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Ten Thousand Days

For Every Number, There Is A Name

April 7, 2020

Photo: Tim Mossholder

Day 2056 – Day 2061

Yesterday started out great.  It was sunny.  I was up early.  I wrote a post that I knew needed work but I had time to fix it.  I made a nice brunch to enjoy outside and I made a video.  Things were looking pretty good.  Good, if you ignore the fact that what I wrote was unpublishable.  Great, if you also ignore the fact that, for a 3-minute video, I recorded 42 minutes of me, talking to the camera, about how I wasn’t doing okay.

Maybe we’re all doing less great than we want to admit.  I try to be of service by offering inspiration but even cheerleaders get to rest between games.

I have been watching underground news since January and planning for the worst-case scenario at home and for the company where I work, since early February.  I’ve had the heaviness of how bad things could get resting on my heart for a very long time.  It was a burden that many people mocked back then.  I think many people are still in denial.  Last week I wondered why every nation isn’t flying their flags at half-mast.  The fact that we are not doing this seems like a sign that we really haven’t grasped the tragedy that has been unfolding, for months.

I don’t think we should all be falling apart and unable to get out of bed, although after my 42-minute soliloquy, I did have to lay down, for most of the day, under the weight of things.  For me, there is a sense of alienation that is not the result of living alone and having no in-person contact with another human being for more than 2 weeks.   As happened during 9/11, I feel a chasm opening up between myself and so many people.

Humour and positivity helped me to face being sick and to adjust to my circumstances, during the first 2 weeks of my quarantine.  But it seems to me that much of the humour I see on my Facebook feed and elsewhere just focuses on first world problems (I’ve been guilty of sharing and even making some of it), when the tragedy is a global one and it impacts the poor and vulnerable, disproportionately.  Humour can help us cope, that is for sure.  But humour can feed denial.  I think humour is a way to help us process tragedy, when circumstances are temporarily difficult.  It helps us bridge from the time before to the time after, so that we can resume our lives.

The thing is, I don’t think we can resume our lives, as they were.  Systemic change is here, whether we like it or not.  Personal transformation, for those willing to be moved, is available to all of us as well.   The number of people whose lives have been impacted in all but 9 (as of this morning) countries in the world is almost impossible to comprehend.  Never before in my lifetime has the entire world been impacted by threat and tragedy, at the same time.  For every number there is a name.  For every name there is a story and a decision of how they will bear witness to the greater story that is unfolding.

I have the unwelcome gift of being an empath as well as some weirder gifts that I only discovered in 9/11.  When so many souls are leaving the planet at the same time, the energetic and emotional toll is heavy on me and I’ve been running from it.  I have been running too, from someone that I think is my Twin Flame.  When there is a quickening on offer, God knows how to get my attention: send a young and handsome man.  But, if you will indulge my woo woo theories, I think Twin Flames find one another to evolve, spiritually.   That process can be kind of ugly and triggering, at first.  And, from the beginning, it has been triggering.   As beautiful as it is, it has also been, at times, overwhelming.  This week, I’ve had to shutter my heart just to be able to get out of bed and be a support to the people who need me.  Unfortunately, this has cut me off from the higher states of consciousness.

Until yesterday, I had been able to get by with partially armouring my heart.  I would sit in meditation, listening to the birds, but not truly meditating.  When I sat on Sunday, everything caught up with me and I was shaken.  I felt unbalanced and began to unravel.  Yesterday, I knew I had to stop running, open my heart, and just grieve.

I can’t be a cheerleader today.  It is right for me to cry.  It is right for me to have a shattered heart.  I can’t talk about a pandemic in abstract terms.  And I really cannot laugh about it.  For every number, there is a name.  For every name, there was a final moment, alone, somewhere.  Last words of love that are forever unspoken.  Souls left wandering, in shock.

I can’t continue to cheer us on,  like we’re all going to be okay.  Because if we are okay when 1.4 million people have officially tested positive for the virus and 76,000 people have already died, then who are we?  If, as a species, we can be okay when the UN warns that 2 million Bangladeshis could die, and globally, mortuaries have been unable to cope with the volume of the dead, then I don’t want to be a part of this species.

I know that may sound judgemental to some people.  Maybe it is.  I am pretty firm in some of my core values, which is out of fashion.  In our work as spiritual beings, let us not condemn others for being who they are, and for feeling what they do.  But, let us not forget that a spiritual life is sacred and having discernment in one’s companions honours the sacred.

I’m so grateful today for the friends that went through 9/11 with me, in New York.  On a smaller scale, we have been through a way-of-life changing event together, already.  There is an unbreakable bond that forms with the people who survive a trauma like that, together.  I’m so grateful that many of them are still in my life, even though we are scattered far apart from one another.  I’m also grateful for my spiritual circles, from New York to India to London to Vancouver and to online circles.   I have many friends but I feel that if I can’t bring my spiritual self to the table, I’m only bringing a shell of myself to the relationship.  I don’t want to do that, anymore.  It is essential for me to be able to be authentic and fully present. I am grateful to the young and handsome man for bringing his gift of wounding to the places where I most need to heal, even as I need to slow down my evolution to a manageable pace.   As much as it hurts, I am actually grateful that I’m able to feel all this global pain, instead of being shut down or in denial.  I think we will all get to the sadness part of the cycle of this grief, in our own time and in our own way.  Right now, it means that I need to turn the dial up my self-care.

Last night I listened to Jesus Christ Superstar.  I listened to the various versions till I found the one that was circulating in my house when I was a child (Murray Head/Ian Gillan, I think).  I went to Catholic primary school and religious studies was part of the curriculum, but  I truly did have a first impression of the gospels as being sung, Rock Opera style.  Music is a great salve and they say that the sense of smell is the most linked to memory but for me, listening to that album took me back to a young version of myself – somewhere around the 11 year-old mark.  She was a very open-hearted girl and was in love with Jesus.  Tapping into her spirit and to the passion of Christ made the tears flow for the suffering that fills the world, today.

For every number, there is a name.  I could not sense every individual, but I started witnessing their passing and, where needed, gently helping some of those thousands of souls on their onward journey.  There is more to come.  I have a headache this morning from it.  But, my heart feels more malleable and at peace.  I’m ready to meditate, to pray, to have strong boundaries and to practice good self-care so that I can serve again.  It may look like I’m doing nothing when I sit in prayer and meditation for most of the day, topped off with time for mourning, but I know that this is the best work that I have ever done.

Photo: Aaron Burden

For what are you most grateful, today?

Love, Ten Thousand Days

Love in the Time of COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Photo: Leighann Blackwood

Day 2047 – Day 2055

I spent the late afternoon on my balcony garden, watering my tulips with my tears.  Today, the first person I know (that I know of, at this time) lost his battle with COVID-19. To be sad at the passing of a life from this world into another is a very human response.  He was not really my friend, in fact.  He was the husband and essential person in the life of a woman who is a very dear friend to me.  And it is for both of them that I cried.  It is a hazard of love that our heart will break along with those hearts for whom we have love.

When my heart breaks, I am nearer to my Beloved Divine than when I’m coasting through life.

I see memes and articles about how it is hard to be single during this time of self-isolation.  I think this is the perfect time to be single.  The world has reduced love to a swipe screen of photographs like an online shopping cart as if we can fall in love in the same dispassionate way that we can decide if we want carrots or broccoli in our weekly shop.  I think for all those that meet on apps and make a life together, there are a dozen more encounters that were terribly empty.

I am a romantic.  I have always been a romantic. When I was a child, my first love was a man in white who came to me in my dreams.  I had a spiritual call very early, and my path was to be the path of love.  In difficult times, my faith is fortified not because I can make sense of the world and what is happening, but because I turn my heart, and the Heart of Hearts turns to me.

About a week ago, my good friend WRDSMTH posted one of his WRDS and it really struck me.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the repeating numbers that I was seeing – specifically 11:11.  It is said that this is the number of the Twin Flame and it also represents a spiritual gateway.  I knew, when I wrote the piece, who that twin flame was.  It took me a few weeks of seeing the numbers and scoffing at the idea that the person who first came to mind might be my twin flame, but eventually the gravity of that awareness rested within me.  I know who it is.  I knew him before he came into my life.  I realize that I painted him out of my subconscious, 2 years before I ever encountered him.

I don’t know how to incorporate this idea of a twin flame into my existing belief structure.  I don’t even know if it is a real thing, or what it means.  What I can tell you is that I’m aware of a deep connection to someone on every level, but most certainly on a spiritual level.  I first connected to him over spiritual issues and then became aware that I could hear him in my heart.  We have an awful lot in common but that is just surface.  I hear him, in my heart.

Yes, that sounds crazy.  I’ve even asked professionals if I might be crazy.  I’m not crazy.  The fact that we question the spiritual at times like this is crazy.

The path of the mystic is that of the madman who must trust, and dwell in the not knowing.

Even though I don’t know what to say about it, what it is or, really, anything, I don’t believe I’d have happened upon and have been made aware of this relationship if it isn’t the will of the Divine that I know it.  And if the Divine is making me aware of something that seems weirdly magical, I’m going to do everything I can to remain open to whatever happens.

I’ve spent weeks and months trying to talk myself out of this and telling myself it is crazy.  I still struggle to trust my own knowing of what I know.  But there is one thing that I know.

I know exactly who I love and where I want to be.

Love rejoices in the truth.

As I witness the brevity of earthly love, in the passing of my friend’s husband, I want to call out to he that lives inside my heart: “Don’t waste time!!! We could be dead tomorrow. Let’s ground this in reality, now.” But I must learn to trust in Divine timing.  Maybe it will happen when this quarantine is over and all the souls have been released.  And maybe it will not happen in this lifetime.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

Knowing it may not happen in this lifetime, I can’t let my wishing it could be so be a distraction from the spiritual awareness that it has brought to me.  And then there is this: just because I am aware of this connection, it does not mean that he is aware or welcoming of the crazy-making awakening that this brings.  All gentle gestures I have made toward him, in the real world, have gone unanswered.  I have to respect that boundary.  The heart longs for spiritual companionship but it also yearns to fulfill the wishes of the one that is loved.  Maybe I’m not what he wants, in the real world, in this lifetime.  And so, I need to learn to walk the line between remaining open and stepping back.

Love is not proud, rude or self seeking.

This year, I have been ruminating on the link between gratitude and love.  And, I’ve been called to begin to tell the stories of love. We may never meet.  Although I would prefer to be with him, as crazy as it sounds, I know we are together, on the inner planes, always.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I am so grateful to be awake to this love.  Whether he walks with me or not, I will gratefully burn in the fire of this spiritual love and allow a quickening.   I am grateful that the spiritual work that either of us does seems to benefit the other.  And I am grateful that this love is a taste of the sweetness and the madness that is being lost in the love of the Divine.

This is my first story of love.

This is love, in the time of COVID-19.

 

Ten Thousand Days

Fragile

March 23, 2020

Photo: Antonio Poveda Montes

Day 2040 – Day 2046

Last week I was talking with a friend and what has struck me with the way things have gone down this week, is how fragile we are.

We have become a world that is pretty smug with all our machine-learning and virtual assistants.  We have more inequality than we have had in modern times, but we are a more affluent world than we’ve ever been.  We’ve gotten used to everything on demand and innovation solving all our problems.  We are pretty self-satisfied and we think we’ve got it all figured out.  We see people acting in a certain way and we think we have their number. We have built skyscrapers and driverless transportation systems.  We fly through the air, stopping here and there and having weekend breaks to Vegas, Vienna, Barcelona, Zanzibar and beyond.  We’ve got it made and we are the Apex predator.  We’re the big cheese, the big man/woman/person on campus.  In our smugness, we have forgotten just how fragile and precious this little life we have been gifted really is.  And we have not only killed God.  We have become God.  When Oppenheimer quoted the Baghavad Gita in reference to the testing of the first atomic bomb, we should have learned our lesson about replacing God with technology.  As Oppenheimer said, quoting Shiva:  “Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

The fact is that right now, our faith in technology is failing us.  There are not enough ventilators, beds, or PPE for our medical staff.  We are running out, globally, of a key chemical used for testing. We believed in the myth of technology but planned for Amber risk.  We never planned for Catastrophic scenarios, because technology would save us first.

And the second fact that is salient right now is that with all our technology and all our wealth, we are but a fragile bit of sentient organic matter.  Our worth to the world, if we boiled down our elements, would be just a few dollars.  With all our knowledge and all our money, all our perceived power over one another, in a swift movement across the planet, an organism 1/1000 the size of a human hair is taking us out by the thousands, perhaps the hundreds of thousands, or millions, before we’re done.

Woah, wait, you came here for gratitude, a bit of joy, to feel connected and served.  Well, if we can dwell in the sublime truth of our fragility we will see, without hesitation, how connected we all are.  Only by honouring our connection, being laid out in stark detail in every ER in the world, will we survive this moment in history.  Never before in my lifetime has it been so clear: What I do, what you do, affects the rest of the world.

Maybe the profound truth was revealed to some of us early on.  But the herd? Well the human psyche is fascinating. When faced with our powerlessness, the first thing most of us do is to deny reality.

As late as mid-week last week there was still a cultural story here in Canada that we had to somehow waste energy and precious time managing the threat that those who called in sick could be taking a free ride, bunking off of work.  Within two days our city was in a state of emergency and everything but essential services were supposed to shut. There are fines being imposed for failure to apply social distancing and self-isolation.

Borrowing from Kubler Ross, when a threat comes upon us we go between panic (bargaining) and denial for the first while.  Because of the denial, we are often forced into situations we didn’t choose, for our own good.  I think of the way lower Manhattan, where I lived and worked, was closed down to anyone but residents/first responders during 9/11.  Some people were still in denial, heading to work, even as people were fleeing the area below Christopher St/4th Ave. The police, and then the National Guard, turned people back.

Denial can look a lot like a good sense of humour.   I am all for a good laugh – even gallows humour.  The laugh fortifies us as we slowly let the truth sink in.

What comes after our panicked bargaining response and our denial (which seems to resurface as we bounce between emotions) is probably depression.  This week, when I have tried to meditate, I find it incredibly difficult.  My heart is so heavy with what is happening in our world.  In case you haven’t noticed, they’ve stopped leading the news with global statistics.  The numbers are just too big for us to process in this COVID-19 pandemic.  The last time I recall it being the lead, we were talking about just over 100K cases.  I found today’s numbers.  We are over 400K, globally, of all the cases confirmed.  I would not be surprised if the number of presumptive cases for which tests are not offered is an order of magnitude higher.

Denial will kill so many people.

What worries me is what comes next.  When the anger hits us all, how then will we cope?  I can only hope that we will remember our humanity, then.

I’ve seen some people out and about, taking social distancing and isolation very lightly, even in the midst of a state of emergency.  Non-essential businesses are still open.  When I’m fighting to breathe or my friend or family member is fighting to breathe, how will I forgive that person who just had to go skiing or go to the island for a weekend getaway, or congregate with friends at the beach to watch the sunset, or take their car in for servicing – all during a state of emergency or disaster?

My anger is already here.  I’m locked in my house and I’m going to give into it with a full force so that I can work it through and move on to acceptance.  I’m grateful for a lifetime of personal growth work that gives me the tools and the resilience to meet my dragon and let her rip, without smashing up someone’s car, their reputation or a friendship.  Well, let’s be honest here.  If you are someone who was cavalier in this crisis, the fate of our friendship is already sealed.  Perhaps you will be right and I was over reacting.

I would love to be wrong.

And let’s not even begin to talk about whether our unsustainable lifestyles have had a part to play in this, when so many of us have been sounding the alarm for decades.  I can’t talk about it, but I will feel it and move through it.

I’m grateful to have seen societies with weak infrastructure, many times.  I have seen how fragile are the systems on which we rely.  I’m grateful to have studied complex emergency and been a Risk Manager/Business Continuity and Crisis Manager in a global organization.  I know how to plan for the worst, even if it is unlikely to happen.  I know how to escalate response.  I know all this and even I was thrown by how fast we went from business as usual to High Risk with preparations for a Catastrophic scenario.  I’m grateful to be humbled.

At the moment there is not a lot of joy in my life except in being able to come together with others in solidarity and to attempt to be of service to others.  I fear for the world when the anger hits.  My hope is that we can all remember our Oneness and move through the anger and sadness without violence.

Our bodies, our psyches, our world is fragile.

If you are feeling it like I am, and you are being crushed under the weight of what is happening, if you are saddened or furious, I invite you to go deep into it and feel it.  Feel it for all it’s worth and let it give you the wisdom that is at the heart of every phase of our collective grief.  But, please, don’t take it out on those around you, no matter what jerks they’ve been.  I invite you to bring your darkness here, and let it rip in the comments. Bring it here, lay it all down and let it go.  My comment section can take it.  Your partner’s face, your neighbour’s car – they’re off limits.  Use my comment section.  I won’t publish it if you want to vent. It goes into moderation already; I’ll clean it up later.

As we said, in Manhattan, in the days following 9/11:  Take care of yourself.  Take care of each other.

In our lifetimes, the stakes have not been higher.

 

Photo: Filip Mroz

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Gratitude Practice, Ten Thousand Days

Rolling With It

March 16, 2020

Photo: Mauro Mora

Day 2027 – Day 2039

I’m a bit late in uploading a post.  I have been extremely busy – and not in a fun way.  But I’m rolling with the punches. I hope you are, too.

Some of the work I do comes into full force in times like these and I’d like to get past the work that is very earth bound and practical (and to be honest, really hard on the heart) so that I can get to what I feel is my real work at this time.  I have been so busy with my day job that I have, I’m displeased with myself to admit, let my spiritual work slide a bit in the past week.  On Thursday I was feeling so stressed out by a combination of the work I am doing and the response I’ve been receiving that I was stress eating everything in sight.  I’m grateful for the love and support of some good friends, particularly CMF, who helped me remember who I am and the worth in what I’m doing.  I got it together and I am doing what I can to bring my professional skills to a sometimes-unwilling client.  And, I am taking care of myself and my family (I’m single, no kids, so that is extended family).

There is a lot of panic buying and we are seeing the worst in people coming out.  There is nothing wrong in being prepared and in fact, I think it is our civic duty to one another that we get prepared to stay home for a good long time.  But we don’t need to run over the old ladies and push toddlers out of the way to get that last packet of toilet paper.  When I see it in the store, I buy a single pack because I know that my father, my sister, my nephew, or my aunt will need it.  I’m good, I’ve got what I need.  And so, when I’m out buying my bok choy and other fresh veg each week, I shop for my circle.  We all can do that.  I know a co-worker struggled to get a certain brand of gluten free pasta.  When I was in the store, I saw some of it on sale for 2 for $4 and I bought 2.  I didn’t buy 10.  There will be enough for all of us.  I preserved my garden last year, and I have more dehydrated kale than anyone would ever wish to have to eat. (This year, I will not plant 9 kale plants. I bought a flat of seedlings and couldn’t give the stuff away to other gardeners.  Now I know why!  Anyway, 3 will be enough for fresh kale all season, so I’m seeding my own seedlings).  We all, if we calm down a bit, and look in our larder, probably have enough to eat for the next month.  The people who don’t are those who live very close to the poverty line or who have no space to store food.  Relax.  Leave something on the shelves for them.

Today I will go to the post office, and on a battery run (check the battery in your thermometer and consider having a spare).  I’m doing that on behalf of a whole bunch of folks.  If we work together, we can minimize our contacts and maximize our social distancing.

I have a busy week ahead as we begin to implement some of my recommendations but I’m grateful that I decided not to work the whole weekend and I took some down time to go out in the sunshine, even though it was blowing my hair off with the winds through the prairie, here.  And, I’m grateful that I opted to pick up some flowers and some potted plants.  I will pick up some more seeds and seedlings tomorrow in anticipation of planting a lovely garden on my deck in a few weeks.  My job is not one that has a work – from – home option but if I do get stuck at home, I want to be surrounded by beautiful flowers.

I am grateful, too, for the creativity of my friends who are organizing online concerts and online body music classes.  If I get stuck at home, I’d have loads of things to occupy my time!  And, I’m hoping that if the world slows down a little, we will all have time to catch up via Skype or Zoom or whatever networking programme you use.

I’m really busy for the next few weeks with work that is important to be done right now.  But I didn’t want to let slide the other important things in my life, like marking my journey of gratitude.  This has been hastily written but I think you will forgive me for my messy hair and lack of punctuation.  The key in the gratitude journey is to just keep showing up.

We see a lot of ugly in people right now.  I’m guessing that this obsession with toilet tissue has to do with our primal fear.  Poo is pretty base chakra stuff.  And, having toilet roll is a mark of modernization and civilization, in many of our psyches.  As long as we have toilet roll, our civilization will not crumble and in a world where the great threat is something we cannot see or control, the one thing we can control is our poo and how civilized we are about it.  I get it.  But civilization is about being civil to one another.  I know we are remembering that, and I’m grateful to see that happening.  If you panicked, I forgive you, and let’s get back to working together as a civilization.  Sh*t’s gotten pretty real in Asia and Europe already.  It’s about to get real in North America and Australia too.  Let’s roll with it, and look out for ourselves as well as looking out for each other.

Remember, that in dark times there is so much goodness, too.  If you can’t see the goodness, then I encourage you to BE the goodness in your world.  Help someone who needs some help getting prepared or is in isolation, today.  Share some of your toilet tissue with others.

 

Photo: Hello-I’m-nik

 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Love, Meditation, Ten Thousand Days

11:11

March 3, 2020

Photo: Hennie Stander

Day 2021 – Day 2026

Throughout my life, I have seen repeating numbers and knew it was supposed to mean something, according to New Age texts.  I just never really gave it much thought.  Several weeks ago, I started seeing repeating numbers every time I looked at the clock. It started with the number 11:11 and I saw that over and over again and ignored it.  So, I started seeing other strange combinations like 3:33 or 5:55.  I saw 5:55 an awful lot and dismissed it as simply being an indication that maybe it was time to leave the office for the day.  I also saw 8:18 an awful lot.  That is the time that I was born, so I dismissed it as selective attention.  When I started seeing 23:23, I started getting annoyed.

There is a lot of new age spiritual mumbo jumbo out there as to what number series mean.  I don’t buy into that.  But, there are ancient systems of numerology where number series have meaning.  I am not versed in them.  Some people say 11:11 is a twin flame number – I don’t know what that is or if it is a real thing.  If I’m going down the mumbo jumbo route, I’m more inclined to believe that 11:11 is an invitation to a spiritual gateway.  Even that sounds hippy dippy to me.  But, what I can say is that I am grateful for feeling annoyed by the constant series of repeating numbers filling my life, if only for one reason – it has made me pay very careful attention.

This morning I awoke at 4:44. Okay.  I’m paying attention.

About two weeks ago I was lamenting to someone that I have never had the benefit of a mentor, even though I really feel that I could use one.  I have this particular situation where I feel really lost.  I can see that I am doing work that others are doing and I want to network with my colleagues but I am stymied.  I don’t know what to say to them.  I’m not sure what the value proposition is.  And I’m frustrated.  I need a mentor.

As soon as I expressed that feeling, I got an email of an offer for some discounted mentoring from someone who knows what they’re talking about.  Now, it is not someone involved in that circle of colleagues but it is someone who can help me figure out how to use the tools at my disposal to put myself out there.  I’m grateful for that email and I’m looking forward to our session that will happen, tomorrow.

I feel like the energy of the world is changing and this is happening very quickly, now.

I’m also grateful for what appears to be a heightened sense of intuition and connection to certain people.  I probably can’t explain this but there are people in my life with whom I am feeling vibrationally connected in a very intense way.  There are even some people that I only know on the internet with whom I am feeling strangely in-tune. With my increased intuition and intense connection, I am experiencing a lot of profound and intense love.  I sometimes wonder if I’m not a bit weird or if I have a brain tumour.  Intuition is something that nobody really teaches us to understand, in modern times.  I am grateful, in this, that I have a spiritual group to whom I can bring my weirdness.

The world is in a very tumultuous place right now with the news filled with stories of a worldwide pandemic, panic buying, stock market plunges and G7 rapid action to stem off a worldwide recession.  I remember my yoga guru Swami Satchidananda used to say that we are all like oranges.  When we get squeezed, we will see what is truly inside of us.

What is inside of us? Fear and darkness? Or, love and light?

Photo: Jon Tyson

For what are you most grateful, today?

Happiness, Meditation, Nature, Ten Thousand Days

Sail on Silver Girl

February 26, 2020

Photo: Vidar Nordii Mathisen

Day 2015 – Day 2020

One of my favourite YouTubers has a habit of quoting lines from songs of the 1960s when he’s vlogging.  I’ve noticed, over the years on my blog, that I do this too, sometimes.

I have a weekend of fabulousness ahead!  I’m heading over to Vancouver Island and then onward to the Gulf Islands, for a meditation retreat with my old spiritual group.  I’m first going to spend the day singing with Moira Smiley and maybe I’ll have a chance to hit one of the museums in Victoria before or afterward.  I’m not sure whether I will intersect with my long-time friend TCBC this time or not, but I am hoping to get to see the Natural History Museum (of London)’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at some point.  If I don’t see it this time, I’ll be making another trip back.

I am really most excited to be seeing my spiritual group again.  We are silent sitters and so, excited is probably not the best feeling to be bringing into lots of silent meditation.  But, I’ve missed them so.  There is truly something magical that happens when we sit together in silence.  When I left London, my great consolation was that there was a long time group in this tradition that meets in Vancouver.  Alas, when I finally made the decision to request to join the tradition, my teacher retired and then the meditation group leader retired and closed the group, within months of one another.

Well.  If you’ve finally decided to take spiritual maturity seriously, there is nothing like being cast out of the circle and being left on your own, to test you.  It is within the parameters of this tradition to cast out a seeker in order to deepen their practice.  But, I can’t take this personally.  It happened to many of us, all at once.  Over the roughly two years that our group has been apart, I’ve been through quite a lot.  The period from end of 2016 till now has been the hardest in my memory, though you might not know it, to look at me.

I’m looking forward to sitting together, to extreme attentiveness and presence, to discussing dream symbolism a la Jung, and to being in the company of one another in the name of the Divine.  I’ve had many dreams but now that we’re coming together again, I have nothing I can bring to the group.  About 4 months ago, I dreamed that a YouTuber that I follow was sort of flirting with me but I don’t think that qualifies as anything worthy of deep reflection…unless the guy is a representation of my animus….and now…come to think of it, he probably really, really is.  I love him dearly for showing up when I needed him.  He arose from the ocean of the collective unconsciousness to bring life-giving rain to my desert.

Oh I’ve missed the depths to which we go, in the group!  I’m so grateful that the group leader has decided to reconvene the group as a kind of retreat, and that I will be sitting together with them all, again.  I’m also grateful that even in the relatively isolated life that I live right now, the archetypes still know how to find me.

The weather forecast is for reasonable skies and hopefully reasonable tides.  There is something about a journey by sea that is a beckoning of the subconscious.  I did a year of writing school on the island and the sea was a strong motif in much of my writing both then and when I returned to the mainland.  Some people find their peace in the forest.  Some find it at the top of the mountain.  For me, I find myself called to sea.  How appropriate for this work that we do.

I’m looking forward to my journey almost as much as the events planned at my destination(s).  I think that is a pretty great thing and I wish I lived my life with that mindset more often.  I’ve tried to keep my blog a place that is welcoming to people of all faiths and those who ascribe to no particular faith, but I’m starting to think that the time for evading writing about my own faith – for fear that it will turn people off – is coming to an end.  I welcome everyone and I’ve vowed to serve people of all faiths (and I include agnostics and atheists in that group), but writing about my experience is really superficial without writing about my spiritual life.  I’ve had a pretty crap run of it these past few years but it has been my faith that has carried me through, like a bridge over such troubled waters.

The sun has begun to come out, the flowers are sprouting in the ground and my strength is slowly returning.  It is good that we will be gathering again to pray and listen, in love, to light the darkness of the world.  I believe my time has come to shine.  Maybe all my dreams are on their way.

 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Art, Art, Ten Thousand Days

When Life Imitates Art

February 20, 2020

Photo: Markus Spiske

Day 2009 – Day 2014

Over the weekend, I decided to spend some time painting.  I’ve got about a million things tugging at my time but I am battling a cold, so I decided to stay home and just paint, on Sunday.  I sat at the easel for hours.  Then I went and did laundry and came back and sat for hours.  And then I went and cooked dinner.  Back to the easel, for more sitting and looking.  In all those 12 hours, you would have thought I’d have started six new canvases and finished at least one work in progress.  But, no.  I managed to make very little progress on the two pieces in front of me.

I work on several pieces at the same time, in order to just keep working.  While one piece is drying, I move on to the next.  And, when I’ve got paint left over, I often will start something new.  I have probably a hundred WIP pieces and I’m tired of having them around.  Right now, I’m into finishing them and furthering a new style of painting, to build a new body of work.  I’m grateful to be able to say that I finished several old pieces at the end of 2019, but I’ve got many in the pile to be completed.

I am what you might call an intuitive artist.  I suppose what that means depends on how you define that term.  I think you might call me an expressionist.  One of my favourite figurative paintings is by a lesser known Austrian painter who is arguably, the first expressionist painter.  For me, expressionism sometimes takes abstract form and I absolutely love abstract expressionism.  Klee, Rothko and Martin are among my favourites.  But, it’s hard to be a good at abstract expressionism, no matter how it might look to the museum-goer.  To me, it has a lot to do with being great with colour, light (Klee and Rothko were amazing at this),  composition and texture in order to convey abstract emotions, ideas or states of being.  It can be approached scientifically and theoretically, but I tend to approach my painting intuitively.  Another way I paint is to start by laying down colour and patterns and then I keep turning the canvas around and around, adding to and painting over the colour, shapes and patterns until a figurative form or forms begin to emerge.  It has to be something that organically emerges to my eye.  I know that many people see things in my work that I never saw and that’s wonderful.  But, if I haven’t seen it, I’m not going to be able to relate to it and to bring it to life.  The final way that I often work is a form of outsider-art/primitivism that I was taught by Jesse Reno, where I lay down colour and symbols, then ‘grab’ parts that I like the most and see where that grab takes me.

Of course, I have done some art works where I set out to paint or draw a particular ‘thing’ – whether it is a still life or model in front of me, or from a photograph, or from my mind’s eye.  I never find these things have the same kind of energy that my intuitive pieces have.  While I’m grateful for the instruction I’ve had, frankly, I’m not that great at the technical aspects of painting or drawing.  Many artists plan out their canvas before they even touch it.  I don’t.  And so, I often end up with challenges in framing the final piece or with weird compositions.  But, I kind of like the results and the process is a deep one, so I keep working in the way that I do, and each painting teaches me more about myself and about composition that somehow I intuitively bring into the next piece.

I’ve been wondering if life imitates art.  I don’t particularly mean in the way that Oscar Wilde meant this twist.  I don’t mean that we see beauty only in the way that art has trained us to see beauty – although there is something in that.  I do think our ego has been conditioned to perceive things in a certain way and we forget to look with fresh eyes and to stay receptive, with wonder.  But I actually mean something more base than this.  I wonder if the way we are comfortable creating isn’t reflected in the way we end up living our lives.  You don’t have to be a painter or a writer or a musician to create.  Everyone cooks.  Some people follow a recipe to the precise measurements.  Some people make tasty food but have no eye for presentation.  Some people cook by principles, creating and tasting as they go, so that no two attempts at a ‘dish’ will ever be the same.  I tend to cook the way I paint: intuitively.  And what I am realizing is that some of my frustration with my life comes from not giving myself permission to live the way that I create.

In life, I plan out the small stuff – the steps to a particular goal.  I probably could make a lot of decisions intuitively but because this kind of lifestyle is not valued, (at least it was not valued when I was growing up), I do a lot of research and wrestle with the question for a long time before making a decision.  I even have some goals that are pretty much ‘life goals’ but if truth be told, I’m not so great at figuring out the steps to get there.  I could look objectively at the steps someone else took to get there, and I’ve tried this, without much success.  Their steps wouldn’t be my steps because there are so many different environmental factors at play.  I think that I need to find my way to the goal within the set of circumstances, talents, opportunities and insights that I have.  And if I don’t find my way to the goal, then I would like to have sufficient faith that even though the goal was something I wanted, it wasn’t something that was meant for me.  I’m grateful that I’ve usually found a way to make peace with my failures, but I admit that sometimes I really believe that what I want is what the Universe should want, and I struggle with the pain when it doesn’t come to pass.

That is frustrating, but faith doesn’t mean believing only when things go my way.   I do believe that when my will and the will of the Divine Quantum are in alignment, the obstacles are cleared.  I believe that the Divine Quantum is always opening doors and laying out a plan.  It is me that hasn’t always been fully receptive.   As humans, it’s tempting to want to plan every step and control every outcome.  I’ve done the planning and tried to achieve things through self-control.  But there’s an old joke – if you want to make “God” laugh, make a plan.  Sometimes the joke is on you when you don’t achieve your goal.  Sometimes the joke is when you do.

I don’t use ‘Divine will’ to be lazy.  I graft with the best of them.  Yes, I’ve worked tirelessly to achieve huge life goals only to get there and realize it wasn’t what I wanted, after all.  I’ve wasted years in jobs I should want and ruined my health trying to be everything to everybody except what I knew in my heart I should have been.  Nowhere along the way did I allow myself to question whether I was being drawn toward or guided to something better.  Well, that’s not true.  I did question.  I didn’t follow.  Instead, I went with what seemed a bit more practical.

I remember one instance where I had my eye on the prize and I broke down all the steps to achieve my goal.  I kept track of my progress so that I would make it to the end game as a success.  For more than 18 months, while I held down a full time job, I worked every morning from 4-7:30 am and 7-9 every evening with an additional 12-28 hours of work every weekend just to achieve the prize.  I spent all my holidays working toward that goal and I took 6 weeks of unpaid leave to get to the finish line.  I remember that the night before the final hurdle, I turned on the television to relax for an hour and there was Felix Baumgartner about to leap into space and skydive to the earth.  I knew nothing about it and I wasn’t certain whether I’d be watching a man fall to his death, but oh, how he was living!  For me, my greatest professional achievement to date will always be a part of the gestalt of that moment Baumgartner said “I’m going home, now” and stepped off the platform.

I achieved my goal, and yes, I felt grateful and proud of my accomplishment but it wasn’t going to lead to a life that I really wanted.  It didn’t give me anything of the joy of watching Baumgartner that day.   That was the beginning of the end of that phase of my life.

This weekend I went back to a painting that I’ve been working on, in my studio, for over 2 years.  It’s a small painting.  It’s nothing momentous but I feel that it is special – at least to me.  I keep looking at it and I see this brilliant potential but I’m not sure where to go with it.  So I put it aside for another few months and then bring it out again.  Maybe I do a few brushstrokes but then I put it away again and forget about it.  This past weekend, with a renewed commitment to receptivity, I worked on it again.  For the first time, I could see what was there, all along.  I see it.  I know the title.  I’m so close to giving it life.  One of the hardest lessons in painting is knowing when to stop.  And now, I’m stuck.  I’m afraid of the next brush stroke, in case I ruin it.

I feel like I can’t live my life in the flow of receptivity, following my faith, if I am afraid of the next step.  And yet, here I am.  I know that change is ahead and has been in process for some time, now.  I’m really trying to be receptive to where it will take me.  Some days I dream about going walkabout, of renunciation, and walking the earth.  It has been my experience that when I wander, small but profoundly beautiful things happen.  The pilgrim walks in faith, not always knowing the destination and I don’t know if my will is going to align with the Divine Quantum on that dream or whether, by focusing on being receptive, the Universe will bring the mate for whom I have been longing and who has been questing for me, for so long.  Maybe it will be neither of these options and I will be led to something completely ordinary where there is some meaning that I may never fully comprehend.  I know that my one job right now is to be receptive.

And so, I keep turning this life around and around, looking at it from different angles, and waiting for that which needs to be born to emerge.  But all day, I sit at my desk and my painting haunts me.  I can’t work on it but I can’t forget it either.  Maybe tonight I will go home, and with a single brush stroke, destroy what was waiting to be.  Maybe I will give birth to something beyond my wildest dreams.  Sometimes in life, it can go either way.  But who are we to say that what we call a mistake was not aligned with the intent of the Divine Quantum?  I believe every downfall is an opportunity to learn and grow.  And equally, who are we not to be receptive to the call to a great leap of faith into something beautiful?

 

Photo: Kamil Pietrzak

 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Hold the Phone

February 20, 2020

Photo: Jason Blocky

This is a temporary post just to let you know that I’m putting my posts on hold for the rest of February.  I’m writing them, but I am not making them public, for the moment, simply because they’re being reviewed elsewhere for initial publication.

I only decided today to throw my hat in the ring, and I have a deadline of 29 February to submit some work. I am seeking clarification on the term ‘previously published.’  If posting here will mean that my work has been previously published, prior posts will not be eligible for the particular use that I have in mind.  Given my deadline, the only two posts that I know will fit the criteria will be this week’s and next week’s post.  Working a full time gig, I simply won’t have time to write anything else.

I’m grateful to you for your understanding and as soon as I am able, the posts will be up here.  In the meantime, let me just say that I’ve been a little bit sick (nothing serious) but still working on painting and writing and I’m still posting videos every week to the TTDOG YouTube channel.  In other news, I’m grateful to be able to say that we’ve had two days of sunshine in a row here and I’m looking forward to a little get away, soon.  Nothing earth shattering but it is the small things that add up to a grateful life, don’t you think?

I appreciate your patience while I figure out what I’m doing with the next two posts.

And, as always, I’m very interested in you.  How is your gratitude practice going?  Are you seeing signs of spring in your part of the world?  For what are you most grateful, today?

Gratitude, Intimacy, Love, Ten Thousand Days

A Valentine’s Day Love Letter

February 14, 2020

Photo: Annie Spratt

Day 1994 – Day 2008

When I was younger, I used to feel like the limp leftover lettuce leaf at the back of the crisper drawer if I was single when Valentine’s Day rolled around.  As I grew up and matured, I transformed my sadness and diminished self-worth that inevitably resulted from the cultural imperative to be in a couple.  I celebrate the sacredness of love in all its forms and offer a middle-finger salute to advertisers and businesses that turn the most sacred act – loving – into an opportunity to sell their regular wares at radically inflated prices.  During the years when I was in a loving relationship, I refused to succumb to the commodification of love (and thankfully, I choose men who express their love regularly, who are self-possessed and who refuse to be bullied into herd mentality).  During those years when I have been single, I still celebrate whole-heartedly.

This year, I am single.  I will have an early dinner with family and then I will be out with some dear friends from the paddling community, who will be gathering to celebrate the visit of a fellow paddler from out of town.  I’m not the least bit sad that I am single.  I recently developed a rather annoying crush on someone.  It is annoying because he’s kind of a dork to me.   Maybe he’s a dork to everyone, but he’s not behaving like a suitor.  I’m a kind person, by nature.   There comes a point when you just have to go against your nature, in order to validate the right messages to your own psyche.  I’m not going to be unkind, but I’m not going to make an effort anymore, unless he does.

I’m grateful for the reminder that I can still get hooked by a man who pushes all the right buttons on my childhood wounds, and that I’m aware of it, and am able to make different choices.  Repetition compulsion is a good phrase because it encapsulates that misguided wish to have a do-over on all the childhood wounds, with the hope that if the outcome could somehow be different as an adult, it would fill the childhood hole.  And, the term compulsion conveys the almost irresistible pull of these dorks when they come along and treat us poorly.  Almost irresistible.  Almost.  I’ve done too much work on myself in this lifetime, and seen how precious this short life is, to spend any more time on unrequited love.  The best way to heal those old wounds, I think, is to give myself what I should have been given from those unavailable and inconsistent caregivers who gifted me with an insecure attachment style.   And so, I’m never grateful to anyone for treating me with indifference or disdain, but I am grateful for the opportunity to face this old nugget, again.

Romantic pain isn’t what you want on Valentine’s Day but I think back to this time 3 years ago, and I was absolutely shattered by a horrendous and sudden breakup.  This is nothing compared to that pain and I’m certainly grateful I’m well beyond that grief.  On the positive side, I’m so grateful for wonderful memories of quirky Valentine’s Days in college, loads of Palentine’s events wherever I’ve roamed, and lovely romantic getaways throughout Europe.

I haven’t really begun the exploration of love and gratitude, but I’m a day late on my self-imposed schedule for posting, and so it might be worth thinking a little bit about love today.  I am reminded of the Sufi Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee who talks of the two faces of love.  There is the masculine face that quests and declares: “I love you.”  And, there is the feminine face of love, hidden behind the veil, longing and waiting.  He is, of course, talking of the deep mystery of Agape love but the same applies to all sorts of love, including the romantic love of Eros that we celebrate today.  It applies to all forms of love because real love is the meeting of two souls in Oneness.

He speaks of the way in which our modern society has glorified the masculine and killed off the feminine spirit.  And in my life, I can see this.  Even someone who is inherently feminine, like me, has always approached love as a quest.  But it is not my role to quest, no matter what childhood wounds might tell me.  It is my job to be the feminine force of receptivity.  That feminine face of love has been all but lost in modern society, and the vulnerability that accompanies it, is almost unbearable.  Almost.

When that vulnerability of it becomes too strong, it helps me to remember that the ancient Greeks recognized at least 6 manifestations of love: Agape, Philia, Storge, Philautia, Xenia, and of course, Eros.  Even Eros, when matured, draws the person toward beauty – embodied or not – and not simply toward human attraction. Looking at or making art, watching a sunset or photographing the beauty around us, reading or writing poetry or listening to and making music can all be ways to express and experience the soul’s need for Eros in one’s life.  I’ve been doing all of these things, and doubling down on them recently, because I recognized that my life has become arid where my practice of watching the sunset on the Thames used to be.  And, I need to fill my well with love – even Erotic love – so that my longing can be bittersweet, without being all consuming.

Today, dinner with my family will fulfill my soul’s calling for Storge and Philia while my date with friends further provides more Philia love as well as Xenia.  My personal spiritual practice is centred on Agape and I am painting and photographing much more than I used to, and that just leaves Philautia – the love of self.

A deep experience of Philautia is another aspect of love that gets short shrift in our drive for romance.  I recently heard someone on YouTube suggest that one cure for depression is to get out dating or get into a relationship.  I’m not at all sure about that.  Maybe it depends on the cause of the depression and whether it is really depression or just a bit of loneliness and sadness.  (Edit: I’m not saying not to date or to love someone who is depressed. I am saying that dating or looking for love outside oneself is not a cure for depression)  I think that looking outside of oneself for hits of feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin is a weak strategy for what is essentially a sickness of the soul that can only be cured with deep processing.  If we look outside ourselves for validation of our worthiness to be loved, who are we, when we are rejected?  If we love others only so that they will fill us up, then what is the quality of our love? And, how fragile is our sense of self?

In our times, dating without a solid sense of self-love is a common remedy for hard soul work and the progress toward self-actualization.  Ultimately, it leads to unfulfilling relationships and a terribly transactional approach to love and life.  Nothing ever gets healed, it just gets avoided.

Today, I make a joyful promise to myself that I am done with the quest that reveals itself in the pursuit of the unavailable man and his unattainable love which will never heal me.  I do myself and the “runner” a service by stopping this game and standing still.  I am, with no small amount of fear, surrendering to the forgotten call of the feminine soul which travels with me through time and space, and I am giving in to the mystery of the oneness of the collective unconsciousness.  I am resurrecting the Divine Feminine in my life.

I am longing for you; I am waiting for you.

Photo: Billy Williams

For what are you most grateful, today?

Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Love, Milestone

Two Thousand Days of Gratitude

February 6, 2020

Photo: 30daysreplay

Day 2000

During the first year of my gratitude practice, I made it a habit to ‘check-in’ about what was going on with me, at regular intervals.  This was how I discovered the impetus to give back, and my increasing capacity and desire for connection – both interpersonally but also at a more profound level, in experiences of Oneness.  I’ve also observed, at these check-ins, the urge to find purpose and meaning and the necessity for mindfulness, presence and authenticity in order to live gratefully.

I will say that the marker of 2,000 days feels more daunting than even the 5-year mark.  We’re used to counting time in years when we’re asked how long we’ve lived somewhere or been in a job.  It’s a kind of backward counting up of time spent.  With the counting of days, there is more of a sense of counting time that is remaining.  At 2,000 days, I am 1/5 of the way through the Ten Thousand Day goal.  Having equated ten thousand days as my remaining life expectancy, I feel the urgency of time passing and making the most of my spiritual practice and habits of living well and gratefully.

And yet, standing at the 2,000-day mark, the first thing I have been noticing over the past year is a kind of apathy and boredom in my practice.  I don’t think grateful living is boring.  I don’t think being thankful is boring.  I just found myself unmotivated to practice, and I was finding myself frustrated with the place I find myself, in life.  I have been resisting my life with so much passion that I lack more than a drop of it to look deeply enough into the life that I wish was different to find things for which to be grateful.

As I write this, I see that what I needed to do was surrender to this little life that I find so boring, in comparison to the life I’ve led these last 20 years.  I needed to surrender to the quiet and see what I would find in my stillness.

Friends and spiritual companions have tried to advise me to stay still and just be.  In that stillness, a lot of things can arise, and I think that is what terrified me.  Being back in my family of origin, I knew that whatever arose and needed to be healed would be something from which I have run, for as long as I could walk.  Perhaps that’s why I chose not to surrender and I filled my life with travel, art, sport and a fair amount of Netflix.  I fell victim of the terror of the pain that precedes healing.

When you run, you never get far away from that thing.  That thing is strong and is always nipping at your heels, threatening to overtake you.  There is no peace in running.  No amount of travel and no overcrowded schedule could keep the dogs at bay, forever.

I’ve said this before, but gratitude is not the property of the positive psychology movement, although it is only positive psychologists who seem to have had interest in promoting more good feeling, rather than alleviating the bad.  It has – as spiritual trends do – gotten co-opted by the spiritual BS artists out there.  We may not know them when we see them, but if we pay attention, we can smell them a mile away.  The yoga dudes and dudettes who pranam and utter platitudes of non-attachment, but whose identity is tied up with being a ‘teacher’.  I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting them – usually they are chatting-up some member of the attractive sex, talking tantra or some other spiritual tradition in which they’ve superficially dabbled, for their own egoistic purpose.  I don’t fault anyone for following them, for a time. Finding a teacher who is the real McCoy is not easy.  I went through 3 different spiritual masters and tested my teacher for nearly 12 years before I was certain that I had found the right path for me.  And, I’m certain he is the real deal.  He is grounded and concerned with matters of both the soul and the spirit.  They are very different things.

I have never been one to approach the practice of grateful living as the endless pursuit to ascent to Spirit.  That is ungrounded, and can’t be sustained.  I’ve always believed that a spiritually mature practice must not only reach to the heights of spirit but also be prepared to descend into the depths of the soul.

I’ve also never claimed to be a perfect spiritual wayfarer.  I’ve only claimed to be on the path and depending on where you are in your journey, I may have walked a little further.  I still have a very long way to walk, and if you’re ahead of me, I thank you for lighting the way.

I have been sitting with this feeling of boredom and dissatisfaction with my practice for more than 9 months now.  I’ve plumbed the depths before, finding terrible beauty in my pain as it is transformed.  But this has been different.  It’s been neither glorious, nor agonizing.  It has just been meh.

The Universe handed me a gift, in the form of a surgery that went horribly wrong.  One day I was stuck in the petty resentments that I had been carrying with me everywhere I ran these past few years and, perhaps, all my life.  The next day, I was at the mercy of a surgeon who ended up gifting me a month in various hospitals and several surgeries.  I learned some private and painful things, in the hospital, about the isolation of serious illness and about the unique gifts and woundings that I received from my family of origin.  I came out of hospital a stronger woman – not just for having had my internal organs and systems repaired by the best liver surgeon in the country.  I came out stronger for being unable, any longer, to entertain the distraction of busyness or the denial of what needs healing deep within me.  I came out with a steadfast conviction to do what I came here to do.

There have been rapturous moments in my life where I feel such great joy and gratitude for my existence that I know that I could die, happily, in that moment.  Was I ready to die?  No.  Would I cling to life in the final second if I were to die in those moments? Yeah, probably.  But, last August, around about midnight, I was awoken and told that I was heading to major reconstructive surgery, and the porter was there to take me.  I was alone.  I barely had time to text my folks and my small prayer circle of friends to let them know.  My organs were shutting down and the surgeon needed to get in there immediately.  I was scared.  I didn’t spend all of my life as a wayfarer to choose fear in this moment.  As the porter wheeled me down the hallway, the nurses took my hand and wished me well.  I cried, all the way to surgery, knowing that I’d go in there with no final words, no final hug or kiss.  I was alone and I may never come back.

I knew that it was up to me to fight my way through as much as it was the surgeon’s job to keep me alive.  And so, I started humming the theme music of Rocky, in my head.  It sounds stupid, but we reach for whatever comes up from our subconscious to achieve what we need, in those moments.  When I was finally wheeled into the operating room, I followed the team of surgeons’ directions as they stitched in an epidural and lay me down for anesthetic.  Humming Rocky and telling my surgeon I’d fight to see him on the other side, I laid back.  In my last conscious moment, from my soul, I surrendered and called out to my God: “You are the surgeon.”  It might seem a weird thing to say, but to me it simply meant that I was surrendering with complete faith to the will of my Beloved.

We have to live in this world where the compelling story is the rising up in Spirit.  But we must also keep a foot in eternity and move to the demands of the soul.

The trouble that I’ve had with gratitude lately is, I think, rooted in resentment.  Some things may never change, but we can change our relationship to them.  We can let go of resentment and find things for which to be grateful.  By the time I was released from hospital, more than 2 weeks later, I took with me a renewed sense of purpose, a clarity of who is really in charge of this tiny life of mine, a deepening of faith, and an awareness of the imperative of surrender.  In some ways, I grew up in hospital.

I know the strength of my relationships.  I know where I need to place my attention both in this world and the other.

And, this brings me to the second thing that is arising at this time of check-in.  I am acutely aware of the depth of my capacity to love and also of my fears of being loved and broken open by that love.  There is an imbalance there that I know needs to be sorted out, if I’m going to have the experience that I wish to have in this incarnation and beyond.  My path is the path of love, and so I’ve got a lot to do.

Fortunately, I have a rising awareness and experience of the marriage of gratitude and love.  I’ve not conducted any clinical trials or studied a group of students’ brains.  All I can say is that, for me, I am becoming very aware of the connection between gratitude and love and I intend to make this connection a subject of observation, contemplation and action.

Photo: Brittney Burnett

I don’t think this revelation is unique to a Sufi or a bhaktan or a spiritual mystic.  I think that through gratitude we can all clean the mirrors of our hearts and create, amplify and reflect more love in the world.

That’s all I have for day 2,000.  Of course, I’m grateful to all of you for walking with me, on this journey.  I hope that you are finding something of value here for your own unique voyage.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Meditation, Oneness, Ten Thousand Days

Watching Clouds

January 30, 2020

Photo: Joshua Gresham

Day 1986 to Day 1993

My friend P-asked me if I’ve been painting.  I haven’t painted in over 6 weeks, and I feel guilty.

Another friend asked me last week how my writing was going and she told me I should be so successful with my writing because I was so talented.  I haven’t been writing enough lately, either.  Am I supposed to be flattered or feel like a failure with the fact that I should be so much more successful than I am?  I choose to be flattered and let my own judgement go – as much as my ego will allow me to do.

I watch my friends solving the world’s problems on the international stage and I wonder if I made the right choices and I ponder:  when did I stop advocating for children’s rights and working to end child poverty?  I can’t pinpoint the exact date or moment or choice to take a particular job that started to take me off that course.  All I know is that today, I was thinking back to a former version of myself, which has been lost in the update to my operating system, and I feel guilty.

Maybe it seems noble to feel guilt over how little we seem to have become, despite all this valuable life experience.  I wonder whether the value we place on life experience isn’t a little misplaced.  Surely not all life experience helps us to be what we could become.  That trip to India that changed the course of my studies, the job that took me into climate change and away from child poverty, the economic meltdown that took me to the City and out of sustainability, the breakup of that relationship that left me bleeding for the next few years…are these all helpful life experiences on the road to being and becoming, or do some of them just weigh me down as I drag them from scenario to scenario?  There is a reason they call it baggage.  It’s so darned heavy to carry around.

A friend shared with me, yesterday, a meme that went something like this:  to truly love someone is to grieve, without blame, the death of many versions of our beloved, as they inevitably let their dreams die, let fall by the wayside those traits we found so charming, to be replaced with new traits that may or may not be as charming.  If we only love the static version that we once fell in love with, that isn’t really love at all.  I think it is a very popular form of psychosis, and our need to control our partner into remaining as a single mirage is the cause of ruin in many relationships.  If we are willing to grieve and to face each new day with our partner, trying to see the unchanging soul within them, shouldn’t we also do that for ourselves?  Are we also not beloved? I do believe that we are always the Beloved’s beloved, whose arms are always open wide, waiting for our hearts to turn towards Him so that we can dissolve into Him.  There is no grief in that final annihilation.

I know that there are practical things that I need to change in my life and I’m impatiently waiting to be fully healed and ready to take on those challenges.  I’ve heard it said that one ought to make life’s waiting room into life’s classroom.  That’s all depends on where you’re at in life. Sometimes unlearning is far more important.

When asked if he was a Hindu, Swami Satchidananda always used to reply that he was not a Hindu, he was an Undo.  Osho taught that we need to unlearn all of our conditioning.  On the Sufi path, one is stripped of everything and laid bare in the face of an excruciatingly sublime love.  Oh the spiritual path is not for the person who is piling on the bricks of the wall of their identity and fooling themselves that it is static or even that it is real.  Jesus called upon his disciples to give up everything they knew about themselves and to eschew whatever lives they had built, to turn their hearts towards him and follow wherever he would take them.

My spiritual life is the most important part of my life and yet, sometimes I feel I pay lip service to that idea because I’m caught up in carrying the things of this world.  But, I am tired.  The weight of all this experience is too much to carry anymore.   All the unmet needs from my childhood, all the dreams I’ve left by the roadside, all the aspirations and hopes that I still carry despite all the broken hearts, all the traumatic events of my life, and all the guilt for not doing more – all of it – got set down for a short while, today.

I sat on my sofa and looked at the clouds through the 12-foot window at the end of the room.  And when the light in the sky changed intensity, I sat and marveled at all the values that on other days, I would normally perceive as simply gray.  Watching the clouds, I remembered what it was like to do nothing.  I wondered what it would be like to finally “become” nothing and walk the planet, being nothing.

Whatever I’ve done or not done, been or become, I’ve done my best, and the outcome was never in my hands.  I was reminded that an aspect of my path is to grieve and let go of all the selves that have ever been, the self that I think I am and any selves that I would have ever hoped to be.  Thy will be done.

I’m grateful for the time I spent today doing nothing and watching the clouds.  I’m grateful for all the teachers who have tried to show me the way back Home.  From the day that we are born, we are all in this waiting room of death that we call life.  I am grateful for this deep experience of feeling “burdened” so that I could, in a single moment of watching clouds pass by, remember the waiting room for what it is.   I can set down all this stuff that I carry.  I can cast my attention skyward, turn my heart further toward Him, and yearn to die, as the Sufis say, before dying.

 

Photo: SV Klimkin

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Happiness, Joy, Making a Difference, Service, Ten Thousand Days, The Daily Practice

A Global Renaissance

January 22, 2020

Photo: Olm Vibes

Day 1979 – Day 1985

That title of my previous post, “YouTube Famous” was a nod to the Millennial generation, the first generation to grow up on social media, and to create and aspire to participate in the phenomenon of going viral.   I have no expectation that TTDOG’s YouTube channel will become YouTube famous and in fact, at a personal and selfish level, I’d be horrified and my skin begins to itch at the thought of it, because I am attached to this project.   I’ve known several famous people and fame is something that looks great on the outside but comes at a very high price.  I told a story and hoped that it would take the reader along a journey with me but maybe I didn’t signpost clearly enough the final destination. I truly do want the practice of Gratitude to go viral.  It is the only reason that I’ve continued to write about gratitude, and my gratitude practice, past the original 7 day Facebook challenge.

Like every human, I am wildly flawed and plagued by ego – both the self-aggrandizing and the self-deprecating sides of that ego coin.  My name may be associated with this project but being on camera, I pretty quickly realized that I needed to tell the story while taking the focus off of me, even as the storyteller.   Yes, I am the writer and it is my subjective story of a long-term practice of gratitude that I am telling but the protagonist of the story is Gratitude, not me.

If this story of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude should happen to go viral, if I’ve done my job well, it is Gratitude that will spread like wildfire.  I will have succeeded in achieving one of my goals – these last 5 years – to be an instrument of what Robert Emmons calls a Global Renaissance of Gratitude.

My channel isn’t competing with all the other content providers making videos on gratitude.  It is competing with the channels glorifying luxury consumption, self-made star status, and the obsession with more that comes from a mindset of lack.

I am aware of the underlying Christian ethic in the West that says one should not be seen to be virtuous in public.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that to guard against hypocrisy, one ought to be somewhat clandestine with our virtue.  Whether one is Christian or not, if one lives in a Western democracy, this is a prevailing cultural imperative and we use it to assume hypocritical intentions of anyone who sets out to inspire others to follow a virtuous path, no matter how humbly it is done.

We have become so cynical that an outward expression of thanks is considered suspect and the whole practice of forming a habit and an attitude of gratitude is considered cliché.  To be cliché means it is overdone, and the art of genuinely living gratefully is, sadly, forgotten in our modern world.  We fill the air with empty words of thanks, to maintain an appearance of politeness, while sneering at those actively forming a practice to honour the sacredness of gratefulness, expressing profound appreciation to others, and acting upon that thankfulness to increase the good in the world.  I’m afraid our happiness and wellbeing indices tell a story of a culture that is tragically lacking in gratitude, despite our social etiquette.

Public practice of a virtue is condemned, yet on television, in the news, on social media, and in our gossip, we make it a guilty pleasure to be spectators of the public practice of vice.  That, to me, is hypocrisy.

The demographic that reads a written blog like this is somewhat different to the younger demographic that watches YouTube.  There is yet a different demographic that consumes podcasts.  Whether TTDOG gains a large following or not, I will put TTDOG on each of these platforms to increase the chance that this story will inspire others to practice gratitude.  Emotion is contagious and in a world with the airwaves filled with bad news, I’d like to counteract that and spread the complex emotion of gratitude, with all the associated positive emotions and behaviours that attach to it.

I’m a servant to a social movement of Gratitude and a volunteer employee of the TTDOG brand.  Doing this work comes at the sacrifice of earning more money in my professional gig and at the cost of my own creative work.  I have been transformed and healed through the steadfast daily practice of gratitude and the cultivation of an attitude of grateful living.  I could not, in good conscience, not do this work.

I believe in the great potential of gratitude to change the world.  I have experienced in my own life what Robert Emmons calls the ARC model of gratitude – the ability of gratitude to Amplify, Rescue and Connect each of us.  Gratitude amplifies the good in the lives of ourself and others by changing our predisposition to one that expects and recognizes the goodness in the world, it rescues us from a world built on doom and gloom, transforming a natural negativity bias, that robs us of our happiness, into a bias towards benevolence and the capacity for joy, and it connects us to others with our desire to pass on the great good we have experienced, though reciprocity.

I am dedicated to do my part to further a social movement of gratitude.  Speaking of the teachings of Brother David Steindl-Rast, Emmons eloquently says, in The Little Book of Gratitude:

 

The spark that can ignite a trend towards global gratitude is the zeal of men and women
who discover that grateful living makes life meaningful and fulfilling.”

 

Photo: Faris Mohammed

For what are you most grateful, today?