Ten Thousand Days

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 399 & Day 400)

September 23, 2015


Photo: Nelly Volkovich

Photo: Nelly Volkovich


I should be asleep but it is quiet and it is a good time to be reflective.  I get now why I have been so confused for the past few weeks.  I am losing someone that I love.  I don’t mean that they are walking out of my life.  They are actually walking out of life altogether.  Acknowledging that has not come easily and my unconscious has been trying to awaken me to this fact even before it has become apparent in the outer world.

I had a meeting of my Action For Happiness group on the Southbank tonight.  I struggled to get there.   When things are difficult – and I mean really difficult – I don’t talk about it.  I imagine that we are all like this to a greater or lesser extent.  When we are in serious trouble or our pain is intense, we often keep it to ourselves because to unscrew that lid and let it out can feel overwhelming.  And, not many people really want to know or can handle knowing what is happening in the darkest places in our hearts and souls.  Its not easy to sit with someone in pain.  I’ve seen that with my own life changes.

At the meeting today, we were asked to talk about the place where we are drawing strength.  Many people mentioned friends and family.  I am grateful for my family and it is that gratitude and appreciation that is sending me home to savour time together.  We have our challenges and our differences but I am genuinely looking forward to being with them and having some fun and simply – loving them as much as I can for as long as I can.

I am certainly grateful for Kt- in my life right now.  In a couple of months we’ve become pals and more.  I kick about with him, we have a laugh, but I love him dearly and he has a heart the size of the empire state (although he would not have you think that).  He cheers me up, even though I thought that was my job to do for him.  I am so grateful I met him at a couple of street art shows this summer and that I attached myself to him at Juno and have never let him go.

And, I am grateful for the Cheese, who I get to see once a week and we chat and laugh over lunch and who I can talk to on Whatsapp for a stupid joke any time of day and wherever we are in the world.  I don’t see the Guv as much as I used to when I was working but I hope that will change in the future.  I am grateful for the H-Sisters who keep me laughing and help me to manage my energy when we are together and for Dan Shears and Megan Affonso who started out as the band I loved and have become friends in the past year or so and who I delight in continuing to get to know.  I’m grateful for Ni- who has been with me through ups and downs in our relationship and is one of the most loyal people I know.  I’m grateful for Lk- who is endlessly online and responds quickly when I need support and often has something funny or distracting to say to keep me going.  I’m grateful for the street art community that provides me endless entertainment and laughter and probably more than I can handle with my energy levels so if I’m not at all the events, it isn’t for lack of love.  I’m grateful for my friends around the world, particularly the small handful that get me and really know the implications of just a few words uttered and there is no need for explanations or assumptions.  We know one another’s hearts as well as it is possible to know one another – CM, TCBC, Cal among them – they are my roots so that I have had wings.

And, I am grateful for N- who, through some miracle, managed to purchase a ticket to hear the Dalai Lama speak on creating a happier world on World Peace Day, yesterday.  And through an even greater confluence of time and place, managed, two weeks after I got my ticket, to hit the ‘best available seat’ button and click ‘buy’ before she even knew that she had bought the seat right beside me.  Of 2,000 seats in the theatre, she managed to be located in the one next to me – by chance.  It was exactly what was needed.


        Although she may have thought I wasn’t paying attention in the event because I was tweeting quotes and photos, it was a part of my work to do so, and to help raise awareness of the organisation because I am scheduled to be one of the next volunteers running the course here in London and hopefully, taking it to other countries in the future.  And, I was listening.        I am grateful that I learned to be a journalist a long time ago in writing school and although I’m rusty as heck, I am working those skills as much as possible.  The Dalai Lama event was one where I worked both my journalism skills and promotion skills.  Social media is a new kettle of fish as far as my writing and marketing training is concerned, and I’m having to learn as I go.     But I am grateful that the Universe put us together.  Just that morning I let her know I was going back to Canada and why I am going.  I needed to see her before I left.  She knew she would see me in a few hours – but I didn’t.  It was such a welcome and incredible surprise.  After the event, we went with Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard to Trafalgar Square for meditation.  We began with an OM and whether intended or not, the 45 minutes or so of the meditation became one great rolling eternal OM.  Now, although we were several hundred by the end of the meditation,  you have to understand that at the beginning, there were only a few dozen people there.  The rain was chucking down on us and I had no coat or umbrella.  But I chanted and chanted and chanted.  It felt good to do something that was so much a part of my life every other day, in New York. But what was most lovely about this meditation was that my friend, N- took hold of my arm and we were joined together throughout.  I thought about the fact that soon she, too, would be gone (but just to another country) and I would have another long distance best friend and I was so grateful that we had that experience – together.  I chanted for her happiness in her new life, even as I knew goodbye was coming.  For those 45 minutes in Trafalgar Square, N- and I shared a connection of Oneness that is unique.      


I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.  As I said, I was unprepared for the downpour and as I had my eyes closed, someone came close to me from behind, and covered me with their umbrella.  The rain stopped at one point and the umbrella went down and I wondered if my good Samaritan had left during the meditation.  And then a rainbow appeared above us.  One by one, meditators opened their eyes, tapped their friends to witness it and then the crowd cheered.  So much for meditation and Om’s!  We had manifested a rainbow for peace!  Spontaneously, people began to hug.  I turned around and a woman was standing nearby but separate and very present.  She looked at me and said – I kept you dry.  I hugged her and thanked her and told her that there are no small acts of service.  To be fair, she probably saved me from another chest infection and fight with pneumonia.


And coming back to where I started this tale, I am grateful for this refuge of writing and of practice.  Things are hellish at the moment, and it is when things are their worst that we need our practices the most (to paraphrase not only myself over the last 400 days, but – if you don’t believe me – the Dalai Lama said the very same thing, yesterday to 2000 people).

I  know it is worse for the person on their way out of this life, but it is also hard to witness and accept.   I cannot see where I am going or where I need to be going and  I can’t talk about it.  I tried to talk to a group of supportive friends and I cried three times tonight at the meeting.  I don’t mind sharing emotion in a safe space like that, but I need to contain it right now.  I’ve been here before and now is not the time for tears.  Now is the time for savouring.  For now, these tears must be kept private.

Ironically, it is with you – the worldwide web – that I can let myself cry.  For the last few weeks, with so much going on in my life and so many losses, my keyboard has been wet while I’m writing these posts.  That is a gift. I am grateful for the gift of this writing space, for this practice, and for your presence, dear reader.

I hope that these posts have not been depressing.  My hope is that they serve as a reminder that we can make it through difficult terrain.  Matthieu Ricard said yesterday that we Westerners want spirituality to be easy, simple, and – if at all possible – cheap.  I laughed.  It is really true of what I see around me.  We aim to force everything to the heights of spirituality without honouring and respecting what is soulful.  The true test of spirituality, he said, comes not in the good times, but in the bad.   I committed to ten thousand days of practice and we knew that they wouldn’t all be sunny; I have committed to the practice even through the darkest nights of the soul.



I hope that in some way, it is my service to you so that you will not feel alone as you struggle to find your way through the worst times in your life – with gratitude – with joy – with a sense of oneness and with the desire to remain of service.


And so…as always…I turn it over to you….


For what are you grateful, today?

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