Browsing Category

Ten Thousand Days

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, 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?

 

 

Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Ten Thousand Days

YouTube Famous

January 15, 2020

Photo: Jon Tyson

Day 1971 – Day 1978

I’ve been v-logging on YouTube for less than a fortnight and it’s exhausting.  Unless you are already a filmmaker with a great eye for set design, an ear for sound and an eye for lighting, unless you have natural flamboyance and great skills in public speaking and unless you studied marketing in college, there is bound to be a very steep learning curve, indeed.

Let’s face it, friends.  YouTube is saturated with gratitude videos.  Thinking of trying to position the channel to stand out in that crowd is giving me a headache.  If I had started this journey in order to write a book or become YouTube famous, I would have chosen a much less saturated niche.  But, I didn’t start this to be famous, to prove anything to anyone, or even to spread the word about gratitude.  I started this to bring positivity into what felt like a broken life.

I was burned out from a job where facilitating redundancies and outsourcing suddenly became an unexpected and key part of my job description.  When I finally left that job, the emotional toll and the physical toll of the stress and unsustainable workloads meant that if someone coughed in the next room, I would get pneumonia.  Throughout the final months at the job, I tried to maintain my humanity and to give support to the hundreds of lives that were being radically changed, even though my job was to help with the plan to put them out of work.

I know that air traffic controllers have the most stressful jobs in the world, but I think teams that are tasked with managing people out of their jobs must be pretty high up there.  I hated what I did, but I did my job as well as I could and while I didn’t much like myself for being a part of it, I had, at my own initiative, been covertly spreading hope and kindness with a career lunch and learn series, using principles that I had learned in my own privately funded coaching sessions.  Nonetheless, the whole thing had taken a toll on me.  I left my job, not certain what was next.

My friend sent out a 7-day challenge for a version of the 3-things gratitude journal on Facebook.  It sounded positive and I was holding on to anything that would lift me out of the tar pit into which I had fallen.  And that’s how I began writing publicly on gratitude.  It is a rather ignoble and mediocre start, and I’m not sure it makes me a poster-person for gratitude, but I can certainly speak to the healing power of this simple practice.  My gratitude for the life changing power of the practice was what drove me to continue to write about it and to make a long-term commitment to documenting my journey.

While there is the writer’s ego involved in wanting to write about it, I do feel that there is value, for others, in documenting this journey.  If it falls flat, okay.  But, I feel compelled to at least give it my best effort.  I’m not an athlete who is breaking records for outstanding physical prowess.  I’m not even doing something that takes outstanding spiritual strength.  My ancestors were martyred by the Cossacks for standing up for their beliefs.  That takes spiritual strength.  I’m just doing something that takes a little effort, done consistently, over a long period.

How do I position TTDOG to be distinctive?  What is TTDOG’s unique selling point?  These questions have plagued me all my life.  Give me a product or another person and I’d probably be able to answer that question but when it comes to oneself, or something closely associated with oneself, it’s much tougher to answer.  All I know, for sure, is that I would love TTDOG to inspire others to take up and be faithful to this practice, because I know that it leads to improved wellbeing.  On the way to doing this, I draw a hard line at authenticity.  If, to be YouTube famous or break the blogosphere, I compromise on my authenticity, then documenting my journey of Ten Thousand Days seems pointless.  I’m not selling authenticity, but, if promoting these practices creates choices that compromise my authenticity, I’m not doing it.

The idea of “fame” has never sat comfortably with me, and I recognize that being so closely associated with TTDOG, this may be a concept that needs challenging, lest it unconsciously put the brakes on any efforts, before they have a chance to start.   I value my privacy and already, I’ve stretched beyond my comfort zone.  Vlogging threatens to make me snap, under the strain of stretching.  Rather than turn my camera towards my home, which is my sanctuary, I turn the camera to the wall, with a minimal bit of decoration.  This leaves the burden on me to be visually appealing and captivate with my storytelling.  No pressure there, then.

Right now, in this early learning phase, I’m simply filming a daily gratitude journal.  I think I can stretch this to the end of January with this format, but beyond that, I think a new video format will be needed, to engage viewers.   I can tell stories – sometimes successfully and sometimes not – but I’ve not been an improvisational on-camera storyteller before.  I might flop, and I think the value proposition of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude deserves better than that.  To create content for this blog, a YouTube channel, and perhaps a podcast that would be complimentary without becoming repetitive is a challenge.

I need some time to strategize and I’m wide open to receiving advice.

I’m grateful for the support of family and friends who have been cheerleading my leap to diversify the outlets for Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.  My niece encouraged me to reach out to creators that were successful, and far ahead of me.  Sure, some of them might not give me the time of day, but some of them will.  After all, she said, you never know what’s going to explode on YouTube.

Looking at the hate that circulates on the internet, and the cat-plays-a-piano videos that go viral, I said to her that I would be surprised if these videos on gratitude or my gratitude journals exploded.  And then a thought dawned on me, and I was grateful, once again, for the revelation.  None of this is about me.  It isn’t really even about my personal journey.

What if GRATITUDE went viral?

Photo: Park Troopers

 

What a glorious world that would be.  (Feel free to click and then hit subscribe)

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

A Face for Radio and A Voice for Print

January 7, 2020

Photo: Rachit Tank

Day 1951 – Day 1970

I wish you the most wonderful year ahead and I hope that you had a delightful holiday.

My holiday was made more delightful by my decision to dive head first into the ocean of YouTube.  I have been toying with the idea of podcasting but missed the obvious: starting a YouTube channel on Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.  I am a smart woman but sometimes I can be a really dumb blonde.  Since I moved back to North America, I have missed the bounty of Freeview that a UK TV License provides and so I’ve been watching BBC documentaries and clips from my favourite UK comedians on YouTube.  When I had to suddenly change my diet, I turned to YouTube for cooking channels.  Needed to learn how to build a box cradle for a painting I’d done on a wood panel? YouTube.  How to grow my first garden? YouTube.  How to get over heartache? YouTube.

You may be beginning to sense a theme here.  I had to be hit over the head with it, before I did.

I’m grateful to the creator Amanda Bealle at the Fundamental Home for demonstrating that ordinary folks can create channels that draw an audience, and to creator Frank James for planting the seed of starting my own channel through his secondary channel the College of Tuber Studies.  Amanda has been supportive of my efforts so far, and Frank James’ excitement over YouTubing has given me the confidence to throw Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude‘s hat in the ring – at least as a Beta test. I realize that I spend at least as much of my leisure time on YouTube as I do reading material posted on the internet.  It seems only reasonable that I expand to a YouTube channel as another outlet for reaching people and possibly inspiring them to begin their own journey of grateful living.

I’m not certain why I didn’t think of it till a few weeks ago, but I think it may have something to do with my reluctance to see myself on film.  I studied at the T Schreiber acting school in New York so ‘performing’ is nothing new to me.  However, I simply refused to study acting for the camera.  I hated how I appeared on film.  I hate being in photographs and I hate being photographed.  My voice? Does anyone like the sound of their own voice?  Having trained as a yoga and meditation teacher, I have a special knack for putting people to sleep.

Wow. Now, isn’t that an interesting opportunity for growth?

I’ve been frustrated with my post-surgical recovery or more specifically, with the rate of my recovery.  To keep me from becoming negative, in the autumn, I replaced my recovery updates on Facebook with the daily gratitude posts that formed my first year of writing about the practice.  When, a few weeks ago, I decided to launch a channel on YouTube, I migrated my 3 Things practice to the channel.  How much work could it be, to speak to a camera and say the 3 things, instead of writing them?

HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA

What I forgot was that I often write my posts in my pyjamas, with bedhead and no makeup.  I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to turn the camera on myself and record that process, warts, pyjamas, bedhead and all.

I have body positivity issues that have become really clear, in just the first week of filming.  I like to say I have a face for radio and a voice for print.  My self-deprecating humour barely disguises my desire for image management.

I suppose one way to manage this insecurity and self-loathing would be to lose weight, keep my hair perfectly coiffed, have plastic surgery to hide the signs of ageing, and go back for more speech therapy to minimize my speech impediment.  I could spend time and money and mental energy making myself into the ‘acceptable’ YouTube influencer image (if I even had the raw materials of genetics to pull that off), or, I could just focus on the why of what I do.

I write about my journey and now I’m making video content about my journey because I fundamentally believe that gratitude is a gateway to spiritual, mental, emotional and even physical wellbeing.  Wellbeing doesn’t come from focusing on how to be more acceptable on camera and it isn’t about being a beautiful influencer.  It’s about accepting oneself in all one’s aspects and letting that beautiful person shine.

I’m grateful for the awareness of this issue that even a week of filming has afforded me, and for the kindness and love I am able to give myself as I begin to let go of the conditioning of self-loathing and body shame that I’ve carried with me, all these years.

And, I’m grateful that it is my nature to dive into new ventures and fly by the seat of my pants.  A month ago, I had no inkling I’d be creating YouTube content about Gratitude.  I hope a month from now, I will have learned basic online video editing, gotten my DSLR set up for filming and purchased a mic that will be suitable for this type of blogging.  I don’t know that I will have the stamina to v-log every day for the next 20 years, but for January, I will do a daily gratitude post, and if only one person is positively impacted and their wellbeing improved by my videos, my work will have had meaning and purpose; even if I am the only one whose wellbeing improves in the process.  I trust that if I do the work, with diligence, to the best of my ability and with sincerity, the people who need it, will find it.

Welcome to Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude on YouTube.

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Winter Renovation

December 18, 2019

Day 1942 – Day 1950

From my previous post, you will know that I’m looking to renovate this website over the next month or so.  It will be a DIY project so please bear with me.  As it is coming to the holiday season now, I’m also doing some deep personal renovations.

I’m grateful for the year I’ve had.  I came close to dying in the summertime and I cannot overstate how much this impacts one’s perspective on things.  Already a soulful person, I can see that I’ve been taken deep into myself and I am still processing it all.  I don’t expect to be able to communicate what this looks like except that I feel that I am being held still, so that I can experience a more profound depth with riches I hope to bring to the breadth of my life.

Gratitude is often linked to the positive psychology movement these days because – at first glance – it works in our lives by changing the way we think.  Replacing the negative with the positive helps to build new neuro-pathways in the mind and we open up to seeing more positive things in our lives.  This is very much an act of the Spirit, ascending to the heights of experience.  But, a life fully lived does not simply rely on the call to Spirit to feed our yearnings for communion with that which is beyond ourselves.   For a fully lived life, we also need to spend time tending to our Soul.

I say this is a time of renovation but first, I am being called to go within and really look into the dark corners and see what is there.  I think I’ve been doing this all my adult life, but there are junctures in life where we are called downward and inward to do the work of the Soul.  Being in hospital took me to a new and deeper level of this journey and where I am and where I’m going isn’t something that is easy to put into words.  Art and music are better expressions of what is being processed, though I will try to send postcards from the Soul, with this writing.

On that note, I intend to do more singing in 2020 (yes, bad pun intended), and I will be updating my artwork section of the website.  I haven’t updated it since I first started painting.  I’m happy to say that I have over 100 artworks now and I will find a way to share many of them with you.  I’ve experimented with style a lot in the last few years and the work reflects this.  I see a real change in my painting, since I left the hospital.  Hopefully, in 2020, I will be creating a body of artwork that has a cohesive sensibility, as I work from this ineffable place, within me.  I’m grateful for your continued patience as I fix the bugs on my website, become a better painter and musician, and figure out how best to link the written word with my other forms of creative expression.

I have some goals for the coming year and exciting new ventures that I hope you will find enticing.  Having come through 2019, I am more committed than ever to spending my time in ways that add Meaning to my life and help make Meaning in life, for others.  If I had a blueprint for 2020, it would be, simply: Making Meaning.  We often talk about wanting to ‘find’ meaning in our lives.  I think perhaps this is the first step on the journey and one I had intended for 2019.  Meaning can be found anywhere through connection, or what I call Oneness.  Once we’ve learned to make connections, perhaps the next step is to add value to those connections in a way that matters.  This is one way to live purposefully.  And, perhaps my experiences were necessary to humble me enough to get it: we only have this moment.  Let’s make it meaningful.  I’m grateful for coming so close to death and still finding in that, connection.  I’m grateful to be alive to use what I have learned.

I ask your indulgence if I post irregularly during this holiday season.  I want to prioritize time with family and friends, and with reflecting on the meaning of this year.  I wish you all wonderful winter celebrations, whatever holiday causes you to congregate at this time of year.  Even as we become more social, I want to remind us all that it is okay to go inward during these long nights.  Soon, we begin the journey back to the light.  Let’s do our inner work to get ready!

For what are you most grateful, right now?
What is your blueprint for 2020?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Mistrakes

December 9, 2019

Photo: Estee Janssens

Day 1936 – Day 1941

I was saddened to learn, this week, that the Apostrophe Protection Society has been disbanded.  One of my pet peeves is poor grammar, punctuation and spelling.  I had the opportunity to be an editor for a couple of literary magazines, in college.  In my early career, I worked in book publishing and in filmmaking, as a script reader and story editor.  I have read many manuscripts in my time, and when something is rife with errors, I blame the editor.

On this website, I am both writer and editor.  The buck stops with me.  Lately, you’ve been getting 75 cents on the dollar.

When WordPress updated its software earlier this year, my spelling and grammar check disappeared.  Regular readers will know that these posts are meant to be a first draft.  I try not to spend more than an hour or two writing a post and I usually don’t do much editing.  I do move, change and delete words, and sometimes a stray word or letter will cling to the screen, where it was meant to be gone.

This week, I went back to rewrite my previous post. I wanted to use it for another purpose but was sure that my first draft would need serious re-writing, given my self-imposed challenge to write more frequently.  I was dismayed – trypos and stragglers are were everywhere! Browsing my past posts, I see at least one error in each.  If I were clever, I’d call it my “style” and do some branding around it.

It is difficult to edit one’s own work.  The brain fills in what it expects to see, rather than what is actually there.  I take responsibility for my work, as I do my actions.  I apologize for the errors in my posts and am grateful that my readers overlook my mistrakes.

Like many people, I suffer some humiliation whenever I make a public mistake.  As a child, I learned that mistakes were bad.  Going to school was like going to war and bringing home less than straight A’s meant that my errors, rather than my achievements, were highlighted.  I became identified with my work and my worth became dependent on being perfect.

That’s quite a setup.

I can still be hard on myself now, failing to recognize an accomplishment if it falls short of my own ideal.  For years I answered compliments with that old classic: “Yeah, but….”  I succeed, in some measure, at pretty much everything I do, but I don’t know if that is because I’m truly gifted, obsessively driven or because I edit from my life those things that don’t come naturally, and where I might make a mistake or fail.

As a child, of around 5 or 6, I received a damning comment on my report card: “Does not handle scissors well.”  From that point, visual art was out; Math and English were in.  My recent efforts to paint are a departure from my comfort zone and long-held self concept.  There are two exceptional people for whom I’m grateful:  my friend, and artist, CMF, who encouraged me – at this point in my life – to skip the long route of classical training, if what I really wanted to do was paint, and the artist Jesse Reno, who dared to tell me, and then show me, that even I – who still struggles with scissors and can’t draw a straight line – can paint.

As an intuitive artist I am not aiming to be a good technical painter. I aim to step out of my own way and let the elements of design create form for whatever wants to be born and when I’m at my best, I’m not the painter; I am the conduit. That detachment makes it easy for me to put my work out there, to be seen.

Unfortunately, I’ve been writing since I could form words.  The baggage of my perfection-dependent self worth clings to every phrase.  I wrote a play in college that was produced and was a hit.  When I submitted it to a “Modern Day Monsters” contest, I was rejected (I almost edited that but left it; I am still too closely identified with my work).  The reader sent back notes that I imagine were meant only for the judges’ eyes because they were truly unkind and assessed me as needing psychological help.  The reader made the mistake of not recognizing that my piece was a dark comedy about the way humans can be monsters and that the worst monsters are often those closest to us who have the power to devour our souls.  I was crushed by the feedback and I don’t think I’ve submitted a piece of writing to a contest, producer, or magazine since.  When I left college, I quit ‘creative’ writing for a very long time.

There have been other times in my life when I have failed.  I often think of a time when I worked for years to position myself into a particular job.  Once in the job, I misread the unwritten culture of the department (which contradicted the official culture of the organization) and it became impossible for me to stay.  After only 4 years in the position, I left the best job, under the worst circumstances, I’d ever known.  I haven’t recovered from that and a dream that was more than a decade in the making simply died.

Am I, then,  a success or a failure?  That is a judgement call.

How helpful has judgement been to me, really?  I think my disdain for grammar and spelling mistakes comes from a secret fear that I will be caught out, making one, myself.  I want more courage to take risks for the yearnings of my heart and soul and if I am to stretch beyond my current limitations, mistakes are inevitable. I must edit  my conditioned fear of mistakes from my life.

I ordered the WordPress for Dummies book and I will try to figure out how to re-install a spell check, because I respect you, my readers.  The truth is, I’m going to continue to make mistakes and I trust that those who are meant to walk with me on this journey of ten thousand days will accept me, waart’s and all.

Thinking back to my early career, I’m grateful to an award winning film producer, MJ, for whom I worked.  I was anxious about not reading fast enough, about being measured in my reader’s notes (for fear they might end up in a rejection letter), worried about missing the gem of a manuscript in the slush pile (I did) or recommending a stinker (which, I also did).   MJ modelled for me the idea that mistakes are not bad; they can be opportunities for development.  “Relax,” he said to me.  “We aren’t curing cancer, we’re just making movies.”

If I misspell a word or leave in an extra letter, nobody is going to die. Some good, even gratitude, may come of it.

Language Warning – PG 13+

For what are you most grateful, this week?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

What’s In a Name?

December 3, 2019

Photo: Jon Tyson

Day 1925 – Day 1935

It is said that everyone has 3 names: the one that our parents give to us, the one which we are called, and the one that we go out and claim for ourselves.

What is in a name?  A name defines us, in ways that we may not even realize.  I was named Tania after my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother.   I lived among French Canadians with a Russian name that was difficult to pronounce and harder to spell.  And when I visited my cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents for whom Russian was a first language, I was an odd English speaker.

Although an outsider, I was an ultimate insider, too.  My name created a strong maternal bond that was like an anchor in a life where I was tossed around on the seas of parental aspirations, moving from house to house and having to make new friends and to fit in somewhere new, every year or two; sometimes, twice in a single year.  Of my siblings, I became the one who spent serious time researching my heritage and working to live up to the high ideals of the women from whom I came.  My mother passed away just as I was reaching womanhood.  As my translator, her absence left only a thread of connection to my grandmother and to the women who were strong as oxen, who pulled the plough, who were One with the land, and who stood up to the Cossacks, with love, and refused to bear arms. I didn’t know it at the time, but the subtle vibration of my name carried these Spirit Wrestlers with me, as I made my way, alone, into adulthood.

Some believe that we ought to name our children based on qualities that they appear to possess.  Others believe that the greater power is in being named for qualities we lack, in the hopes that we will grow into our names.

I was born on a spiritual path.  Having wandered for awhile, I was given a Sanskrit name by a Guru, and I became known by that name.  My stars are pretty awful, whether interpreted by Western or Vedic astrology.  With those stars, I grew up with a fear that my destiny was to be forsaken by fate.  My spiritual name, however, means “greatly auspicious.”

When I first heard my new name, I hated it.  It was harsh and aggressive, and not at all sweet and feminine sounding.  Although fiercely independent, I was yearning to be like my peers: married and a mother. Projecting feminine charm seemed important to fulfill my yearning.  The Guru had known of my longing, and reassured me that I could pronounce the consonants in their softer form.  And, so I did.  When I traveled to India, I was quickly informed that I was mangling the language with the mispronunciation of my own name, and was requested, politely, to stop.

In South India, I learned, my name also means “a well married woman.”  The Guru, in naming me, had reminded me of the marriage to which I had promised myself, before my birth. It was the unio mystico. Like Hildegard von Bingen or Joan of Arc, I was called to birth something more than offspring.

Hard consonants, mystical union and great auspiciousness; such was my name to bear.

While others have recognized and sought to siphon my spiritual power,  I struggle with a lack of belief in the gifts of my own potential.  Perhaps without my second given name, I would have married some doofus from Match.com, never joined the seminary, never found my spiritual teacher, and would never have been inclined to practice deep gratitude.  When the good favour of the universe precedes you, follows you, surrounds you and calls you by name, how can you fail to feel blessed?

The name that matters most, it is said, is that which we give to ourselves.  I remember playing outdoors as a child and a stranger, who mistakenly thought I was lost, demanded to know my surname.  I was frightened by him, and frightened that I would get in trouble for playing where I shouldn’t have been, so I lied.  I told him my surname was Pink. I became Tania Pink.  Pink was my favourite colour.  It is joyful and full of vitality. Pink is the colour associated with the heart and with the feminine, both symbols of the spiritual path which eventually found me.  While dismissed as passive, pink universally symbolises female sexuality and power.  Before I could intellectually understand it, I had bestowed upon myself the energy of the warrior woman.   When I became a Swami, it was the name that I chose.

Every name I’ve had – the one given by my parents, the one I became known by, and the one that I chose for myself – have been neither frivolous nor always easy to bear.  Each name continues to teach me to be the woman I was born to be and reminds me of the woman I am to become.  I am grateful for each of my names.

In what ways are you grateful for your name(s)?

Ten Thousand Days

Waiting

November 22, 2019

Photo: Ashim D Silva

Day 1915 – Day 1924

I’m trying to get back to a more regular posting schedule, but if you’ve read my last few posts, you will know that I’ve been through hell and back this past year.  This summer, I had come to a point of awakening – from what, I do not know – and I was ready to leave 2.5 years of shock and disappointment behind me.  It was time to clean up my life and move on.   Just as I stepped out to begin to cross the street of my life, I was hit by the truck of medical errors.

Nobody knows what anyone else is going through.  Certainly nobody can tell how well you are by looking at you.  I know that some of those close to me, or in positions of power over me, think that I should be back to normal following my medical traumas of the late summer.  I find there is compassion fatigue in the world.  When someone is grieving, for instance, people swarm around and compassionately care, for the initial period of bereavement.  After the first few months, and certainly after the initial year, compassion is missing.  It seems that this is human nature, in our fast paced and self-focused world.

The same applies to anyone who has been through a traumatic event – medical or otherwise – and who is in the long and gradual period of recovery.  In my case, even though I’m up and trying to get back to normal, I look pretty awful, if you have eyes to see.  I look forever tired, my post-surgical hernia is bulging above my horizontal incision, and my hair (as expected, given all the anaesthetic) is falling out.  Not a vision of wellness, but I am a vision of recovery.  I still require at least one more surgery for the post-surgical hernia, and nobody wants me to be fully well again, more than I do.

Other people’s expectations need to wait. I am learning to live with my own waiting: waiting till I’m well again, waiting to make plans, waiting to move on with my life.

I have been humbled, beyond what I thought was possible, this year.  I don’t like to talk about most of what’s going on with me, because it brings me down.   I am at the mercy of something I cannot control, and the waiting is sometimes nearly unbearable.  It leaves me feeling vulnerable, alone, exhausted and powerless.

I always think that there has got to be something of value in every tribulation.  I don’t know what the value here will be because I’m still so much in the middle of it.  I feel that it is an opportunity and a crossroads and only I can discern what my choices will be, let alone what choice I will take.  I am guessing that when one is powerless, vulnerable and alone, the best – if counter intuitive – thing to do is to surrender.  And so, I surrender to the state that my life is in, to the fact that there can’t be anywhere out but through, to the fact that the amount of time that this will take is not within my power, and to the fact that my attitude and my choice to have faith are the only things that appear to be in my control.

I get up every morning and give thanks for what I have.  It doesn’t make the situation change, but it helps me to navigate what has been the loneliest, most serious and sacred time in my life.  Gratitude and my faith have been my companions as I sit alone and I watch and I wait till I have agency once again.  What others think of this is really their own business.  It is hard to be impervious to what others think, when there is an element of disapproval in it and the person is of importance, in one’s life.  But, as Maslow theorized, self actualization requires one to be independent of the ‘good opinion of others.’

For whatever this unbearable period of waiting is teaching me, I am grateful.  For the reminder that it is important to be impervious to the opinion of others, I am grateful.  For some sage advice on this, I am grateful to my friend, TP.

By choice or not, something deep within my spirit is growing quietly more indomitable from the very experience of waiting, watching, and being watched.  As lacerating as it is, I am most grateful for it.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

When Good Things Happen To Bad People

November 12, 2019

Photo: Peter Forster

Day 1881 – Day 1914

Recently, a friend said that my life lately has resembled a page from the Book of Job.  Now, if you’re not big on knowing the books of the Bible, you might just want to know that the book of Job is where a Christian is directed to answer the Question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  I’ll leave it to you to look at the Book of Job if that is something that interests you or read some summaries that can be found all over the internet.  One example is here.

I don’t often fall into either thinking that the Universe is against me or that I’m to blame for everything bad that happens to me.  I get disappointed, and, I get discouraged.  But, this is where gratitude practice really helps me to keep going, even when life isn’t going as smoothly as I’d like.  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I try to focus on what I do have.

I struggle with finding the ways to be grateful when a person has done me wrong.  I get angry at the injustice of it.  I find this particularly frustrating when it seems that all good things seem to follow the person who did me wrong.

I am thinking of someone in particular who did me wrong.  He is handsome and charming and a very good liar and, as I later found out, was involved in criminal activity.  He has loads of money, and he never has to work.  He seems to be doing marvelously.  Everyone believes that he’s a great guy.

For a long time after my experience of him, I found myself wondering: “Why do Good things happen to Bad people?”  It’s a simple turn of phrase and I won’t call him ‘bad’ because I think most people are not bad people but many people do bad things.  His antisocial, cruel behaviour towards me was bad.

When I thought about the guy who did me wrong, I got angry that he and his siblings had so many breaks in life because they have wealth and connections that seem to have been accumulated in a not completely ethical manner.  As a friend pointed out, the fact that the guy has never struggled also accounts for his cowardice, his haughty sense of entitlement, and his other character flaws.  And, she’s right.  The guy seems to have no gratitude.  Even in the face of what others would call a bounty, that guy could always find something to complain about.  I remember that I once took him canoeing at my parents’ cottage and I asked if he had enjoyed himself.  He said it was ‘alright’ and then complained that the boat was not a very nice one because it was made of fibreglass and not of wood.  He complained about my cooking, when I was feeding him, in my home.  He complained about the traffic when I drove him, two hours out of my way, to take him home.  He complained about being hard-done-by in several different settings and I found him tiresome for never being happy or grateful for anything anyone did for him.  He once complained to me about growing up wealthy and that he sometimes wished that he was poor.

Yeah.

Well, be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Maybe abundance really does come at a cost that we cannot see.  If one has never had to rely on other people to survive – as those of us who have to go to a day job to pay our bills do – this hinders one’s development of empathy, which in turn hampers one’s ability to build relationships.   If you’ve never struggled, it is hard to develop grit, and if you’ve always had everything you wanted, it can create a sense of entitlement and paranoia that can destroy meaningful relationships.   Empathy and gratitude are qualities that lead to developing a wish to be of service.  Service, in turn, is the key to living a purposeful and meaningful life.  Money and status – beyond a basic level – contribute little to increasing our happiness.  Most things that contribute to individual happiness – strong relationships, trust, gratitude, purpose, and meaning – may be hard to achieve if good fortune has always been heaped upon you, from an early age.

Maybe having everything you ever wanted is as much a test of character as having had to struggle. And, maybe who is tested in any instance is not so obvious.

I am grateful for every challenge that I’ve faced, albeit more grateful once I’ve come out the other side.  My struggles have made me who I am, and I like the person that I am. I’m even grateful for the months of anger and resentment that I once felt towards the guy who wronged me and whose life seemed to be platinum-plated.  Those months of soul struggling taught me a valuable lesson.  My concern for a “just” outcome took my eyes off of my own journey and all of the things for which I had to be grateful.  It pitted some of my precious life energy in opposition to another person, rather than pursuing those life affirming moments of being in the flow of Oneness.  It fueled my bitterness at injustice, instead of stoking my wish to be of service.  It sometimes kept me out of the present moment and stole my joy.

If you read the book of Job or even the summary, you will see that the Christian story concludes that we are not to judge the distribution of blessings and tribulations.  In the story, only God has the whole picture.  A secular approach would argue that unless my job was fighting crime, it was not my right or my business to worry about anyone’s share of the distribution of life events and fortune.   I’m not a cop, a judge or a jury.  Justice was not my job, and it was I who was choosing to be in handcuffs, energetically shackled to a guy that I disliked.

My job is to choose how to approach this life that has been given.   I freed myself from those chains by firmly resting my attention on my own practice.  Good fortune is largely a matter of attitude: If you can’t find gratitude within yourself, no amount of abundance will help you find it; and for the attentive and grateful heart, even a simple life, with ups and downs, is a contented life.

For what are you most grateful, today?