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Ten Thousand Days

Love, Making a Difference, Ten Thousand Days

The Landscapes of Conflict

December 10, 2023

Photo: Stijn Swinnen

Day 3399 – Day 3403

One night this past week, I was scrolling and came across a video made by the actor Misha Collins, raising awareness about the shelling of Ukraine and I wrote a long comment.  I’m not a fan girl and can’t see myself ever being a celebrity fan girl.

I worked in the New York film business for several years and I worked with a lot of stars.  Yes, I was  excited to work with David Mamet and Paul Schrader – both great writers – but the only person who caused me to be tongue-tied and nervous was Francis Ford Coppola, when I met him, in passing.  Our office was in the famous Brill Building, on Broadway, on Paul Simon’s floor, so there were a lot of famous people that I met on set, in post and in passing.  I see stars for who they are – fellow human beings (with followers) who are very good at their craft (and sometimes very lucky) but humans, all the same.  Sometimes they have more fragile egos than one might expect, and it is for that reason – not because they are celebrities – that they might deserve extra kindness.

So, I suppose it was a combination of my nonchalant attitude towards celebrities, and the fact that I seem to share a lot of the same passions with Misha Collins, that led me to overshare by way of a contemplative comment on his YouTube video.  I don’t regret what I said, but I did realize that it wasn’t the right forum.  So, I deleted it – but not before I took a screen shot for myself.

There is so much conflict in the world and on the world stage.   I have friends and colleagues on both sides of current wars.  I don’t condemn anyone for feeling aligned with one side or another based on their lived experience.  I think that is natural.   But at the risk of attracting condemnation, I am becoming more resolved in my own impartiality.

There is a monument in London to Edith Cavell, a nurse who treated soldiers on both sides of the conflict in WW1 and who aided Allied soldiers to escape across the Dutch border.  She was tried by the Germans and shot for treason.  I learned of Edith Cavell during my time sitting in silent contemplation as a guest of the London Quakers.  I passed the monument several times a week, for years,  and the memory of her story left cracks in my heart.  I think, or I certainly hope, that I would have done the same as she.  In my heart, I feel that when we are called to love, it is a Holy call and our ego’s preferences can have no part to play.  That choice of impartial love can be a matter of conscience or faith or both.

This brings me back to the comment I made on Misha Collins’ video.  For context, I understand that he practices Buddhist meditation and he has a history of activism in both politics and projects aimed at making the world a kinder place.  We share a similar passion to change the world for the better.  Don’t many of us have that aspiration?  I assume that if you are hitting up this website, you are at least interested in gratitude, joy, oneness and service.  Perhaps, my friend, we are being called to a new army: an army of love.

I deleted my comment on Misha’s channel, partly because it wasn’t the forum for such a comment and partly because I thought it might be seen as a criticism, which was not my intention.  He was, in the video, in Ukraine, filming the torment of night time Russian shelling.  To some, it might appear that he has chosen a side, but only he knows the level of equanimity and compassion that he nurtures in his heart, for each side of the conflict.  Edith Cavell’s example reminds us that impartiality does not necessarily mean a lack of action, yet the landscapes of conflict are where our good intentions can be misconstrued and we can forget the good intentions of others.

In any case, I thought that you, dear reader, might find some food for thought in my slightly abridged words:

I wonder whether you struggle, like I do, to balance the spiritual call to be the witness, with your compassion and your activism.  This is not a criticism but a genuine question.

It is something that I wrestle with, on my own hybrid spiritual path.  My maternal ancestors were radical pacifists from that very region (Ukraine/Russia).  My paternal ancestors took a different tack on Christianity and lived more by the sword.  My meditation/spiritual teacher, in this lifetime, is a mystic of a different faith, where the tradition is both witnessing and radical love (but the sword has its historic place in the wider faith within which the mystic sits)

My teacher’s guidance is not to expend energy on outer activism, but to focus all our work on the inner…which is somewhat of a return to the path of my maternal ancestors.  It is heartbreaking and requires constant wrestling with the ego to truly be a compassionate witness and lover.  To do it wholeheartedly is not an act of complacency but I certainly don’t find that I live up to the call of my maternal ancestors or my mystic teacher.  I wonder sometimes if the inner work is enough.  And, just saying that feels like I need to do more inner work.

My maternal ancestors were labelled “Spirit Wrestlers” by the Russian Orthodox Church.  I really feel that moniker in my bones.  They have nearly died out now, globally, but it feels like now is their time.

Late night thoughts here but I do wonder how you manage the pull between the inner and outer.  I wonder how anyone on a spiritual path does.  I don’t feel I”m doing a great job of it in these times.

I’m not sure any of us are really doing a great job of navigating a world in conflict right now. Conflict seems only to be escalating, from inner conflict to family conflict to workplace conflict to road rage to a shooting at the local grocery store until entire countries and regions of the world are at war.

If we believe that there is something more profound than just ourselves, how do we reconcile the experience of conflict with our awareness of Oneness?  And how, then are we to respond?

I don’t have the answers.   I have inner conflict and there is conflict in many areas of my life with which I struggle to bring together both my worldly and spiritual truths.  I have some good questions and my faith to guide me but I am actively wrestling with them, for my own and for Spirit’s sake.

Even in this uncomfortable place, I find myself grateful.  I’m grateful for that video by Misha Collins that gave me the space to begin to put words to these questions.  I’m glad I made the choice to delete them and re-write them in this forum, as an invitation to contemplation.    I am grateful for my ancestors – even for the fact that their values were so at odds.  It has been a legacy I have had to contend with all my life. Perhaps it has made me more aware of and willing (sometimes not before I’ve dug in my heels and been dragged, kicking and screaming) to try to walk the tight rope between points of view.  And, finally, I’m grateful for my teacher and my small group of fellow meditators with whom I meet, fortnightly, to bear witness to it all.

My compassionate hope for you is that you, too, will find the gift of space to reflect and wonder, as you navigate the many landscapes of conflict.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Thoughts on a Monday Morning

December 6, 2023

Photo by Patrick Schneider

Day 3203 – Day 3398

Monday morning, I was having a lot of thoughts.  By the time I got any of them formed into words and typed here, it was Wednesday of the following week.  I don’t know where the month of November has gone.  To be honest, I don’t know where the last two years have gone.  I pretty much stopped writing or producing videos or putting anything out there when my sister died.  She died unexpectedly in August, 2021.   Her cancer was incurable but I never heard the word “terminal.’  I think I knew she was sick in June and we all met up for what we did not know would be the last time, on Father’s Day.  The pandemic was still going strong so we sat outside.  I remember her saying that she wanted to make sure to be there for Father’s Day because, at 90, it might be my father’s last Father’s Day.  Having recently been told that she had incurable cancer, I thought – it might be her last Father’s Day, too.  I think I told myself so that I could start to get used to the idea that she was ill.  I certainly didn’t expect her to be gone in less than 2 months.

When my mother had this same cancer, it took her years of lonely suffering to finally let go.  Hers was a long and lingering death and I was too young to realize what was happening.  Or, perhaps I was simply just well clothed in the family tartan: denial.

My father passed away this year at the age of 92.  He worked until the day before going into emergency for a lingering infection.  He died within a month in a way that managed to be both quick and lingering.  I think after the first week in hospital I started to realize that perhaps he might not be strong enough to get well again.  I gave everything I could to bear witness to the most important moment of his life and help him in the hardest thing any of us will ever do.  It was imperfect and I wish I had done a few things differently.  I talked him through some of the highlights of his life, as he was in hospital, but it was only after he passed that his wife gave me back the gift I had orchestrated for his 88th birthday – a jar full of notes from his children, wife and grandchildren – 88 things we loved about him.  Had I remembered that it existed, I would have read to him from the jar of tiny love letters to send him on his way.

But we can’t do things perfectly.  We do the best we can.  I’m grateful for the prayer support of my worldwide network of spiritual warriors and healers who helped him, and who helped me through that difficult transition.  I’m grateful that I could sense his resistance to be healed and to know where it was going, before it did.  I’m grateful for my awareness and my ability to be there for him and to say the things that needed to be said.  When you come down to it, there are only a few things to be said – I love you, I’m sorry, I forgive you, I hope you will forgive me,  and its okay to go.

I stopped writing when I lost my sister.  I did not want to be public in my grief.  On top of that, I picked up a stalker who watches and judges everything I post and has made trouble for me and continues to try to do so. It’s been difficult to want to come back here but I know that there are people who still hit up my website – sometimes for the first time.  Perhaps my journey can help them.  And likely, returning to publicly documenting my gratefulness will be good for me.

This was a hard 650-ish words, but I’m back.  I hope you’ll keep reading.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

I Did a Hard Thing

May 24, 2023

Photo: Luca J

Day 3098 – Day 3202

I did a hard thing.  To do it, I had to be diligent and determined.  Time and again I was humbled.  Who I used to be is not who I am now. 

But isn’t that true, of all of us, if we are actively engaged in this thing called life?  Some of our attributes decline with time – physical beauty being the easiest one to bring to mind.  And, some of our qualities develop with maturity.  I wouldn’t say they are a trade-off for one another but to one who witnesses life, there is a certain dance that we experience. 

I could tell you all about the hard thing I did.  I could feel ego gratification over my achievement or grief over my loss, depending on how the hard thing turned out.  But what I really take away from the experience is the humility and faith that became entangled in the process. 

Humility came in learning that I had limits.  When I was younger, I had not experienced my limits.  And, while this was maybe not the upper limit of my potential, I certainly met limits of time, energy and capability along the way.  I had to pace myself and accept that some days were better than others and rather than push myself through any wall I hit, I learned the gentleness of having grace with myself and letting myself rest. When I rested, the next day was usually better and more productive.  Working with my own inner rhythms worked far better than pushing my body and mind to go beyond where it was willing to go.  As an over achiever all my life, learning compassion, coupled with discipline and determination was a potent potion and a much more comfortable way of being with my aspirations.  I’m grateful for the gift of limitation because it led me to the choice of self-compassion over Self-annihilation.

How can we achieve anything if we let ourselves off the hook?  That, for me, is where faith comes in.  It was simple.  I prayed daily for the strength to achieve what I wanted, and if that was not to be, for the gift of insight when the time required it.  And, if that was not to be, for the persistence to try again.  And, I prayed that after I had exceeded the number of attempts I was permitted, if I was still unsuccessful, for the ability to surrender the outcome and accept that this was not meant for me.  In attempting to do something that I was 60 percent sure I could not do, I am grateful for my faith and the choice of surrender.

To me, the process got me unstuck in a number of ways.  Firstly, it was a step towards a future that I would like to create for myself and it was an act of empowerment to start to work towards building that future.  The compassion that tempered my ego got me through my inertia that I had developed as a result of letting my limitations dictate what I felt I could undertake.  My faith, my determination my discipline and my ability to surrender the outcome gave me the space to learn a new way of being guided by life, rather than guiding life to where my ego wanted to go.  

When I first started this journey of gratitude and joy, it was suggested to me by a very learned person to keep religion and faith out of it because it would have a wider appeal to an audience that is increasingly non-secular.  I wonder now, if following that advice is the best for me and for my potential audience.  My faith is probably the single most defining attribute of this blob of flesh and blood and consciousness that I call me.  What I believe in is not the most important thing.  It is the act of faith – over and over again – in the face of things that could make one lose faith – that is really what matters.

I write about my personal journey and I hope that it inspires others to improve their own lives by taking a different viewpoint on the circumstances of life.  Faith is an important part of that process for me and I’m eternally grateful to have been gifted that faith and that it has only strengthened in adversity.  That, much like gratefulness, is a choice. And often that choice amounts to doing the hardest thing.

 

For what are you most grateful today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Bending Time

February 7, 2023

Photo: Mason Kimbarovsky

Day 2924 – Day 3097

I’ve lost track of the days and weeks and months since I was last here.  To be fair, I’ve lost track of the time period.  I realized this weekend that I’ve lost more than 3 months of my life and I fear that I may yet lose more.  I’ve been ill and the recovery is still ongoing.  I’m back at work but I can’t work the hours that I did and even what I can do seems to be a daily struggle for me.  Some days, I have to admit, I have felt hopeless.  Because I’m at work, people don’t register that I am still ill and rather than accept what I can do as the truly heroic effort it has been on my part, I know that they resent I am not doing more.  Unless you’ve been in the skin of someone with the old lingering C, you have no idea what a struggle it is some days just to breathe.  When I’m not at work, I’m on bedrest.  It’s not much of a life.  And yet, here we are, at the same place this journey began.

When I began this journey of gratitude, I never anticipated that it would become a ten-thousand-day commitment.  I was living one day at a time, accepting that I was ill and isolated and I had no control over when or if this would turn a corner and I’d return to normal.  Life looked bleak, to be fair.  Nobody understood except for the 6 women who were part of the same hospital study group and with whom I navigated a diagnosis that had neither a treatment nor a cure.  The rest of my life could be filled with unpredictable disablement and the sacrifice of all energy to the necessity of earning a living to pay the bills.  Some days, that cycle seemed a pointless pursuit of a life devoid of quality and filled with suffering.  

And here we are again.  Nobody understands.  This thing comes in waves and is unpredictable.  It is frustrating and people only see me when I’m well enough to leave my bed so they can’t imagine that I’m actually sick and I spend 16 hours a day in my bed, barely able to undertake the basic necessities of life.  Somehow, I seem to have bent time and returned to Groundhog Day over and over again.  Why do we never return to the happiest moments of our lives?  I have no answer to that.  

I’ve spent three months asleep and when I haven’t been asleep, watching videos on YouTube because that was all my brain could manage.  I got curious about this Harry Styles dude and went down a rabbit hole of One Direction fandom for about a month.  I came out appreciating the solo careers of each of the boys and realizing that music was much more soothing to the soul than most of the tat on YouTube.  I started listening to music again and rediscovered my love for harmonizing that I lost, when Covid came, and we could no longer be present with one another to make music.  

My world has shrunk even more than I thought imaginable after 2 years of isolation and distancing.  It is just me.  Just me.  And my God.

I used to love travel and I’ve not been more than the distance to my city core in 4 years.  In my delirium, I had many dreams where I travelled to new places and old beloved destinations.  The dividing line between my waking and sleeping state these past 3 months has been almost invisible.  When I would awaken from my travels, I was never quite sure – for several minutes – if I had actually been to those places.  I’m not sure what happens to the soul when we die (who is?) but if we have a soul, I do know what happens to it when we are forced to sleep for long periods.  We journey.  I’m not sure that my journey has been pleasant but it has been profound.  I don’t have clarity on where and why my soul journeys, but I trust that will come in time.  Or, it will remain a mystery.  I’d like to journey to Vienna.  I miss my favourite city and it would be nice to go again, even if only in my sleep.

This week, I will be referred to a clinic for this particular malady.  There is no cure.  They really don’t know what to do but I will aid the research and be with doctors and practitioners that are motivated to support me and learn from me and others like me.  Having been down this path before after a recurring viral pneumonia, I know there is not much on offer but a place to be believed.  I’ve thought about my mortality and lamented that I’ve not accomplished this or that or left a legacy that I had planned.  Oddly, that fell away.  It seems to me that my intention has become to leave nothing behind.

My sister died just a year before I got so ill and I’m grieving the loss of her still.  I’m also grieving the loss of my father even though he is still alive.  There are many ways we lose an elderly parent before they pass on and I’m in a privileged position to experience the slow sorrow of it.  Time bends and the loss of my mother becomes fresh again and I feel her here with me and grieve her, too, all over again.  I don’t know why I’ve been gifted the early deaths of both my mother and sister and the slow loss of my father, but I’m choosing to see these events, and the opportunity to re-experience long term post viral complications, for a second time, as experiences that contain a hidden treasure.

I have anxiety and hair loss, debilitating fatigue, difficulty breathing and brain fog.  My sleep is disturbed and my dreams are more disturbing. And then there are stretches where I feel perfectly fine.  But then I’m slapped down again and the contrast is all the crueler.   Although I label this as unpleasant, it is certainly an experience not everyone gets to have.  I try not to envy the healthy who get on with living life vertically.  I try not to get angry with the false virtue and lack of empathy of those who think I should pull up my boot straps and just get on with it like they did. Reacting to other people’s judgements wastes precious energy but I admit that I still do it.  I’m human.  I know there are hidden blessings of learning compassion for self and others who suffer, of letting go of the ego’s drive to accomplish and achieve, of dreamtime travel, of surfing the waves of panic and despair, and of focusing on every single breath.  I may yet recover, over time.  And, I may not.  Either way this is a process of letting go, letting go, letting go.  I suck at it.  I’m petulant and prone to tantrums.  This is a stage in the process of letting go and as uncomfortable as this anger and panic is, I will move more quickly through it if I allow myself to be present with the uncomfortable experience.

When the world shrinks, the aloneness is almost unbearable at times.  Almost.  Nobody said walking a spiritual path was easy.  It is, in fact, a death.  It can be painful or not.  I suspect the difference is surrender.  But, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that I know nothing.

With these unwanted experiences, I am making the choice to find the small moments of gratitude: a cool breeze through the window, a beautiful piece of music, a few hours of undisturbed sleep and those moments where my breathing is easeful.  When the world shrinks and time bends, even these things are sublime.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Dreamscaping

August 3, 2022

Day 2869 – Day 2923

I’ve been going through a kind of awakening in the past few months (more on that in another post).  As I’ve been awakening, my dream world has been changing.  Some dreams are just nonsense, but there are dreams in our lives that are important and if we are on a path of soul work, we would be wise to pay attention.

The last dream I wrote about was about the Twin Flame and his play that made no sense to me.  Analyzing that dream helped me to integrate many lessons and things have shifted in me and in my inner landscape.

The next dream I had was about my own talent as a writer.  I dreamed that I was watching all the films that I had made during my time in the Creative Writing program and I realized that I was a pretty amazing writer.  I have this experience when I come across old writing – whether it is a short story, a part of a novel, a play, film script or even my thesis for my Master’s degree about Children’s Rights and Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/Aids in the developing world.  I’m a really good writer and I never give myself the credit that I deserve, to be honest.  In this dream, I watched a film that I had made and I had a cameo appearance.  The camera panned across the scene at ground level, and there I was, under a bombed out building, on a gurney, in some state of repose.

I feel like I’ve been in a coma for a long time.  In my previous dream about the Twin Flame, I felt that I had awoken from a fugue state and I’m feeling that in so many ways, in my life, right now.  My life has been difficult (a monumental understatement) for many years, now.  Its been too much to take in.  On some level, I have been in a kind of coma and partly, this has been self-induced but partly it has been by Grace that I have been numb to it all.

The dream seems affirming about who I have been and who I can be again.  My ego was wounded by the Twin Flame when I sent him my writing and asked to do some work together.  He just blanked me.   I could see that he was reading my writing but the fact that he never responded to my offer left me feeling rejected and as if he thought my writing was crap.  It hit a core wound in me, where I never felt affirmed in my family of origin and so it was difficult to really believe in myself.  When he blanked me, the LACK of affirmation opened that wound and it took a couple of years to heal. I wondered why he kept coming back to read my stuff if he didn’t like it.  Then I noticed that little bits of my writing would appear in some way, in his work.  Whether that was consciously done, or not, I felt not only hurt, but exploited. 

My dream also reveals that my family of origin (with whom I am now again enmeshed) left me feeling that my soul was unsafe and needed to be put into a coma in that dystopian world, to await a safer time to re-animate.  In the dream, I am the watcher, the storyteller, and a part of the story all at once.  It is a metaphor for the revelation of meditation.  It is an empowering dream of how we can create our own reality and how it is still just a story.  As long as I’m on this planet, playing a part on this plane of existence, it is time to build a world in which I can awaken.

I’ve been ruminating on what comes next for me, in life – the story I want to tell.  I’ve been thinking about which of my many skills I want to trade in the next phase of my career.  I am feeling compelled to edit and publish some of my work.  I need to spend some time on my writing.  Storytelling is an ancient part of my spiritual tradition.

Another part of me has been thinking of going back into Sustainability and development.  Its been awhile since I’ve done that work so I’ve been working on updating my skills.  Perhaps I am feeling a little insecure about it because in my next dream, I attended my convocation ceremony in the UK.  My luggage did not arrive and so I had to go to the ceremony in jeans and a baseball cap.  But, I was hugging old friends from the London School of Economics and feeling happy.  When I arrived, however, I noticed the Twin Flame was sitting in the far upper left hand (the past) seat of the bleachers, also in jeans and he was wearing an orange baseball cap.    In my dream, I noticed he was there but I turned away, sat down and ignored him.

I think the dream was a kind of transition dream.  I am preparing myself for a change and whether it happens in a month or a year, it is already in motion.  I’m not happy that the face of the so called Twin Flame is still a part of my dreamscapes but if he represents my inner masculine, then when I fully integrate that aspect of myself, he will no longer appear – in the corner or not.  My inner masculine will just be a part of me.

If there is such a thing as Twin Flames and if he is visiting me on the dream plane, then no matter how two souls might be connected, a married man – as long as he is married – has no place in my life or in my dreams.  If this is a dream-plane visit, eventually, he will see that he can’t get past my boundary. He will get bored of being on the edges and quit visiting my bed.

At the level of analysis, the dream probably represents some trepidation I have about this possible career path.  I remember feeling frustrated that, at a time when governments and businesses still had the chance to limit the impacts of climate change, many placed their focus on how to harness the inevitability of climate change to their advantage.  It was so disheartening.

In my next and most recent dream, I was given a positive message about a third career option I have considered and I was offered a choice of three necklaces (three different paths in my life?) and the most beautiful one was made from “medieval chemistry.” (I think this is what we might call Alchemy) I commented that although I had started University as a physics major, I had gotten frustrated with the memorization of chemistry.  I wanted to understand how things worked on a subatomic level, not simply memorize the chemical formula for Salt or Hydrochloric Acid.  Chemistry turned me off, and so I switched my major from Science (that is all true, in my real life).

The so called Twin Flame was an unseen presence hovering around the edges and I could feel him judging me about my experience with Chemistry.  I went to pay for the necklace but I had to buy gold to do it.  I ordered a Science stock and 100 pounds of gold (a metaphor for the alchemical transformation)and then realized I’d made a typo.  I didn’t have that kind of cash to settle the trade – I thought it might be around $9000 (more like several million dollars).  Suddenly, the building started to crumble around me and everything started melting.  I ran outdoors and grabbed onto a lamp-post as everything around me melted into a pool of molten lava.  I watched the Universe implode around me.  A man, in a scuba suit, swam up and held onto the same post with me.  I got a message that my cross-platform trade had caused an error and this prompted the end of the Universe.

In real life, I have observed that this so called Twin Flame is sometimes very judgmental  but I think his judgement in the dream is the part of me that feels guilty that I couldn’t do more to stop climate change.  The judgement comes from the inner masculine responsible for taking action.  The man in the scuba suit was not the Twin Flame and may be a new face of my inner masculine.  As well as being the force of action in one’s psyche, the inner masculine is also the protector.  

The night before this dream, I was feeling grief that we are already seeing so many of the predicted impacts of climate change.  I fear we going to see some of the worst impacts within my lifetime and they could be catastrophic.  We are still working with a consumption and profit paradigm and aren’t willing to make radical change.  I think I am mourning the opportunities missed in the past and recognizing the possible futility of returning to the field when the paradigm has not shifted.

I’m not sure what it all means but I was clinging to “the light” (God) as I watched the end.  While I’m still exploring my options for what is next in my career,  I believe my soul is telling me that the real work that I need to do in the next part of my life is spiritual and monumental.  It is a hint at soul transformation and Storytelling is probably a part of it and so may be the third life path that came to me in the dream.

My dream space has been extremely potent.  Last year, while my sister was still alive, I dreamed that she, her husband and I were on the banks of the River Thames (a metaphor for the River Styx? For baptism? For the rituals of Varanasi?).

The so called Twin Flame came whirling down the river towards us as a massive storm made of light.  Perhaps the lost opportunity to be a part of one another’s lives and the times he hurt me were just the beginning of a storm of transformation and awakening.  

As that storm, the Twin Flame was perhaps a metaphor for the dervish or for Shiva, the destroyer of worlds. In the outer world, it is my sister who died, but on the inner, perhaps, it is my own death to ego that is being offered.

If my soul has been in a fugue state or a self-induced coma, I look forward to what these dreams may awaken in me.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Milestone, Ten Thousand Days

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

June 23, 2022

Photo: Robert Thiemann , Cathedral of St. John The Divine, NYC

Day 2868

Twenty years ago today, Sgt Pepper might have taught his band to play, but more close to home, I was ordained as a Minister. 

It was a journey that started out as a calling that I couldn’t even put into words.  But from childhood, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to God.  In time I found that renunciation was not the life for me, and that I was born to serve, with one foot in the spiritual life and one foot in the secular world.  It was a long journey to the altar, but my dedication really began in childhood.

I was raised a Catholic and to think of dedicating my life to God and not be a nun was not going to go down well with the older generation of the family.  On my other side of the family, my mother was from a spiritual tradition that did away with clergy and believed only in the direct relationship of the individual soul to the divine, without any need for intermediaries.  Where I chose to become ordained was a Seminary that celebrated all faiths and trained Ministers to serve people of all faiths, within their own traditions.  That is not to say that I am an expert in all of the world’s religions, but I had a broad enough training to conduct ceremonies and rituals in the major traditions and to serve in the spirit of these traditions, with empathy, and compassion.  There is a church to which I am affiliated, but there is no congregation or institution that supports my living.  I’m not paid or supported by a church and, like all of my cohort, I have had to find my own way to keep one foot in heaven and one foot on earth.

Of all the things I’ve decided to do in this life, I think that this has been the most profound journey.  First, to dare to manifest that still small voice that was within me, calling me to God, then to study to become ordained, and then to dedicate myself over and over again to my own spiritual path, in order to serve others more profoundly.  One thing that I think we forget, when we take vows, is that we need to continue to do our own spiritual work.  Without this, we can easily become the same sorts of hypocrites that caused so many to flee the boundaries of traditional religions.  Doing our own work, as Ministers, is crucial.

I struggled for some time to figure out how to serve without a congregation and without a wedding officiant business (as many of my cohort have done).  Over time, I found that quietly serving God is possible anywhere – even in the corporate world.  I found this matched the work I did especially in the world of Sustainability but I also found that I could serve in the world of Governance, Risk and Compliance.  Wherever there are people, I’ve found, there is a chance to serve with compassion and empathy.  I may not have been overtly serving religious needs, but I have found that I am always confronted with the opportunity to serve the spiritual needs of others – sometimes simply in their process of facing redundancies.

Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude has become a primary vehicle for me to serve.  I want to thank my readers for witnessing my own journey and for allowing me the privilege of thinking that perhaps I might have something to pass on to my readers.

I am grateful to the many friends and family members, who supported me along this entire journey.  On the day that I was ordained, my sister (now deceased) and her husband travelled to New York City to witness my ordination and the church was filled with so many friends who have been on this journey with me.  Although the door is a door one must walk through alone, I am grateful that I had so many supporters there to witness it and others (not present) cheering me on.  It is a lovely warm feeling to be so surrounded with that affection and, over the years, their witnessing it has helped to keep me accountable to my vows.

The thing is, it doesn’t require such a momentous ceremony and all the pomp and ceremony of a commitment to God in order to be of service to something greater than oneself.  All it takes is the decision to find what matters to you and to be of service to that.  It might manifest in serving a cause, or an ideal.    Volunteering for a cherished cause is a great route, for many people.  

Service does require sacrifice, sometimes.  I made vows and some have been easy to keep because they go with my natural inclinations but there are others with which I’ve struggled – like everyone who tries to live their values.  But living a life misaligned with our values creates a kind of spiritual discomfort that can lead to hopelessness, a sense of lacking meaning, and ultimately, despair.  Whether happiness, or spiritual enlightenment is your wish, the sacrifices of living a life of integrity is essential.

Service, especially when it aligns with what we value the most, gives us purpose and it makes us feel like our lives are meaningful.   I encourage you to experiment with ways to be of service and see what feels right, and most rewarding, to you.  I wish you so many blessings on your own journey.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

We Never Know What’s Coming

June 19, 2022

Photo: Johannes Plenio

Day 2853 to Day 2863

A year ago, this weekend, I saw my sister for the last time.  She had been unwell but my family chose denial and missed the preciousness of the moment.  It wasn’t long afterwards that she went into hospital for the next few months.  She never came out again.  Because of Covid, we were not allowed to visit her.  This pandemic has been cruel to everyone who lost someone.

When you are witnessing someone’s illness, I think that if you’re emotionally mature, you will understand that we never know what is coming and so you will begin to make your peace with them.  I’m grateful that I was able to do this.  But, nothing prepared me for the day when I got the call that she had passed away, and there was nothing in place to help me to put closure to her death.  Of course, I have a strong enough spiritual practice that I was able to make my own ritual to help me to make peace with the moment and mark the passage in my own way. 

For the most part,  I’ve been grieving my sister’s death on my own. It hasn’t been a full year yet since she passed away.   I did not anticipate the way that her death would change so many things for me.  How could I?  I’ve never been down this road before.

Yet, her death is just one of the many losses I have faced in the last few years and this has been one of the toughest times of my life.  My grief has layers.  This whole journey of gratitude has been a journey of tribulation, for me.  I began this journey deep in grief, and I chose gratitude as my companion.   I’ve been very ill,  I’ve had a broken heart, I’ve suffered losses in my career, I’ve given up all that I knew, and I have been bereaved so many times in the past few years that I’ve lost count.  What gets me through is the hope that we never really know what is coming.  It could be worse, but, it could also be better.  All we really have is now.  So I work to make peace with what is, by practicing gratitude.

I am grateful that I have a strong faith in my God, and that I’ve had the benefit of spiritual fellowship throughout this time.   I am grateful for all the friends who have stood beside me through this prolonged period of difficult times.   

The pandemic isn’t over but we are just learning how to live with it.  There is war, economic uncertainty and climate disaster threatening our peace.  My wish for you is that no matter what is going on in your life, you, too, will remember that we don’t know what is coming (some of it might even be good).  No matter what, I hope you will make peace with what is, and that you will find a way to choose gratitude.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

In Twelve Moons

May 27, 2022

Day 2833 – Day 2841

Today marks another 12 moons.  My sun sign is Gemini but my rising sign is Cancer.  Cancer is ruled by the moon.  Alas, my moon is in fiery Aries so the combination of Air, Water and Fire makes me a whole special brand of something, indeed.  Of all the planets that are supposed to rule me, I relate to the moon the most.  I can wrap my head around its cycles and map my moods with the pull of the tides.  And, I cannot get too attached to them.  They will pass.

There was a time when life was measured in moons, because my grief was too acute to believe I would not die of a broken heart.  With each passing moon, my heart recovered just that little bit more and eventually, when enough moons stacked up one on top of the other, I was able to climb out of the hole that I was in.  The moon was my friend.

The moon is still my friend, and now I am measuring my life in moons again.  In 12 more moons, life will be very different, and rather than keep my eyes on the small changes from cycle to cycle, I am keeping my eye on the moon and where I want to be in 12 cycles.  In 12 cycles, I want to be in Malta.  I used to go to Vienna every year for my birthday and enjoy the art and coffee culture and (if I was lucky) photograph the gorgeous blooms in the Vienna Rose Garden.  Vienna has always been a happy place for me and I look forward to being back there again one day.

But in 12 moons, I’d like to be in Malta.  I spent much time in Europe seeing the works of  one of my favourite painters (Caravaggio) until a comprehensive exhibition in Budapest brought all his major works from throughout Europe to one place.  I still enjoyed travelling to see them again – particularly my last trip to Rome, where I went specifically to see one remarkable painting that did not disappoint.  I had to book in advance a limited entry to see the Rest on the Flight into Egypt.  And, I think of my trip to Madrid where I had one of the last private tours of the artworks including the Caravaggio piece in the Royal Palace, before it tours shut down for some time following the abdication.  There is at least one of his major works in Malta, that I haven’t seen, but Malta was also an important place for Caravaggio in his later years and so I look forward to spending some time there.  And that sea is so very blue.

This has been a very frustrating period in my life and I’m looking forward to leaving this era behind.  Rather than look backwards at what I have given up, or what I have lost or what I have had to let go, I am looking forward to where I will be and Malta is my touchstone.

I look forward to sending you a postcard from a seaside cafe.

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Under Construction

May 18, 2022

Photo: Umit Yildirim

Day 2828 – Day 2832

You may have noticed that the website is changing and things are moving around and some posts are going to no longer be available.  I’m envisioning some ideas for the future of this project and this will mean editing the website.  It might be under construction for a while.

It makes me think about the way that the self-help movement and the new spirituality gurus can leave us always feeling like a human-becoming, work-in-progress, never-quite-enough person.  If you’ve ever lived in a house under construction, you know how uncomfortable that can be.  

Last year, I spent some time depressed because I felt I had not fulfilled my potential – despite the many, many, many accomplishments I have achieved.  This has been a theme in my life borne from parents who motivated achievement by pointing out failure.   I grew up never really savoring the moment of an achievement, before moving on to build the next accomplishment.   I suspected that I was not alone and I asked around.  Whether it was a specialist surgeon, a multiple time New York Times bestselling author, a leadership coach, artist, accountant or grocery clerk – nobody I spoke to felt that they had reached their potential and it causes them some regret.  This is the human tragedy of the spirituality and self-improvement machine.

Our potential is infinite; we can never reach the apex.   As we grow, so does our potential.  We must not live our lives under construction.

I encourage you, dear reader, to do everything in your power to shift your mindset from believing that you are a human-becoming, and come to understanding the truth of yourself as a human-being.  And, as a human being, the only place we can BE is in the present moment.

Let’s not waste our time with regrets about the past or yearnings for a seemingly elusive future.  It’s trite but true: life is about the journey and not the destination.   As we spend this month looking at Purpose (capital P, of course) and MEANING (OMG!), we can get caught up in the comparison game with our peers or where we thought we should be.  

We may have a yearning within, because we have a sense of how great our gifts are.  And still, where we are at – right now – is the only gift that ultimately matters.  It is the gift of the present moment. 

Yes, I encourage you to refine your values and your vision, but as long as we are fully present with what is happening right now,  and as long as we make our choices in alignment with our values and vision, we are fulfilling the potential that this moment holds for us, and we are building our characters to take best advantage of the next.  Do the work, keep to the practices and enjoy life, now.  

I hope you will also enjoy the changes that are coming with this website and with this project, and for now, let me just say: Thanks for visiting and being a loyal reader.  It gives my life meaning to be able to write for you, to encourage you to stay the course of the practices and live your own purpose, in a meaningful way for you. 

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

These Foolish Things

May 13, 2022

Day 2822 – Day 2827

I’ve been clearing out things from my cupboards these past few weeks.  I’m in the mood to get rid of everything.

I released all of my research for my Master’s Thesis.  And, being a lover of all things South Asian, I am finally releasing many yoga/ayurveda/philosophy books from Gurus I have known and loved and my entire collection of Hindi films.   Even photographs have outlived their use –  the Temples at Tiruvannamalai and Arunachala mountain where I did several pilgrimages, the tea plantations of Ooty, Kovalum beach,  the slums of Mumbai, and the late afternoon lovers’ walk at Juhu’s Chowpatty beach – these are all a part of me now.

And yet, it is the sentimental things that keep getting fished out of the pile to take to the charity shop – that book that was inscribed by a summer lover, all the books written by friends, and those inscribed by famous heroes of mine.

My mother passed away so many years ago that memory becomes challenged.  I remember that she wore a pink sweater and I used to tease her for being so brightly clad.  But, when she passed, I kept that sweater.  I never thought I could ever part with that sweater because it embodied a story that she and I shared.  I have now only kept a single button to remind me.

We need a few touchstones in our lives, and these foolish things, remind me.

Keeping some things is unhelpful.  What do I do with the 8 foot by 4 foot painting that was painted by the Young Man who ended up being so horrible to me?  I don’t want his energy in my house – and yet, the painting cost me a lot of money.  I’ve tried to donate it but even that is problematic, as I’ve discovered in my many attempts.  This is, as yet, a problem that remains unresolved.  Throwing out art seems wrong, but it may simply get left somewhere as a charity shop donation and the financial hit will be my touchstone and reminder of a hard-earned lesson.

As I purged my second bookcase last night, I came across a postcard I had purchased for someone.  He once described a yearning  to connect remotely with people in a small town in Saskatchewan, who were broadcasting via the airwaves.

When Covid hit, he said he’d like to receive postcards.   I considered asking the chamber of commerce of that town to send him one but everything was in Lockdown.  In my travels around the internet, I found an Australian with a vintage photo (c 1900) of a town in Saskatchewan that had been turned into a postcard.  And so, I corresponded with the kind owner and bought it.  It wasn’t posted until June, and with the Covid shipping slowdown, it arrived several months later, in late Summer, 2020.  By then, I had had a disagreement with the man for whom it was intended.  I never sent it onward.

I had forgotten that I had tucked it away on the top of my bookcase, in case things healed between us.  My intention was generous: to send it with kind words.  I’ve done that already several times, in the past, without that particular card.

I had made an attempt to heal the discord between us but he remained silent, and disconnected.

 

 

Perhaps I can make a piece of art out of the card and out of the beautiful Australian stamps that decorate the mailer in which it was so carefully shipped.  Perhaps, in that act of transformation, the card – which connected me to a stranger in Australia, which once held hope of another connection, which memorializes 3 people and a hotel long gone, and which has already travelled around the world to come to rest with me – will then fulfil its purpose of expressing the human yearning to connect.

I will give my heart to beauty, and create some new connections from this.

 


We need some foolish things to remind us, and there are some things we need to let go.

As I part with these things, I am thankful for the good experiences that they represent, like graduating from the London School of Economics, and visiting so many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South Asia.  I am also noting the progress I have made, in learning the lessons that the more challenging memories evoke.

In every item, there is a decision – does this represent who I am now, and who I want to become? Can the item and I both fulfill our purpose by staying together?  If the answer is no, it is time to thank it and let it go.

I hope that if you are spring cleaning, that you will be gifted with the spirit of non-attachment and hold only those foolish things that are truly meaningful to you.  Meaning is what we make of our lives and meaning remains, independent of the things.

I hope that you will be able to release those belongings which no longer belong with you.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

The Sanctity of Vows; The Sacredness of Values

May 7, 2022

Photo: Rui Xu

Day 2814 – Day 2821

This month, those on my email list are working on purpose and meaning.  One of the definitions of living a purpose guided life is to live in alignment with your values.

If you think I think I’m a Guru on all these things, I don’t.   I might be further down the path than some, but I also need the rigour of the practice.  I gain so much from the various ways I give daily and weekly and monthly focus to the practices.  Everything I suggest is something I’ve either done, and found helpful, or is a task that I am currently working through, myself.

Last year I did all of the values exercises that I offered for resources on purpose.  I just ended up confused.  There were so many great values and so many things I cherish.  I couldn’t find a way to narrow it down to a handful.  I’m sure we all have many values that we think are desirable.  Finding the core handful of values that drives you and guides your life may be a challenge.

Sometimes we don’t value the things we think we should.  Sometimes we value the very things we don’t know how to achieve but having them would heal childhood wounds.  These wounds may be there to help guide your soul’s evolution, yet sometimes our conditioning and traumas make the very values we need for healing, and transformation difficult for us to uphold.

Values are things that we hold sacred.  If they weren’t sacred, they would be mundane which means they would not have great intrinsic worth.  Some of the problems we have in living up to our values come from an increasingly secular world that lacks the ability to recognize and revere the sacred.  How can we narrow down our values if we aren’t used to holding anything sacred?  How can we build the character strength to, for example, put the needs of our children before our own ego needs, if we haven’t been raised to honour sacrifice for what we hold sacred?

There are many books that aim to inspire us to live a life of purpose.  We might come to believe that this is what everyone is doing.  That is a false perception.  Many struggle to define their values, and everyone struggles to live them.  Values are aspirational and therefore, living a life fully on purpose is also aspirational.

Values are like our compass to the sacred and our purpose is like the path.

Recently I came across a well-worn, hand written list of my personal vows as a Minister.  As a group, we took vows essentially to serve the spiritual needs of all, without any form of discrimination.  We also had the opportunity to write our own personal vows.

These are the only vows I have ever taken and probably the only vows I ever will take.  They are sacred.  As I looked at my vows, I realized they were a large part of my core life values.  I have edited them, for precision, and I would combine some vows into a single value.  That I chose to make these sacred vows demonstrates the core values of Service and Devotion to God.    To the list of vows, I would add values of Creativity, Beauty and Wellbeing.  Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service are aspects of my values.

I wanted to share my vows because they aren’t and shouldn’t be secret – I made them in a sacred space in front of my Seminary cohort, clergy and God.  And, these are the vows to which I hold myself accountable.

  1. I will stand for those who seek Justice and cannot stand for themselves (this is a form of Service);
  2. I will live in the spirit of Non-Violence (as a value this is part of my penultimate vow);
  3. I will live Simply and Sustainably;
  4. I will remember the Divinity of all beings and Love All; and
  5. I will live in Truth.

The last one is a doozy if you grew up in a family where there was triangulation and where there were secrets.  I did, and my experience last week may serve to illustrate how we can choose a value because it is something we lacked, and where living that value is difficult because of our conditioning.

Last week, I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing my previous post.  As I thought about the dream, I was gaining more insight into its lessons and clarity into how the dream applied to my life.  The post became less about the person in the dream because the way dreams work, as I’m sure you know is that it’s not really about the person who appears in the dream.   I always post my first draft of a post and sometimes, I will decide to go back and edit, many times, until the work is done.  But, if I’m telling the truth, that’s not the only reason I re-wrote it many times.

I was also concerned about protecting the feelings of the person in my dream, should he ever read my post.  This has been a theme in so many of my dreams about him, and a theme in my life.

I think it’s loving and non-violent to seek not to purposefully hurt someone’s feelings.  However, protecting the feelings of someone who has not protected mine is a form of keeping secrets, rather than boundaries.  Being evasive and avoidant is a waste of time and compromises my ability to live in Truth, reflecting a coping mechanism I learned as a child, of walking on eggshells, in order to survive.  If you break it down, the whole dream was a play within a play within a play that was a colossal time waster.  The dream itself was calling for me to cut through the crap of all the “stories” we tell ourselves and others and look to the Truth.

I’m sure that if we all look at our lives, we will find at least one example of this struggle to live our values.  For example, if someone has the value of fidelity, but were sexually abused as a child, they may experience a sex-addiction that keeps them from being faithful.  That failure can keep them locked in a cycle of self-hatred and addiction that separates them from that which they hold sacred.

So, as we work on values and purpose, it is important to take a penetrating look at how we are really living, and whether this is how we WANT to live, according to our values.  Living a life that betrays our values can bring lots of pleasure, and gratification.  Sacrificing our values might seem easier than the discomfort of living them, but denying that which is sacred is soul-destroying, in the end.   With compassion for ourselves and for others, we can break the patterns that keep us separate from the sacred.  We can, and we must, have enough self-compassion to seek help, if we cannot do it alone.

I am grateful that I kept this hand-written list of vows, and that I came across them just at the right time.  I am grateful for the lesson that struggling to live in Truth has taught me about the sacredness of values and the difficulty we will all face in living them.  I’m grateful for the reminder that we must always have compassion and forgiveness for our failings and the failings of others as we strive to live our purpose. 

I hope that you, too, will practice self-compassion when you encounter the challenges that your values bring your way.

 

For what are you most grateful, today