Tag Archives: peace

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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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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What Love Is.

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For three days, my kitty Joshie, who belonged to my dear Aunt Ruth, went missing. I let him out on a balmy summer evening on Saturday, and he didn’t come back home that night. Or the next night. Or the next. He has stayed out all night once before, but never for three nights in a row. I was frantic. I was sad. I was not ready to never see him again.

 

Of course, I imagined all sorts of terrible things: that he had been hit and killed by a car. That he had been hurt by a wild animal and was wounded and dying in the woods somewhere near our home. That he was ill, and went off to be alone. My mind was wild with stories, and as soon as I would feel a glimmer of hope, that he might just come back home, I would feel a longing for him, and create another tale of worry.

 

Yesterday, I made a commitment to myself: that I would deepen my love and appreciation for him, and all that he brought to my Aunt Ruth’s life, and to our lives in the last eighteen months. What that meant, is that I would be in the present moment, as much as possible, and not focus on the past stories or future predictions that I wanted to create in my head. I wanted to love him, regardless of whether or not he would ever return to us.

 

This morning, as I was walking out of the house for work, he was at the door, as if he had never been gone. He was hungry, dusty, and unscathed. I had no way of knowing where he had been or what had happened, and I didn’t care. But I more deeply understood in those moments after that what love really is to me.

 

Love is letting go- of expectation, of anticipation, of the future and the stories of the past. Love is acceptance, of people and circumstances just as they are, not the way that we want them to be. Love is forgiveness, of ourselves and others, for not being perfect or the way in which we might expect. Love is deep appreciation and gratitude, for all that we have in this very moment. Love is not holding on tightly out of fear or control, and it isn’t meant to be disappointing just if it doesn’t go my way.

 

Love is here, Love is now, Love is available whenever we say yes to it. 

 

It Is that simple. 

 

Teacher/Student, Suffering/Acceptance.

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There has been deep wisdom that I have opened to most recently in my life. Learning that I would no doubt encounter at some point, but the Now is the best time to be learning it. And even though some of the lessons that I am now learning, are in the same form as in the past, the learning is completely transformed at this time. I am finally ready. 

 

The areas that I have been learning in the most are around being a teacher, and a student; and around suffering, and surrender. No matter who you are or what your life circumstances are, I believe that all of these areas are Universal lessons for all humans. For the earliest years of my life, I was formally and informally a student. Before I was conscious of learning, when I was a baby and small child, a slow, deliberate process of domestication brought teaching to me, and although I was initially passive in the learning, I retained all that I was given. As I got older, and was able to be aware of the learning more acutely, I would receive lessons that were part of formal schooling, and seek out additional topics and learning opportunities that were more interesting to me. I have always enjoyed being a formal learner, and would joke that my career would be to go to college forever. College was the breeding ground for special learning it seemed, because I got to choose what courses to take and what interested me. It was a marketplace of choices and topics.

But, around that time, interesting shifts in me began to occur. I began to see myself as full of knowledge, and stopped having the desire to learn, and just wanting to teach. When I got my undergraduate degree, I wanted to start working because I believed I knew all that I needed to in order to be a great social worker. I wanted to teach others all that I had learned, so that I could get on with saving the world. And, I put my formal learning on hold, thinking there was not much left to learn about how to help others. 

Eventually, I did resume some formal learning, and saw how much more there was to know in the world. I started seeking spiritual teachers then as well, and was eager to gain as much knowledge as I could, emulating my instructors and thinking that was the way to believe and think. And, then again, wanting to become a teacher in the world, believing I had the best of information that others needed. With that, I would also stop being willing to learn, thinking, this has to be IT, everything that I need to know. 

My other big area of lessons has been in the realm of suffering, and what that means, in terms of my human experiences, and what stories that I tell about it. I used to believe that suffering and difficult experiences were all part of the human condition, that we all have bad things happen in our lives. And, terms of fact and structure, I still hold that to be true. Bad things happen. Yet, the degree to which we suffer over the circumstances and events that happen is directly related to how much we accept life as it is, or don’t. I would often blame the outside world, or my girlfriend, or God, or traffic or other fellow humans for my degree of suffering: it is all their fault. And, if I had a bad experience, and didn’t feel sad or distressed about it, I thought there was something wrong with me; to suffer over my circumstances seemed like a way to pay homage to it. To honor it. 

My current belief is that even a person or circumstance is what leads me into sad, angry, or distressing feelings, I still have the power to choose; to choose what type of story I want to tell myself about it. I also ALWAYS have the power to choose to remember that the present moment, right Now, is all that there ever is. This moment. And, when I am able to be in this present moment, and to accept whatever comes in it, as just being what it Is, the suffering is less. Surrender brings great freedom and deep relief. Choosing surrender and experiencing peace honors the events of our lives in a deeper way, because it means we are in deep acceptance of the fleeting, ephemeral nature of all things. 

These two pairs of experiences and beliefs are actual paradoxes of one another, but ones that are required for the other to occur. That is the part of wisdom that had been lost on me for the first 50 odd years of my physical existence. In order for me to learn how to surrender, there has to be the experience of suffering. And, for me to be able to teach others, I have to always be willing to learn. One does not exist without the other. And yet, even though I resist, I get scared, I don’t want it to be true, I know that it is the only way that I will learn that which are the deepest truths of my life. 

This moment is all there is; and I want to experience it as deeply as possible with no promise of what may come next. 

 

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Presence and Peace.

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The past few days have been deeply shape shifting and mind altering for me. I tend to keep the same routine in how I do my learning about where I want to grow next: I read books, and spend time in the quiet. I remind myself, in the car, at work and at home, multiple times a day about how to come back to the present moment. Some days, I feel really successful in becoming present. However, there are many days in which I feel like I am completely in my head, a lot of the time. 

I don’t have the illusion that I have a capacity for a completely quiet mind; I call that an illusion, because there is always chatter in my head. Even when I am being as present as possible, and not choosing to worry on anything in particular, there are stories galore being hatched in my noggin. That isn’t bad in and of itself, but when I begin to tell myself a whole novel’s worth of tales about that one strand of thought, it becomes somewhat overwhelming and ultimately problematic. So, I do my best to open myself to the thoughts, allow them to float by like clouds, and not take them too seriously.

But something much deeper and intimate happened to me this week. I decided to begin “formally” meditating. Typically, I sit quietly, on the couch or in a chair, every morning before I get ready to begin the scheduled portions of my day. I also listen to books on CD in my car often, or ride without any sound at all, to extend that feeling of quiet and peace. I have not done an actual meditation practice in several years. After a series of stories a few days ago about me and others around me, I wanted to make a more concentrated effort to quiet them down. I began meditating for 10 minutes in the morning, sitting quietly and allowing my thoughts to float by. 

I don’t know if it is the actual meditation, the readiness within myself that I felt to do it, or the readiness of learning this particular lesson myself, but I broke loose of some really old mind and heart patterns. No matter how humble I like to think that I am, I still have periods of entrenched arrogance, telling myself that I have learned all that I need to, and that others just need to “catch up” with where I am at. It is gross at the same time that it is so comically egoic and human. Catching that arrogance this week was like doing a cleanse, and feeling this sense of emptiness and clarity all at the same time. 

I decided to meditate this morning, by concentrating on two words which I wanted to carry with me through the day. For every in breath, I would think Presence, and for every out breath, I would think Peace. Both are necessary and craved in my current world. After clearing out some old patterns and thoughts this week, I understood how critical both are in my world. And, how I can still find places in me that need smoothing to be more in synch with both. 

I love being a teacher, a leader, and a light for others. But, I know I need to be first and foremost, a student. 

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