a new way.

 

During the early years of my life, Thanksgiving most often was spent in Massachusetts, with my father’s family, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There would be more than a dozen of us around the dining room table, and the smaller and younger of us at the kids’ table, which was a folding card table in the television room. No matter where I sat, there was always plenty of food, plenty of laughs, and lots of love. 

 

As I grew older, Thanksgiving changed into various ways of observing; either with my parents at our family’s home; with my partners and their families; and, eventually, with my own nuclear family. In the last few years, the holiday has mostly been spent with myself, my wife, my son, and my wife’s family.  

 

However, this year, we decided to observe it differently; to create more simplicity around it, and to do what we felt most inspired to do. This year, that was to have it be just my wife and myself, cozy in our home, cooking our own turkey, and celebrating our own internal quiet and the quiet nature of the day. That decision, for both of us, has had moments of feeling different, unusual, or like we were doing something wrong; something not expected. However, when we let go of any guilt, expectation, or should thoughts, we are in bliss and enjoying our time together.

 

I have, in addition to these changes, changed my perspective very profoundly around gratitude in the last few years. Although I have never had difficulty finding things to be grateful for in my life, I would limit it to the events, circumstances, and things that felt good; that seemed to enhance my life. And, I was not fully aware of my feelings of gratitude in my every day life. It was almost as if I would wait for gratitude to be worthy of something I was experiencing, and then it would show up. 

 

My practice has deepened to the degree that I now find Gratitude in most everything that I experience, including those times and circumstances that seem most difficult. Actually, those difficult life experiences end up being the things that I am most grateful for. In those moments of heartache, struggle and being gripped by one thing or another, I learn so much about myself, about others, and about what it is that I really want for myself. I am full of Gratitude most in those times, because I am slowly, but surely, setting myself free.

 

Of course, I don’t always remember to be grateful from day to day; and I still bear resentments, judgments, and deep insecurities at times. However, when I remember to choose Gratitude, which is more frequent all the time, I feel a sense of Surrender, Peace, Forgiveness and Love more deeply than I have ever known. And that is my saving grace; that is my freedom. 

 

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Awakening the Bone Wisdom.

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Nine days on the road, 2100 miles driven throughout the south, and I am so grateful to be back home again. The Hug Bug Tour 2018, as it was named prior to our departure, is now in the memory banks, literally and figuratively. Once again, my journeying and experiences have deepened my understanding of who I am, and what I want for myself. What I am truly made of.

I had so many magical moments. Many stories that would easily make for another book. Yet, that isn’t the path this time around for the lessons learned. Since we returned home yesterday, I have been deeply quiet, and in my thoughts about what stands out for this trip. In total, I didn’t exchange that many hugs with strangers. I have no interesting circumstance that would help to explain that; it just didn’t happen. I got tired of being on the road, sleeping in a different place each night and being away from home. 

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But the learning that came my way this time around was unmatched up to this point in my life. I deepened my practice of surrender, of being in the present moment, and of going toward the best feeling state that I can manage at any given time. I had fewer expectations of any outcome, and being more flexible in where I would go, and how I would spend my time. I had fun, and felt so quiet within throughout the trip.

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And the lessons that I learned, or rather, was reminded of, were those that live in my very bones. It is the wisdom that is not bestowed on me from any guru, or book, or way of living. It is the wisdom that I affectionately, today, call Bone Wisdom. That which lives in my marrow, that has been there since the beginning of time, the Wisdom that lives in all of us, yet if you are like me, you go throughout much of your physical life not being aware of it. 

Bone Wisdom came to me in the form of some of the simplest lessons that I have learned yet; simple in their concepts, but complex to put into practice on a daily basis. Yet, I did that on my journey. The two biggest teachings that I came away with, is first, to always trust my guts. I did that on my last trip, toward the end of my stops, and it brought me complete peace and inner knowing to go where I was led. Last week, I did that every day; I spoke truthfully, I followed my intuition of what and where felt best, and the results each day were remarkable. 

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My main take away however, the one that will be on my heart forever more I believe, is that right now, in this moment, I have every thing that I could possibly need, or even desire. I went on this tour, in part because I have a desire to connect with others, and to talk with them about what that means. Yet, I also saw it as a way to have what I don’t everyday- a fun destination, a way to see friends, which are all true things that happened. Yet, I came back with a richer understanding that I am so well cared for, have so much that fulfills and inspires me, that even though I will continue to adventure for the fun of it, I don’t need to in order to find anything. I am not lacking. Nothing is missing. In every moment, through every experience, I have precisely all that I could ever need.

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I believe that I will always feel, in some way, that there is more that I could do, be or achieve in this world. And, I need to constantly remind myself to not always be planning for what must come next for me. Yet, I also more easily understand that in the doing nothing, I have everything that I will ever require. And, I am grateful to have listened to the Bone Wisdom once and for all. 

Hug Bug Tour 2018.

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Sixteen months ago, I went on a journey for ten days, drove more than three thousand miles, and hugged hundreds of people. It was one of the most brilliant adventures of my life. And, now, in one week, I get to do it all over again. Get ready for Hug Bug Tour 2018!

 

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So much has happened in my world since June of 2017. Many changes to many people that I love. Some losses. Some big adjustments. And, some of the most amazing lessons of my life so far. I feel ready, eager, and peaceful about what is going to happen next.  On Saturday, October 20, my wife, Brenda and I, will depart for eight days of adventure, magic, and love. 

 

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The stops are diverse, and I have no idea what is going to happen! Yet, the vision for this trip is the same as my last Hug Bug Tour, but different. What is the same is that I want to connect with as many human beings as I can, through the power of touch. Through the simple gesture of a hug. 

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I also love the adventure of traveling on the open road, seeing new places, having new experiences, and driving for hours with the beauty of nature all around, and finding out what might be coming around the next corner.

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Some parts are different this year. Having my wife with me means that I get to share the meaningful moments along the way with her, in real time. It means she gets to have some great experiences of her own, and we both get to expand out of our familiar comfort zones. I also get to talk about my book, the chronicle of my last Hug Bug Tour; The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection. 41699961_10157758779038136_6910052052219461632_n

I want my lessons from the first Hug Bug tour to be more deep and profound than ever; with my desire to let go of any outcomes. To let people be as they are. To simply shine my light without having to do anything. Except to be a presence. Be my self. Go forward in the world and love deeply. 

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Please, follow me as we depart on our journey, send loving messages our way, cheer us on, cry with us, laugh with us. We carry you with us as well. You know where to find me: 

http://www.thehuggingarmy.org

Facebook: The Hugging Army/Vanessa Leigh White Fernandes

Instagram: vanessaleigh19625653

I Love You. Hug Some One. 

 

Don’t believe your mind.

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I have been studying present moment awareness and other teachings for becoming more conscious of the true self, for a few years now. And, on most days, most of the time, I seem able to remember the skills of what it takes to be where I want to be. To go toward feeling good. However, over the last two days, I have forgotten that truth, and forgotten the knowing that I possess of my true nature, who I really Am. I have been believing the lies of my mind.

 

In the context of presence, and understanding the nature of our true essence, the mind cannot help itself. It is merely a tool of self-propelling ideas, and it is constantly doing its job, generating thought after thought. However, the danger comes in how deeply we want to hold our thoughts as truth. The real truth is, we cannot believe anything, or at least, the vast majority of things that our mind tells us are true. I can identify with this fully and knowingly, especially when I forget.

 

When I forget to not believe the stories of my mind, I think that I am nothing. I believe that I don’t matter, that I am not enough, that there are parts of me that are broken or not okay. I am defensive, hostile, blaming and accusing, all toward myself. When I do find myself blaming others, it is because my ego feels so bruised, inflated and dramatic, that it needs the intensity to feel like it matters. When I get to these places of pain and self loathing, I feel so low that I fantasize about punching myself, doing all that I can to literally self destruct. That is how deep the lie goes, and that is how far that I get from self love.

 

It never lasts long, but when it is around, it feels terrible. And, the thing is, it will hang around until I say to myself what the real truth is, so that it disappears. When I am feeling this insane, it seems like I will never feel better, and as if the whole dramatic story is true. I don’t remember my inner peace, my light, my ability to drop the story at any moment. Gratefully though, I do eventually remember what the truth is.
The truth is, I am Love.

I am Light.

I deserve beauty, joy, and peace.

I can create anything.

When I am in Love, my true essence, anything that I create can only be a thing of beauty.

When I remember the truth, when I stop believing my monkey mind, I see my true essence as if I had never, ever forgotten it. And, I understand that I have the freedom in any moment, through a breath and a conscious awareness, to come back to my essence, my source, in an instant. I never have to be lost for long.

I Know who I Am. 

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Mine stinks, too.

I love that at this time of my life, over half of a century that I have been in this human form, I like to look at myself with deeper eyes. What I mean by that is, I enjoy looking at, and catching myself, at the ways in which I want to either build or maintain my own identity, or see myself as “different” than others. When I say “different”, I typically mean, better than. When I get to catch myself engaging in these subtle but powerful attitudes and behaviors, it is refreshing and relieving.

 

Yet, what I keep discovering, is that the more effective I get at catching myself, the more subtle and illicit the behaviors, ideas, and attitudes become. Because my ever present Ego still wants to exist, it is sneakier and sneakier at how it presents itself. For example, I can feel really good about catching my Ego at what it does, but then, when I become egoic about how much better I am at catching it than someone that I know, that is Ego doing what Eckhart Tolle calls “coming in through the back door”. I am still a human, and a physical body, and I still believe that I exist, just like every other person. And, just because I am in one place about it, and someone else is in a different place does not make me more anything, evolved or otherwise.

 

The best thing that I get to do for myself, and for the world, is to see my own behaviors without making a story around it. Without using it as yet another way to separate myself from others. No matter what loving word I call it- seeing myself in that way out of love, compassion, forgiveness, or self esteem- it is always a way to separate myself from others, and for me, all that does is discourage deeper connection. And, that is not what I want anymore. I want to deepen my connection with myself, and with others, without making it into my identity that then I get to feel good about. I just want to do it, and be present with that, and remember that all of the rest of it is the details of the story that I tell myself or someone else. And, I get to look at it in myself with eyes of love, not condemnation, guilt or judgment.

 

I get to see myself as human, and as a light being, and get to see that Universal aspect in all of us. 

 

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