A Few Words On Gratitude

(Please note:  I wrote this entry in two hours.  It may show that investment.  I hope it offers something useful.)

Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your destiny.  —  Gandhi

 

Since moving to the outskirts of civilization, I’ve done a lot of “spiritual work.”  I don’t know what else to call it.  I’ve experienced a shift in consciousness, how I see myself, and how I see the world.  Stuff that I thought that I knew, I now understand better as a way of (B)eing.  I previously posted a piece on loving myself, “A Love Story,” but there’s a bigger picture that’s unfolded: understanding myself as part of life’s beautiful play is finally sinking in.

The myth of separation dissolves.  For today, I’m simply throwing that out there, do as you will with it, for brevity’s sake.  Perhaps by the entry’s end, it will be clearer.

The past year, I’ve worked through many conscious and unconscious stories that governed my beliefs, and I’ve left the worst of them behind.  And, yes, I do believe that these things can happen that quickly, when one is ready.  Therapy wasn’t my answer, but committing to my creativity and spiritual path has unleashed insight after insight, in remarkable and demonstrable ways.  Friends tell me of the changes they see.  I smile.  Nature is instrumental.  I’ve come into myself by realizing how simple and magical life is without trying.  Spring arrives, flowers bloom, tress grow.  All this will pass, there will be a deep sleep, and the spring will come again.

I am one with the forces I see in the seasons, and I’ve merged with life and (B)eing, because life exists everywhere, here.

Education, for its many gifts, really fucks up life’s simplicity, on a fundamental level.  We’re taught wonderful ideas, learn to ask better questions, and learn to answer with more sophistication, but self-love, awareness, and (B)eing are conspicuously missing from the curriculum funded by the incredulous student loan debt that I incurred and have since given to the Powers That Be to worry about.  I am unlearning not only my stories, and my family’s stories, but the intellect’s hubris for its works and artifacts.

Last week, during an early morning walk, the world grabbed my shoulder, and got my attention.  The sun hung low, a glowing ball shining through a perfectly clear blue sky, surreal in its clarity and depth.  The valley and hills exploded with life, innumerable greens, birds, butterflies, insects, all the critters that remained invisible to my eyes.  “I am the sky,” I heard myself think, “when light passes through me, life grows as it should, it happens without question or worry, and it will happen with or without my attention.”

God is a label.  Gratitude another label, a way that language limits lived beauty and power and grace, the ineffable experience of being alive, and being part of life’s magnificence.  “Gratitude” is how the mind places its attention, a practice that we can submerge ourselves in.  It then becomes a loop, the more we do it, the better life gets.  Beauty, joy, nature, poetry, the body’s strength, a good meal, a glass of clean water, a bird, whatever meaningfully grabs the mind and heart, no matter the circumstances, whatever feeds the soul and makes it feel alive, that’s where life presents itself.

I admit, it’s easier here and now.  But during my psychotic break while living in Manhattan, I remember focusing on a pigeon nest across from my window, as I lost my mind, my family,  faced eviction, had no food, and feared that I had entered mental nether regions from which I would never return.  The wall between myself and the forgotten homeless living on the streets was a rent controlled building that I hadn’t paid rent on in months.  For hours, I simply watched pigeons cooing and caring for each other, because I could do little else.  They gave me serenity and a connection to living.  Those hours in which I watched cooing gray birds, their nest tucked in between concrete slabs, affirmed life.  And, therefore, myself.

I’m blessed with good friends, many who have had charmed lives.  Truly charmed lives.  Money, travel, life experience, prestige.  Prestige with a capital P.  While I was cleaning houses, they were traveling the world, making medical breakthroughs, starting NASDAQ companies, the list goes on.  Yet, their lives are full of problems.  Whenever we talk, I hear of some new crisis, some new problem, some melodrama occupying the most precious real estate on the planet, their mind.  Relationships and circumstances always resolve, but you wouldn’t believe it from the way they talk.

Materially, they have more than 99 percent of the world’s population, but they believe they have nothing, believe themselves broken, believe something is wrong with them, see problems that don’t exist everywhere, and therefore create problems that do.  They scream this reality with every-other-sentence out of their mouth, in their judgements of themselves, and of others.  Instead of allowing a sunset to sink into their skin, or water’s music to slowly connect them to themselves, they fully inhabit their perceptions of the world’s failures.  To look at, touch, and smell a flower, and radically experience it for a moment, eludes them, or leaves them far too quickly.  Instead, they allow somebody’s annoying behavior or some situation rental space in their sacred mind, where we make and create the world we wish to live in.  Nothing happens in the world, without it happening in the mind, first.  I see them give away their life sentence by sentence, unconscious of where and what their attention is doing, at that moment.

This is the voice of experience writing, not the voice of judgement.

In the middle of nowhere, without a car, with a bazillion dollars owed in back taxes, student loan debt, and living, by some folks standards, a terribly uncertain future, I find myself the wealthy one, grounded and flourishing.

If I could give them gratitude, I would.  But we have to find it inside ourselves, for ourselves, if that’s what we want.  We’re free to do so, it’s all in front of us, with or without our attention.  When my friends get tired of slamming their heads against that wall, when they realize that the pain they’re living isn’t worth the prices they are paying, they will come around.  For those of us who know the talk, but struggle with the walk, it looks something like, “yes, I am grateful for x, y, z . . . but, [insert problem or complaint or whatever horrible thing that is happening far away, over which have very limited or no control over],” followed by more emotional engagement.

Most of this is fear.  Fear that life will abandon them, fear that they can’t do it themselves, fear that they’re not worth what they say they want, which is presumably peace and happiness, which costs nothing.

It’s impossible to talk about accomplishing and doing wonderful things, then dive into melodrama.  Most of us say we want all of life’s great things because we want peace and happiness, but the peace and happiness are already there.  I finally get the platitude, “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”  I also believe it’s the quickest way to stop violence and hate, because when you’re really connected to radical love and happiness, you do less dumb shit.  I didn’t write, “no dumb shit,” just a lot less.   At some point, some of the dear souls in my life will realize that love does it’s job, and surrender to it, because they know they deserve to.  That’s it.  That’s why we’re here.

That’s when gratitude, no matter life’s heart breaks, disappointments, and setbacks, becomes a way of life, for those who want to live as fully as possible, and not practice gratitude as a period at the end of sentence filled with anxiety and doubt.

You don’t do it all at once, but you can get better at it.

This is how it looks to me, today.

 

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Video:  Children’s Orchestra Plays Mozart On Instruments Made From Trash

“Impoverished” children whose homes are built on a garbage dump see the world different, and create a better one.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiYFcuIkBjU]

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