Ten Thousand Days

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 378 & Day 379)

September 2, 2015
Photo: Quin Stevenson

Photo: Quin Stevenson

Well, I’ve had the feedback that at least one reader doesn’t like a weekly post.  It feels ‘weird’.  Maybe I will need to change the format for a weekly post if I choose to go weekly with this.  At the moment, I find that writing this is a life-line and I think that for me, I’m going to have to keep to every other day – either here or privately – at minimum, for now.

I worked very hard and intensively towards the 365 milestone and the launch of this website.  I anticipated I would have a setback following the launch but I was surprised by what followed, and how long it has been.  Maybe I am forgetting where I was a year ago.  I think its time to keep a private diary so that I can look back and see how I was feeling.  A pacing journal would be handy.

People have said to me that I’ve lived such an interesting and exotic life, I should write my life story.  I don’t know that it is that interesting.  I have met far more interesting people than myself.  But even if we accept that premise, looking back on a life I’ve lived and am not living now is too frustrating at the moment.   I am very much in the moment these days.  As much as looking back can be frustrating, looking to the future (as I have been, during the past couple of weeks) creates anxiety and depression.  In the moment is the best place to be, spiritually, and so, if you don’t mind too much, I’m going to try to stay here.  Gratitude helps with that.

Gratitude helps full stop.

We all have misfortune.  Some of us have more to carry through life than others do, but we all have misfortune.  I have noticed that it is natural to dwell on it – especially when one is in it.  Without a daily gratitude practice, I get weighed down by it all.  I knew this was a good practice, but I never realised how good, and how quickly we can revert to a place where life feels impossible, without focussing – at least for a few minutes – on blessings every day.  I’ve said it before:  when we are up against it the most, when we face the most adversity, that is when we need this practice the most.

 

1  I am grateful for the musician Dave Mwziki who played in Covent Garden on Monday night.  I didn’t make it to the Sufi meeting on time (I miscalculated the time it would take to get there and would have been 5 minutes late by the time I found it.  Lesson learned and will try again next Monday).  Anyway…I took a walk from Green Park to Covent Garden because, although I have very few spoons at the moment, I had spent the majority of the bank holiday weekend in bed.  So, I took a very slow walk.  What would have taken most people 45 minutes took me about 2 hours.  When I got to Covent Garden (my destination for the art installation by Charles Petillon) I listened to Dave play from the top of Covent Garden as  I noticed people all over the street walking away from him, singing.  I thought: “that is an odd experience in London” and decided to stop and listen to this man who could make strangers sing to their girlfriends, along with him.  He was playing Eric Clapton’s  “Wonderful tonight” and he was pretty good.  After, he moved on to Lionel Ritchie and I noticed more people stopped to listen.  And then I noticed something else:  I looked around and counted.  It was 11 men and only one woman (me) stopped to listen to him sing.  We tend to think that men are less sentimental than women but I think they get just as lonely – maybe even more so – than women.  The feminine energy tends to relationship and if someone lacks that ability to relate, I can only imagine that it is isolating.  So, here were these 11 men (of all ages) listening and swaying to Lionel Ritchie’s lonely heart ballad: ‘Hello’.   I smiled and it made me tear up a little to see them.  I stayed on through a guitar change and listened to Harry Nilson, Elton John, Cat Stevens and finally had to move on because I was getting too cold.   It made me happy to listen to him sing and it also made me sad.  I teared up a couple of times and my emotions felt kind of all over the place – just like they did when I started this practice and my heart began to open again.  It was a beautiful half hour sitting in the window of the Apple store in Covent Garden and I am grateful to him for his gift of music.  (Don’t forget to pay the buskers, please).

2 I am grateful for my friends CM and Lk- who were present for me while I was resting in bed.  I read a lot of op-ed criticism of how people are becoming more lonely even as they relate via social media and text messaging but lets remember not to judge people who use these tools to connect to others.  What can be isolating for a normally functioning person can be a lifeline for others who are isolated through no choice of their own.  We don’t know what struggles others face.  For some, it is the only way they have to be in touch with the rest of the world, either because of social phobias (which can, I admit, be overcome) or because of illness.  There have been many days in the past 380 days that I haven’t seen a single soul and didn’t have the energy to talk on the phone.  Facebook, messenger, WhatsApp have been important for me.  And, to someone going about a busy life, it might seem I am needy in terms of social media contact.  I challenge them to the same circumstances.  I think we can all do with a little less judgement of one another because it inevitably comes from applying our own circumstances and methods of coping to someone else and those circumstances may actually REQUIRE different coping strategies.  I say this as much for myself as for anyone else because I remember wondering why my sister spent so much time on Facebook and why she didn’t just do more real life activity with her time.  Now I understand – she has a chronic illness and it is likely that she would like to do more with her time but isn’t really able to do so.  Facebook may be her way to stay connected.  Some other members of my family don’t understand that.  I know, first hand, that they really don’t get it.  I have been on the receiving end of that judgement now. Empathy helps.  If you find yourself judging, try practicing a little empathy.  It can be learned.

I understand my sister’s challenges now and I am sorry that I didn’t understand it sooner.

For today, I am grateful to CM and Lk- who have a chat online with me every day and for CM who always encourages and offers hope.

3 I am grateful that I got out to see the installation by Charles Petillon.  There are a few art exhibitions I want to see but in the way I used to make a list of 5 things I want to do in a day, I need to make that list of 5 things I want to do in a month.  That is frustrating.  It is really hard for me to accept this.  In any case, there are a lot of exhibitions that I miss because I just can’t get to them before they close.  I am glad I got to see the lit balloons.  Anything with light is something I will make my priority to see.  I hope that later today I will get to see an exhibition in London.  I’d love to get to two exhibitions but wishing for that is just setting myself up for disappointment.  I hope to get to one, today.

Joy – It was a joy to see the Petillon exhibition.  It was different from what I expected and I hope to get back to see the rest of the exhibition by day when it is open, but if I don’t, its okay, and I’ve had to learn to be ruthless in prioritisation with my energy spoons.  The real thing I wanted to see was the play of light in the balloons.  And, I got to see it.  So, for that I am joyful.

Here is a little sample:

Oneness – I spent a lot of time in bed, and partly it was the sacrifice for having gone out dancing and partly it is still storing up energy spoons to replenish the deficit created by the push to the 365 day milestone. So, in terms of Oneness, I was really one with my pillows more than anything.  As I rested, I felt sorry for myself and I watched comedy to combat that spiral.  It’s amazing to see that even after a year of daily practice, that it is so easy to slip into depression and wallowing.  Its bloody hard work to stay positive and so I need this practice. The other day, I guess the moment of Oneness I can recount is in listening to the music in Covent Garden.  Music, art, theatre, literature, stand up comedy – they all have the ability to touch a part of our heart and stir our emotions.  When I was listening, I felt connected to the musician and also, oddly, to the other lonely hearts out there, listening too. I was a powerful moment and why it moved me to tears. Service – I didn’t do much at all with the day I spent entirely in bed.  But I had promised a Swami from Yogaville that I would help her contact the curator of an exhibition in Washington so that she could gain some information for her application to have the LOTUS shrine designated a historical landmark.  I wasn’t able to do any more than that in the entire day, but with the help of my iPad and the internet, I was able to write an email, on her behalf, to the Smithsonian.   I also did a service for myself and during the day I spent entirely in bed, I managed to gather up a few things in my bed with me that I could sort, and to gather up my laundry through the day so that things were in one place and I had begun to make a dent in tidying up my room.  It got to be quite a mess in the busy time before the 365 day celebration and so it felt good to take care of myself – albeit in very tiny steps – by beginning what could be an overwhelming task for someone with no spoons left.  Sometimes service to ourselves is the most we can manage and the most important thing there is for us to manage.   And because you may be curious, let me just leave you today with a video of the Petillon installation:

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