Tag Archives: gratitude

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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Hurricane.

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Ever since I was a child, I remember being fascinated by the weather. I would do projects in grade school that focused on weather maps and weather patterns. I would get scared and intrigued by the way that Mother Nature could be calm and beautiful one minute, and mighty and destructive the next. I had fears of high wind, mainly tornadoes, and although I didn’t live in an area of the country where such incidents were common, I was scared, just the same. Same with hurricanes; not common, but the intensity of them would stir up fear in me.

 

One of the most fascinating things to me about a hurricane is the eye of the storm. On the outer perimeter, a hurricane is fierce, in wind, rain and destruction. Hurricanes change communities sometimes forever, by the intensity of them and the impact of that intensity. Yet, in the center of it all, there is a calm, peaceful spot where none of that turmoil is seen. It is really amazing.

 

This morning, I started thinking about storms such as hurricanes, but not in terms of an upcoming weather pattern. I was thinking about the hurricanes of times that I encounter in my life. I feel grateful that I don’t experience upheaval or destruction in my world very often. My life feels very grounded, peaceful, and going in the direction that I really most want to go. Yet, I have times when it feels like life and circumstances are swirling around me. I feel overwhelmed, tired, frustrated, hopeless, and small. I feel like the wind is blowing and the rains are falling, and I am without shelter or reprieve.

 

The most helpful thing for me in those times, is to remember my own, internal, eye of the storm. I have within me, as all of us do, a peaceful center. A core essence of being that is always available to me. ALWAYS and in ALL WAYS. It is my peace; my soul; my true nature. When I am swept up in the currents of storms that may be occurring outside of myself, I at times forget that the eye is always at my disposal. However, when I do remember this, which I always do, it is a great sigh of relief to come back to that center. To breathe deeply, consciously and presently. To remember that no matter what is happening outside of me, I can always rely on what lives in me.

 

Even though it feels simple and small, that eye of peace is strong and powerful. It creates for me, or brings me back to, that sense of knowing, of having my feet firmly planted. No wind or force can uproot me when I am coming from that place of pure peace, pure knowing. I am so grateful, each and every day, that I understand and know what really exists in me. So that I can call upon it whenever I most want or need to do so.  It is nothing short of a blessing.

 

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Sea of Change.

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My life has been a series of deep changes in the last few months. In the areas of my work, my play, my family, and my home, changes have been everywhere. And, for most of my life, I have made a determination in my mind and my heart of whether a change was good, or bad. Hardly ever have I encountered a change about which I felt completely neutral.

 

There are many reasons of why I feel a sense of judgment about change occurring in my world. One reason is that I believe that if things change, then what I previously believed about a relationship was an illusion or a lie; that if that person no longer speaks to me or is in my life, that maybe all along they didn’t really care about me. If the circumstances of my job change, I immediately feel like maybe this isn’t the right position for me, or I feel betrayed in some way that change has occurred. If a change happens that I label as positive, it is always because things have turned out the way that I wanted in some form. 

 

The main reason that I would ever feel upset or concerned about a change that happens in my life is simply fear:  being afraid for a new circumstance to come in. Afraid of what is going to occur next. Fear of the unknown. When I am coming from fear, it almost certainly means that I am resisting what will come whether I embrace it or not. I want things to stay the same, because in sameness, it seems like there is safety, security, familiarity.  I want my world to stay as it is in those moments.

 

However, whether I want it to occur or not, changes do come in my world, on a daily basis. I am in my little vessel on the ocean of life, floating along, and the ocean doesn’t stay constant. If you spend any time on the coast, the only thing certain about the waves and sea is that it is constantly changing. The tides, the size of the waves, and color and texture of the ocean, is always in motion. It never stops. 

 

When I live my life in the past, through memory, regret or sentimental feeling, then any new circumstance or information that comes in that challenges that feels threatening to me. When I live in the future, in anticipation of what I want to happen, or am planning in my mind, when those plans get changed, I feel threatened and unappreciated or unheard. It may all sound very dramatic, but this is what occurs when I am not living presently, and I judge what happens around me as either good, or bad. 

 

The truth is, I will always be riding the ocean of life, always navigating my way through a sea of constant change. Life is ever changing; that cannot be disputed. How those changes impact me, or don’t, is always my choice, my intent. If I live my life as fully in the present moment as possible, watching life as if it were a movie, and understanding that change occurs whether I want it to or not, then I can be neutral about change. I can embrace that life, in all of its wonder and unique manifestations, can just be something that I watch unfold, and see the opportunities for learning and growth with every change in the waves. I can choose gratitude for every experience, no matter what comes my way.

 

Change comes to each one of us. We can enjoy the ride or curse the tide. I want to secure as much joy and peace as possible while I am on this voyage, so I choose this moment, as often as I can remember. 

 

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Looking Up.

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The autumn is settling in here in our home in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  There is a chill in the air that lingers past noon; and then the warmth of the sun penetrates the cold and fills me up.  I love being outdoors much of the time, but Fall is one of my favorite times.  An extra layer, a hat, and feeling cozy.  I really enjoy and appreciate the change of the season.

 

I have been appreciating a lot of change in my life lately.  As a writer, and as a lover of other people’s writing, I would often, in the past, want my writing to primarily be relatable to others, and so would be what I would write.  I would also relate closely to what others would writer, so when I read other writers’ blogs, I would tend to follow the ones that spoke to me in some direct way, either through their experiences, or feelings about those experiences.  Reminding me of something in my own life, perhaps. 

 

Yet lately, I have been sensing a change, a change in perspective, over the last couple of weeks in particular.  As I have been appreciating and embracing my own, unique writer’s voice more deeply, I have had a more genuine appreciation for all of the unique writers’ voices that I have been reading.  I have expanded my willingness to see life from a variety of perspectives.  This has opened up to me to the realization, thank goodness, of every person’s story being of worth and purpose.  It has reminded me that it is always refreshing, and fun, to see things from a new perspective.  

 

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I’ve been so afraid of that in my life at times, to see a different point of view.  I mean, if I look at the world in a different way than I have before, won’t something go wrong?  Doesn’t that dismiss anything that I have believed before?  I understand now that the answers to my fearful questions is no, and that I am ready to appreciate, and celebrate, all of the unique manifestations of our Universal selves, in all their varied forms.  And, looking at something from a different perspective isn’t a dismissal of what I already know, nor does it threaten it in any way.  It is just different, plain and simple.

 

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I headed out with my camera yesterday, my other, brilliant instrument of expression, and instead of viewing my world only horizontally, I looked up.  What a brilliant, amazing new perspective!  And, what beauty was waiting there for me.  I only ever need to look at the world, just a bit differently, just change my view ever so slightly, to see the awe and wonder that lives there.  It is astounding.

 

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A State of Grace.

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Most mornings for a few weeks now, myself, and my wife on some days, walk to the lake that is right near our house.  We walk in one mile, and back out and home.  We sit by the water.  We spend time in nature.  It is an amazing way to begin the day for me.

 

As I walk in at the lake, I spend the first mile considering what I am grateful for.  Initially, when I first started this morning ritual, I would make a list in my mind, of all the people, things and circumstances in my life that I have gratitude for.  It enabled me to find gratitude for things in my life that might have felt challenging, or persons in my life that I had conflict with, or thought that I did, at one time or another.  It helped me to more deeply understand that gratitude is not just for the pleasant things, but for each and every thing, event, or circumstance that I find myself in.  Learning and growth comes from every experience.

 

Recently, instead of a list of things to be grateful for, I find myself simply feeling gratitude, being in the presence of that feeling.  To do this for me, means to be completely in the moment; and when my mind wanders, to come back to the present as often as possible.  A state of gratitude is remembering that everything that comes to me is a gift; every moment has something that it is offering to me, has beauty, depth, and value; and that if I am in a state of gratitude, I am able to see the beauty and worth in every moment.

 

Brenda described that to someone yesterday as being in a state of grace.  I have always had a difficult time understanding the concept of grace, and what that really means.  Yet, I believe that I have an understanding now that makes sense to me.  To be in a state of grace, for me, is to be present, and to be prayerful.  I may not be consciously saying prayers as I walk every morning, yet I am certainly aware of the beauty, sounds, and smells all around me, and have deep appreciation for them.  I am aware of nature and all that She offers to me.  I am aware of the strength and beauty of my body as I walk and move.  I am filled with love and compassion for others that are in my life, and beyond.  I feel inspired, blissful, peaceful.

 

I finally understand, that grace means to be present to my world, to all that is around me, and to honor its beauty and worth with my thoughts and presence.  Grace feels like a prayer that doesn’t feel like a prayer in the way that I have previously known, yet in such a more powerful way than I have experienced before.  Grace is Presence.  Presence is Grace.  And when I remember that, I am filled with a peace that I have never known.  

 

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