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Ten Thousand Days

Ten Thousand Days

The Forfeit

September 14, 2021

Photo: Brian Erickson

Day 2543 – Day 2586

I’ve been intentionally practicing gratitude every day for over seven years and still, sometimes I forget how glorious life is – all the time.  Right now, my heart feels heavy all the time and that is how it is going to be, for awhile.  

The weather echoes my mood.  For the rest of the week (most likely the month), it will rain, and the clouds descended into the Valley this morning.  The amount of rain in the PNW is enough to give anyone Seasonal Affective Disorder and so in winter, I return to the festival of colour that is my artwork. Despite the dull pallor that surrounds me, I am immersed and engaged in life whenever I am Painting.  Visual art – whether painting or photography –  is like making music or writing poetry in that it expresses the ineffable.  Some things need colour, tone, rhythm and texture to be understood by the heart and known by the mind.

I stopped at the intersection that leads to my workplace this morning, and I felt myself on the verge of tears again.  I looked for approaching traffic (there is never any).  In a defiant last stand of summer, the sky glowed behind Mt Baker.  I reached for my phone to capture the image but the eye of the camera doesn’t capture light in the same way as the human eye.  And the heart captures it in an entirely different way: the only way that the beauty, love and death can be lived as one. 

The sky was emblazoned in glorious hues of yellow as the sun disappeared behind layers of cloud. Moments of beauty.  This is what makes enkindles our hearts.  Much like love. 

Winter is the forfeit of summer as grief is the forfeit of love.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Life’s Short – Eat Dessert

August 2, 2021

Photo: DJ Johnson

Day 2528 – Day 2542

Last time, I wrote, I had experienced 4 deaths within a week.  One death had happened prior to that week, but I found out about it the same day as the other 3.  It was a pretty crumby weekend.  It wasn’t just because I was mourning my loss of people who have not been in my inner circle for some time, but also because it reverberated for me the pending mourning I will experience soon with 3 people who are in my inner circle.  This is what I felt the most as I descended into a heavy sadness over that weekend, following the news.

I think that in order for us to be truly thankful for the things that come our way – from a great job with wonderful pay to the simple and sublime pleasure of a sunset – we need to have an appreciation of our own mortality.  I suspect that is why gratitude is something we seem to adopt as we mature.  Children can be astonishingly grateful as well and this is probably due to the novelty of everything for them.  When everything is new and amazing it’s pretty easy to be excited about life and grateful.  Maybe this is also coupled with the facts that they are extremely pliable and can be taught gratitude, as well as the fact that they depend on others for everything.  When they start to individuate, they become the centre of the universe and entitled.  Maybe it takes some hard knocks, on their own, to teach gratitude.  But this is all conjecture.  I’ve never really researched the science behind gratitude in children.  I’m just going from my own limited observation.

One thing I’ve learned from experience is that when we realize how quick this life passes us by and how easily things can change in an instant, it compels us to act now on the things that really matter – like saying I love you or expressing thanks.

Since that last post, I have been researching G to see if his wife still lives in the same place as before.  I learned last night that one of his surviving relatives passed away 5 days ago.  So, the push is on to find her address and drop her a note.  It would have been better if I could have thanked G himself for being so kind to me but I’d like to make sure that his wife gets the boost of someone caring enough to write to her and let her know how he is missed.

I attended the funeral of HM via live stream.  There were a few things I didn’t know about him.  I spent a little while trying to remember how he and I had become so close.  We weren’t the kind of personalities you would naturally put together.  But then I remembered that there was a common link between us – he had been friends with a boy I loved.  TK came from the other side of the tracks but was probably the smartest guy I’ve ever met – and knowing the folks I’ve met, that is saying a lot.  HM and TK were friends and enjoyed camping together and TK and I had a love of words.  TK died before he reached the age of 18 and both HM and I remembered him with love, whenever we talked.  The death of HM made me regret that we never had that one last conversation and now I wish it had included a remembrance of our shared times together with TK.

There is something really striking to me about the way that people seem to fade into oblivion, when the people who shared your stories with them are no longer alive.  When I heard of G’s death, I was desperate to find someone who remembered the time I worked for the Titanic folks so that I could hold on to G (and that part of my own life) for a few moments longer.

When someone dies, that part of ourselves that shared a story gets cut off.

There are not many people in my life that I’ve cut off.  But there is one that I can think of right now, and another who – while not cut off, has been banished to the outer periphery of my life.  I vowed that I would never be in touch again with the person I cut off.  And maybe I won’t be.  But, now is the time to really consider if there is anything I would regret not having said, if I were to get the bad news that life had suddenly changed in a way to make that last conversation impossible.  There is always a time and place for things but the sad fact is that we don’t ever know when that particular time has run out.

Although this has been a sad few weeks, I am grateful for the reminder that life is short.  Enjoy every day.  Eat dessert, first.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

The Irony of a Public Life

July 17, 2021

Photo: Michal Dolnik

Day 2486 – Day 2527

I wrote a post a few weeks ago and decided against making it public.  There are always many things going on that I could write about but now that I am no longer anonymous, I have to carefully think about what I post and how it might impact those who are living.  

It’s an irony of our public lives that some things should never be made public.  In a quest for a “better and shinier” public life can easily forget that some things are sacred.

I’ve been coming across snippets of journals as I’m pulling out drawers and trying to downsize my crap.  I did it in New York and I did it in Arizona.  I did it in London but doing it here seems to be the hardest because there are a lot of things that belonged to my mother in my “stuff,” which, now returning here, my father has passed to me.  I look through the boxes and realize that these figurines are gone, those clothes got given away and I realize that at some point I was somewhat ruthless in my culling of her things.  Not ruthless enough and add to that my own things that I’ve held onto, all these years. My journals are one of them.  I now keep them digitally.

 

Photo: Lawrence Aritao

 

I remember someone once saying that he burned his journals.  I can’t imagine that – maybe I am a sentimentalist or I’m just far too attached to former versions of myself.  But the thing is, I have a pretty terrible memory.  I always have had.  My short-term memory is pretty good and that’s how I managed to make it through school but my long-term memory?  Not so much.  My journals and photos serve as my memory.  I know I saw Barbara Streisand in Las Vegas.  I don’t remember a thing about it.  I saw David Copperfield too.  Nada.  I travelled to Indonesia and went to Jakarta for 2 days and then all over Bali.  I stayed in Singapore as well.  I hear people talk about the food in those countries as being amazing.  I don’t remember a single thing I ate.  I do, however, remember a tea ceremony that a friend took me to enjoy, in Singapore.  I think I remember the things that have meaning to me, at the time.  If it is potent, it remains.

People always say I should write a biography because I’ve lived an amazing life.  I’m not sure it was amazing but it is full of stories.  The thing is that there are probably more stories that I’ve forgotten than I remember.  To make an impression on me, it seems, it takes a lot.

Last night on the news, there was a short piece on some new crew diving to discover the artefacts and stories of the Titanic.  It reminded me of the time that I worked briefly on loan to one of the Titanic salvage and exhibition companies, in their New York office.  

The company was mired in legal battles between competing salvage companies and even among their owners.  I was there to answer the phones and keep the office running.  I say office but it was really an empty floor of an office building with a couple of desks and a few chairs.  I was the only one there and I answered the phones and kept the door locked for my own safety but also to avoid the legal process servers. 

I was studying acting and training to be a minister at the time and so I got lots of time to learn my scripts and write my services, and they had a microwave so I was able to bring food and have something hot for lunch.  This I remember.  There were Russian billionaires and pirates and even Hollywood producers involved in the cast of the drama unfolding on the phones.  The office was in the financial centre, at the bottom of Manhattan and even by New York standards, it was a glamorous location.  I got to walk home after work up to Battery Park and up the West Side piers to 20th Street, where I lived.   I got to have a hot lunch, learn my lines, write my spiritual services and I tucked away the story of the famous Titanic company and their crazy cast of characters. 

 

Photo by: NOAA

 

One of the cast members was really my boss.  He was a lovely man with great tales of his own from the days he spent in the entertainment business and his times up in Canada and abroad.  When I left the job, he let me buy one of the office chairs for $50 and I remember his wife being annoyed because those chairs had cost hundreds of dollars.  This I remember!  It was a great chair and I loved it well, as I worked on finishing my degree and taking on sustainability post-graduate work.  I remember that he offered me a job as his permanent assistant and it would have been a pretty fun job to have, given all the different pies he had a finger in, but I would have to leave New York to take the job. 

I wasn’t in a position to take up his offer, but I always appreciated him for it.  He was a lovely man and he treated me well, and like an equal, despite the fact that I was on loan from my film company (between films) and I knew nothing about underwater salvage expeditions or artifact exhibitions and despite the fact that he was making half a million a year (before bonuses) for his role and I was taking in just enough to pay the rent in New York.  I wasn’t his equal but he saw beyond people’s current position to what they were capable of doing and he saw in me a quick study, a smart cookie, and a talented, resourceful and loyal employee.

Some people would have thought that job was stressful, but I found it amusing.  I’ve thought of him from time to time over the years, whenever the topic of the Titanic would come up and whenever I would think about some of the best bosses I’ve ever had.  Yes, in that mayhem, I found one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. 

Treating people with dignity and as an equal, despite our roles being different is a rarity, in my experience.

I looked him (let’s call him G) up last night to see what he was doing.  I should have thought twice about doing that.  It turns out that he died 2 years ago.  I was saddened by the news, and felt sorry that I hadn’t sent him a card to say hello and tell him of my adventures since we parted company.  He was an adventurous soul and I kind of felt a kindred spirit with him.  He would have enjoyed hearing that I’d travelled the world and done new things.  He would have been happy to see that I was enjoying my life.  I read up on several of his subsequent legal battles and was happy to see that he won his case in federal court, several years after we parted ways.  I only hope that he enjoyed his life until the end and that he passed quickly.  I wonder if his wife is still alive and if somewhere in my journals, I might find their address in that other city where I wasn’t keen to live.

I was sad to think about G passing on and all that joyful rambunctiousness gone from the world.  I turned to Facebook for comfort and found that two people I knew in high school had passed away this week, from cancer.  HM was a shock to me.  I knew that he had been battling cancer but I was sure that it was only a few weeks ago that I last saw him post.  And then I realized that I’ve pretty much avoided Facebook after the first 6 months or so of Covid and during all the political rows of the last 18 months.  I am sorry I didn’t have one more conversation with HM.  

 

 

Photo: Annie Spratt

 

This is why I hate Facebook these days.  It’s a crapshoot of what you’re going to get.  In bygone days, obituaries would announce the death of a loved one.  Now we get recipes, memes, political tirades and announcements of death all mixed into a single scroll of the mouse.  It’s a gut punch followed by a cat meme and it seems to take the sacred out of living and dying.

It’s an irony of our public lives that everything is given the same importance, whether life-changing, of historical importance, or simply silly entertainment.

After a certain point, death becomes a reality for us all.  But there comes a point where the rate of people departing seems to speed up.  I don’t know how people in their old age manage the weight of grief of all of their friends having died before them. 

Who is left to care about their stories?

One of the things I do is tell stories in public.  I also cultivate relationships with other storytellers and sometimes that becomes a real relationship.  Sometimes it is more one-way if the other storyteller doesn’t have what G had about him – the ability to understand that the size of one’s following doesn’t make you a better person.  I had one such relationship with a fellow YouTuber (let’s call him “The Personality”) about a year ago.  He made a video saying that he – as a burgeoning writer – should remember to consider himself part of the same club as Tony or Pulitzer or Academy award winning (pick your genre) writers out there, but that he was just the newest member.  He gave himself, and fellow writers, this pep talk, to encourage us all to consider ourselves equal to those who have gone before us. 

I had real life experience of being treated that way by famous people, so I believed this to be a good way to live one’s life.

Imagine my surprise when I realized – definitively – that The Personality didn’t really consider other aspiring writers (in this case, specifically, me) to be HIS equal.  That had a sting to it, but as soon as it became clear to me – beyond a doubt –  I withdrew my support.  I still check in on The Personality’s work from time to time because I learn from other writers – either what to do or what not to do.  He stopped writing stuff for adults and really began tailoring his work to middle and high school kids (the target demographic of YouTube).   It used to have substance and now it is light humour. I find that a shame because I was drawn to his writing on serious adult challenges.  It is yet another loss for me, because I felt a real connection to another human being through his writing.  My loss is my loss, and I saw him as an equal and so it was a real relationship for me.  For him, because he did not, it remained para-social.  Who am I to say it’s a shame? He’s making the big bucks from it.  Unlike G pulling down a half million dollar salary before bonuses, however, The Personality appears to only consider those who are MORE famous than him to be his equal. 

I have to laugh at the way the brain works and how easy it is to drink the poisoned Koolaid* of social media. (*Reference to Jim Jones and his Guyana cult, intended)

 

Photo: Lucas Bee

 

I haven’t gained the following The Personality has, but I have attracted some of his more mentally unbalanced followers.  One person – let’s call him “the Christian” – is a regular reader of my blog and continues to comment on my YouTube channel from time to time.  His last comment was about how ugly The Personality is.  (The Personality is not everyone’s taste, but he certainly is not ugly).   Either way, I don’t understand how it has any relevance to my videos about Gratitude.  Is it meant to hurt me that the Christian thinks The Personality is ugly?  Why do I care?  Is it meant to hurt The Personality?  How likely is it that he would ever see that comment on one of my 100+ videos.  I don’t see how it hurts either of us but holding on to that bitterness must be hurting the Christian.  I really wish him peace.

It is the irony of public life that the sacred is mixed with the profane in a toxic Koolaid and mine is the last generation not to be feeding on it as a source of sustenance.  When you live or die on social media, it matters what people say in comments, and it matters how many followers you have as a measure of your worthiness as a writer.   If there is a writer out there reading this and despairing of not being read, please remember all the writers and musicians and artists that lived lives of obscurity for their art and who maybe later became famous – quite often posthumously.  The object of art is not fame, but creation.  The object of any communication is to be heard, felt, understood and to touch the receiver in some way.  It doesn’t matter if the audience is one or one million.  A pebble makes ripples.  Heck, Jesus only had 12 followers and look what impact He made?!?! I have put myself out there in public and I’ve been caught up by this, and now I know it is my job just to work harder on the craft of being a good storyteller. 

I’m grateful for all the adventures I’ve had and for the wonderful and not so wonderful people I have known in this life.  They’ve all taught me something because I was willing to find meaning in the experiences and they’ve given me memories and added to my story.

If anything I’ve written today sinks in, let it be that life is too short to waste time on nonsense.  Let go of ego, one-upmanship, and of bitterness.  The irony of  a public life is that it is not real life at all.  We can let our lives slip by, fussing about the maya of public life.  Send the card to that old boss, have that one more conversation with the childhood friend.  We only get so much time to live and tell our stories, well.  Love one another.  Treat one another with respect, dignity and equality.  Put down the phone this weekend and forget about that toxic Koolaid that is anti-social media.

 

Photo: Prateek Katyal

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

When to Stop Digging

June 6, 2021

Photo: Michael Dziedzic

Day 2472 – Day 2485

This past week I had a bit of a meltdown.  There’s a lot going on in my life and there has been for awhile.

I realized that I am closing in on a big milestone in this work of TTDOG and I am frustrated with my failure to reach people.  Sure, people are interested in gratitude and joy and maybe even oneness and a few people are interested in service.  But there are so few that seem willing to engage with the material over the medium or long term.  I’m not sure why.  I posted a short video this week and I was afraid to do it because it was really positive and sweet.  I was afraid it would attract cynicism and well, disdain.  The fact that I was concerned made me profoundly sad.

The world is growing darker and I’ve witnessed the darkening, along with my spiritual community for almost 20 years.  Cynicism has taken root in humanity and we have become a truly me-first world where we treat people as disposable products and products as the source of all happiness.

This pandemic has shown the gaps in our belief in social responsibility, in civic duty and in our shared responsibility to one another, regardless of artificial borders.  Our faith in institutions like the government, policing, and even our currency is faltering.  When this happens, the history of development tells us that chaos and war are the next stage in our evolution. There is little cheer in that bleak outlook and it has left me wondering whether there is room, in the zeitgeist of the times, for what I have to offer.

I’m frustrated. People say they want to be happy and the way is right before them.  It’s free!  Yet it seems that nobody wants the solution right in front of them.  Or, maybe I just suck at capturing the attention of others and delivering the message.  The time I put into making my journey of TTDOG public is becoming unsustainable.

When you’re in a hole, you’ve got to recognize when to stop digging.

I reached out to my network, in my distress.

A friend said that this has been a horrendous year and a half.  Five years, I told her.  For the past 5 years, I have been in an unsustainable situation and the 5 people with whom I spend most of my time include people who are unsupportive, downright belittling and abusive, and treat me as if I don’t exist.  You cannot grow a flower in sand.  It’s been a hell of a hard 5 years, the grief for which I don’t think I can feel, until I’m in a new situation and I feel safe to feel it.

I thought about it more, later – this has not been a five-year struggle.  It’s been much longer.

About a decade ago, I experienced corporate bullying in a job that I had spent the previous decade working to attain.  I was in my dream job but in a nightmare situation.  I was working on the most important issues of our time and we had the potential to not only change the world, but to save the world from catastrophe.  It was an incredibly empowering position – from the perspective of the potential that it contained. I felt like I was on the brink of fulfilling my own greatest potential.

It astonishes me how some of the worst in people can be given power in places that attract people with the best of intentions.   I tried to do the right thing and take on the bully, only to learn the hard lesson that if a bully exists in a system, the system is inclined to support the bully.

I lost a lot of my faith in “the system.”

And soon it became clear that my clients really only cared about maintaining their political or cultural or capitalist hegemony in a world that was predicted to collapse around them.  They wanted to maintain their power when it collapsed, not to change their ways to prevent that collapse.

I lost a lot of my faith in organizations and institutions.

Not coincidentally, these issues, having been unaddressed in any real way for another decade, have now become the most important issues on the top of the minds of people around the world.

Too little now, and too late.

I lost a lot of my faith in a better future.

It may surprise you to know that I have lost a lot of my faith in the things of this world.  Having lost faith in systems, organizations institutions and a better future has left me with a lot of grief.  It is in keeping with my spiritual path to just allow things to fall away and witness the destruction.  I’m not sure I’ve been doing that.  I’ve been wrestling with the way I think it should be, stuck in my grief by not accepting and relinquishing the loss.

My frustration with this TTDOG work now tempts me to lose faith in humankind, and I really don’t want to do that.

I reached out to my amazingly accomplished network of friends because I don’t want to give up.  They held a mirror up to me so that I could see my own light and so that I could be reminded that it only takes a few lights to vanquish darkness.  And it is in the darkness that the light finds its purpose.

I’m going to have to come to terms with this cynical world and my own cynicism by simply allowing it to be.  There are options.  I looked at the writer Mark Manson and studied him a little bit.  He is saying the same things that I am saying, in many cases, and he has a massive following.  So, perhaps there is a hunger for this stuff.  What Manson does, however, is grab attention by meeting an angry and cynical world with confrontation.  Whether I’m willing to go that route or not is a question I need to ask myself.  It is a basic principle of polarity therapy that we must meet the client with their energy and mirror them.  I now have to decide if I want to and can live from a place of fire for the masses or if I’m best to serve from a place of water for the very very few.

And, maybe this isn’t the work I’m supposed to be doing.  And, maybe it is.  I have to be ready to let go of either possibility.

 

This was meant to be a very different post.  I have had another (much more uplifting) episode in mind to write about for a few weeks now, but it just isn’t where I’m at, in this moment, and I think it’s vitally important for anyone who is interested in happiness or (dare I say spiritual fulfillment) to not be afraid of loss and of sorrow.  There is nothing good to be gained in suffering and I’ve had enough of suffering.  But there is so much richness to be gained in experiencing and then letting go of the grief.

Don’t worry reader, I am still grateful.  I have a network of amazing people to whom I can turn.  I have a depth of strength within me that maybe was a gift of birth but I tend to believe is the product of a lifetime of obstacles.   And I’m grateful for the 7 years of this practice and a lifetime of spiritual practices that keeps my light burning and fuels that strength.

I have always known that when I am most at risk of losing faith in this physical world, I can take refuge in my faith in what I call God.  I’m very grateful that my spiritual group had a Zoom meeting today.  I realized that maybe this isn’t the work for me.  And if it is for me, it will unfold as it needs to unfold.  Sacrificial service includes giving up the way that we thing things should unfold.   

I am grateful that I have a daily spiritual group I can drop into on YouTube live, and that I have sacred books and texts from cherished teachers.  I have places I can go, that help me feel connected to the sacred, and I have practices to connect me to the teacher and the ultimate Source of all Light.

I believe that at some point we all ask if there is any more to life than this?  More often than not, meaning is found in the darkness at the bottom of the hole, where our tears turn the dirt to mud.  It’s time to wade through the mud and find that treasure that will help me to crawl out.  And when I’ve found what was meant for me down here, I know that it is my God’s hand that will reach down into that hole to help me climb out into the light and face whatever needs to unfold.

My polarity therapy teacher used to say that we would attract the cases with the issues that we most needed to heal in ourselves.  Perhaps not coincidentally, this week kicks off a month of focus, on my YouTube channel, on “Meaning.”

 

Photo: Iswanto Arif

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

I’ve Been Remiss

May 23, 2021

Photo: Anastalia Chepinska

Day 2437 – Day 2471

I haven’t been writing much on this website this year.  I think that is because I have been spending so much time writing videos on my YouTube channel as I work each month through each of the practices that go along with the long term practice of Gratitude. 

This month we are working on Living a Life on Purpose and I’ve posted videos on Values, and a video on the struggle of practicing Gratitude during a Pandemic.  This week I posted today a video on Transforming Limiting Beliefs  and I will be posting an interview with Mandeep Rai, PhD, author of the International Bestseller, the Values Compass..

I will also be producing videos on Dreaming and Goal Setting and a little something about Flourishing.  I will probably be doing my shortcut video that always seems to be popular for each practice – a kind of Top 10 tips video, too. 

The YouTube channel takes a lot of time.  I liken it to the time difference involved in writing a script to the time it takes to write a script, record and ‘act’ in the script, edit and produce the film and then upload it and respond to the audience.  It has taken a lot of time from my painting, and writing time for this website.  But the audience for YouTube is different from blogs and I want to make sure I reach as many people as I can.

I want to get through this year and lay down some valuable content and then I will determine whether or how often I will continue to upload videos. I think I will feel that I have fulfilled a part of my purpose if I can deliver good content for a year on each of the practices.  It’s a bit of the legacy I’d like to leave behind for others.  I’m not getting any younger and time in hospital, two years ago, taught me to get moving on this work.

As I’m not getting younger, and my readers are travelling this journey with me, you might notice that I’ve increased the font on my posts.  My eyes are grateful for this change!  I hope that yours are, as well.

I also write a weekly email to my subscribers.  Are you signed up yet for the email list?  You might want to join it.  I’m not hawking anything and even if I do have products to sell, in future, the intention of the email list is to provide inspiring content, every week.  You can unsubscribe at any time, if you don’t like it.  However, I do encourage you to subscribe because, as I am spreading myself thinner, it will be another place where you will get to enjoy my writing on the practices.

The danger, of course, is that I spend so much time creating content about the practices and how to embody them, that I neglect my own work.  To make sure that doesn’t happen, I’ve been working through the prompts on the 2021 TTDOG calendar (a set of daily prompts which I create for each month around the practice upon which we focus that month) but I do miss writing here about my own journey, for my readers, as well as for my own development .  Of course, writing here is essential for the unfolding of the practices that come from a long term practice of gratitude as they come from my own reflections on the practice.

I’m grateful that I have found a focus for my channel and that the content is laid out ahead of me.  It gives me the sense of living my own life on purpose.  I’m also grateful for the yearning to write these more reflective posts and not to neglect my readers here.  The connection we have built over the years is one of my most valued and I offer my apologies for neglecting you a little this year as I’ve found my feet in producing video content.  Perhaps I will call it quits at the end of the 2021 calendar year and return to it when I am in a position to have others do the editing and producing for me. 

I feel my value is added in the writing of the content and perhaps in the delivery as it all comes from my lived experience.  However, the pressure on my time will only intensify as we return to the confines of working in the office location again.  I yearn to have time in my studio creating artwork where my mind is emptied and I get into a state of flow from which more creativity can pour forth.  I am grateful this morning for a gray day so that I don’t feel that I need to rush out to record a video (or the next two or three) and I can sit here and write a postcard to my readers and let you know that I’m still here, I still care that you are well and happy and as ever, I am grateful for this glorious life.

 

For what are you most grateful, today? 

Ten Thousand Days

Goodnight, Sir / God Save the Queen

April 17, 2021

Photo of Windsor Castle by King’s Church International

Day 2433 – Day 2436

I will be up in the wee hours of the morning to “attend” the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.  The Queen is the monarch of my adopted country and the head of state of the country of my birth.  But the royal family are – as Russel Brand called them – totems as well.  The highs and lows of their lives have marked my own humble passages.

When I was young, I thought my mother was on the money.  She was beautiful, dark haired, and regal like the Queen.  The Queen was my Power-animal Mum and she wasn’t a totemic-grandma to me until later in life, when my own mother and grandmothers passed away.  Being the youngest in an enormous Catholic family means that many of your relatives die when you are a child.  But the Queen’s enduring presence is, in a way, a comfort to me, because I get to see what my mother might have looked like, and what she would have endured, had she lived.

When Diana and Charles married, my mother and I rose at some silly hour and watched their wedding from my mother’s home in Florida.  Both of us were romantics but life proved to be disappointing to us both in that regard.  Sadly, it proved to be disappointing for Diana, as well.

The death of Diana marked a period in my life where I was grappling with separating from family, too.  Individuation and emancipation didn’t come with balloons, banners and raise but with a healthy dose of punishment, too.

When I moved to London, it was on the Queen’s land at the Windsor Castle estate that I was initiated into a weekend intensive to launch my post graduate coursework.  Coming home on a dreary day from classes, I rounded the corner to enter my student housing in London to find myself 50 feet from Her Majesty the Queen who was visiting a primary school on my street, as if reminding me of the importance of education and tradition.

When William married Kate, I “attended” their royal wedding in Hyde park where visitors were treated to big screen televisions, an official wedding programme/order of service and a live band in the park who played the hymns.  We all stood and sang together and prayed together and cheered together.  I attended the wedding with the man I came closest to marrying, but by then we both knew that we would never be married and were learning to live with the disappointment of the decision that was never really a decision but became the inevitable.

And in a few hours, I will awaken and “attend” the funeral of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and rehearse the emotions and the protocols that I know will soon befall me, as I bid farewell, inevitably, to my own 90-year-old father.

As I ponder and work on my own altruism this month, I am in wonder at the devoted life of Service that Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh have each given to the Commonwealth and to me, as my totem.  Goodnight, Sir.

I am grateful to the royal family for being a symbol throughout my life for they have given me stability in a family that lacked it and an ideal on earth to which I could affirm my allegiance, when my own life lacked personal mentors and role models.  They have been an emblem of home, no matter where I have roamed and I’m grateful for their constancy.  People living in a republic will never know the blessings of having lived under the reign of the longest reigning monarch.  Whatever may happen to the institution of the monarchy when Her Majesty the Queen passes away, she and her family have been a part of the great task of meaning-making in my life.

Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us.

God Save the Queen!

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Great Divide

April 13, 2021

Day 2421 – Day 2432

I have crossed the great divide.  I have crossed the generational divide and apparently the “woke” divide.  When HRH The Duke of Edinburgh died this past week, I saw again the generational divide on the royal family and I was not on the “woke” side of the divide.  To be fair, I find myself less and less on that side of the divide anymore – not because I’m not a champion of social justice but because it seems – too frequently – to go hand in hand, lately, with cancel-culture.

I would never call myself a traditionalist or a conservative but I do value good manners, which seem to be a thing of the past.  Of course, when I was in the UK, I knew far more people with traditional manners and I found myself sometimes embarrassed by my fellow Canadians who acted superior, entitled and privileged, overseas.  I had a fellow Canadian who was staying temporarily in the UK tell me (online) that they “pay to live in the UK,” because they spend their wages there, so they can make fun of the dead Prince and can crap on the institution of the monarchy and that those who don’t like it can “suck it.”  There were more off-colour words from other commenters.  I guess what that person didn’t realize, being on a 1-year “working holiday” visa that is a special privilege for young people of the Commonwealth countries, was that if the Queen is removed, then that would end the Commonwealth and also their visa to be in the country, in the first place.

The comment demonstrated, at least to me, that there is a belief that money buys anything, including the right to live wherever we want, it affords us the right to throw out manners, and we don’t need to respect the leadership or system of governance of the host country.  Essentially, it confers the right to impose our beliefs on the culture we are visiting, even though we have no intention of staying and making it our home.  It also tells me that opinion trumps reason and even points of fact, for some people.

I also notice that many Canadians herald themselves as being superior in terms of etiquette to the British (to anyone, really) whilst simultaneously looking down their nose at the people and the culture of the country in which they are a guest.  When I was raised, we acted courteously towards our hosts and if we thought they were jerks, or that their house was crap, we kept that to ourselves whilst we were in their homes.  Of course, if we bought the home and moved in, we could trash the place if we liked. And I kind of feel the same about being an extended visitor to a country.  When I was on a visa in the USA, I respected the office of the President, whether I would have chosen the incumbent or not.  Even if I had the belief (which I don’t) that the USA should do away with the presidency and take back the British Monarchy as their supreme ruler, I would have thought it uncouth to be publicly trashing the president and first lady and making jokes about the death of one of them.  I would call that bad manners, as a guest.

This week, I saw Canadians, living in Britain,  making comments about HRH’s aged and rotting appearance, hours after he died.  He said some off colour remarks more than 20 years ago and so they decided that he was nothing more than a racist.  And because he said racist things back then, it was permissible for Canadians of all races to say ageist things about him and the Queen, now.  I’m not an apologist for his comments but haven’t women been liberated from responsibility for their husbands? Why batter the Queen? Maybe my white privilege is in the way of seeing the logic of that.

Many people took offence to the ageism but were shouted down, and anyone who tried to paint a balanced picture of the man by mentioning his life of public service was mobbed.

I got mobbed, cursed at, and called out for something I said (in error), without having seen a previous comment.  I admitted my mistake but even when I apologized for having misspoken, I was mobbed.  Apology NOT accepted. Once mistaken, always evil.

There is no room for a moderate opinion or human error.  I happen to believe that a person is complex and has admirable and less admirable qualities and that all people make mistakes.  Our principles of justice and mercy allow for atonement of errors, in our culture.   But it seems increasingly so that wherever “woke” cancel-culture hones in on someone, if there is anything imperfect in the person, or in their history, they are absolutely BAD and to be damned.  Forever and ever, amen.

Absolutism is something I think we should be very wary of.

I had a call with a long-time friend today.  She said to me that “now is the time to silence herself and let other voices be heard.”  I agree with amplifying voices that haven’t been heard and of using our platforms to do that, but I don’t think it requires our own voices to be silenced.  There is intersectionality to privilege and we are still women, after all.  She told me that she was afraid of the consequences of saying anything these days and it was this mobbing and absolutism of the “woke” cancel-culture that she feared.  My friend thinks that by keeping silent, the mob will create for themselves a backlash worse than anything she could say.

But, a culture of bullying is where we are headed if we don’t slow this ship down and consider the course.  With bullying comes a culture of silence, even in the face of what one might believe is morally wrong.  Nobody wants to get shot.  We’ve been there before and history shows us that it doesn’t turn out well for anyone.

It feels strange though, to be on this side of the great divide.  I’m younger than a boomer and I’m not a republican conservative.   But, I’m really worried about the way that cancel-culture is both dumbing down the conversation with curse words, rejection of compromise and logical fallacies that leads to black and white thinking.  I’m also concerned with its impact on free speech, for fear of being cancelled.

Call me privileged (I am, although I’m not as privileged as some).  Call me Karen (that’s not my name).  My goodness, even call me Boomer, if you must (I don’t fall into that demographic).    Sticks and stones can’t dismiss me, break me or dissuade me from working for justice for all.  And they will not silence me.

I’m grateful to have been raised the way I have been.   I am grateful to continue to be a moderate, who judges issues on their own merit rather than by ideology.  I’m going to stick to moderation, traditional manners, to rational discussion and to the view that all voices can and should be heard, even if some need amplification to counter a long history of marginalization.  I hope I don’t fall, or get pushed, into the great chasm that exits in the divide.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Have A Little Faith

April 1, 2021

Photo: John Towner

Day 2384 – Day 2420

I think we all can agree that this pandemic has been difficult for many people.  At the macro level, we’ve seen worse times.  World War II comes to mind.  On a micro level, I can’t recall a time when things have been worse, as a whole, for myself and those closest to me.  For me, personally, being ill 18 months ago and watching my organs fail put so much of my life in sharp contrast and I was able to see things very clearly.  Morphine helped.  I remember feeling a heightened sense of awareness of every sensation and wondering if I had suddenly become “woke” from my brush with death.  To an extent, yes, that happened, but it was at a sort of spiritual level, not at the level of heightened sensation.  For that, I must thank the morphine.  It may be a very addictive drug, but I will give it credit.  For those who are facing death, the sense of wellbeing it provides is priceless.

I could use some morphine right now.

But, this is not Ten Thousand Days of Bitching, as much as I sometimes would like to shift focus.  I told my aunt that this has been a very difficult time – and it isn’t just a difficult time for me, but for a group of us who are bound together in a bit of misery right now.  She texted me back and said that she hoped I would soon return to my happy and grateful self.  Oh no, I said.  I’m always grateful.  Otherwise, that sense of gratefulness would just be a kind of greed over good times, not true gratitude.  Happiness, on the other hand is something that is fleeting and is dependent on circumstances.  There is a lot we can do to boost our happiness and much research has gone into the science of happiness – both at the macro level of society and at the micro level of the individual.  But in February, I led my followers on YouTube in a focus on Joy.  Having taken the time to contemplate Joy more deeply, I had a few insights about the difference between Joy and Happiness.  I would love to be known for my happy self but I’d feel it was a true life-achievement if I were known for my Joyful self.

Joy, it seems to me, is a bit different from the feeling of happiness.  Joy, as I defined it, is a feeling of peace, contentment, vitality and an enjoyment of life, on its own terms, independent of circumstances.  Joy is at the centre of just about every major spiritual tradition, even if it is not apparent on the surface.  Dig deeper and joy is at the heart of the work and rewards of a spiritual life.  I’m so grateful that I’ve always had a strong spiritual call.  It makes Joy accessible even in the darkest times.

When I first started this work on gratitude, I had a chat with Professor Lord Layard whose work on Happiness was ground breaking and he is one of the editors of the UN World Happiness Report.  I remember vividly one piece of advice he gave me.  He challenged me to consider how to encourage gratefulness in those who were not people of faith.  To whom, he asked me, are they grateful?

And so, I made it a point to speak to the secular majority, and to always focus on how any person could practice gratitude and the many other practices that arose as I observed myself in that first year of gratitude.  Over the years, of course, new practices emerged as being part and parcel of the practice of a life of gratefulness.  (Purpose, Meaning, Mindfulness, Authenticity, Empathy, Love).  Joy arose so quickly, as an additional practice to couple with gratitude – it was part of the original Facebook challenge that I set myself in those first 3 weeks.  But it wasn’t until I sat down and really did a deep dive on Joy this past month that I realized that what I was offering at TTDOG was a spiritual path for the non-believers.  Essentially, these practices are spiritual practices and engaging in these practices is spiritual discipline.  At the heart of that, there must be faith – in something.

For those of us who have a faith in the Divine Quantum (and who I consider fortunate to have that), faith is easy to define.  But for those willing to do the work of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude, without a God concept, the repository of that faith is a little different but it is there.  Perhaps it is a faith in the innate goodness of humankind.  Perhaps we might replace the word faith with a more palatable word ‘belief’ and it becomes a belief in statistical evidence for the science of happiness or a belief in the neuroplasticity of the brain.  Whatever it is, there is some belief, some faith, some hope, that leads someone to decide to embark on a course of practices to improve their well-being or the well-being of the society in which they live.

And so, in the midst of Joy, I found another crucial component of a walk of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude, and that is Faith.  With a renewed focus on Oneness this past month, it is clear that faith is an underlying element to all these practices.  Faith in something greater than ourselves enriches all of our practices whether that something is some God concept, science or one another.

What keeps me from falling into a pit of despair with the current situation and what keeps me joyful, able to remember Oneness, and committed to looking for the good and feeling grateful for all of this wonderous, fragile and fleeting life – is faith.  Faith allows me to be joyful, even when I can’t be happy.  And so, this year, we will be adding a new practice and a new focus on finding and strengthening our faith.

 

Photo: Sergio Capuzzimati

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Sleeping Bear, Pregnant Ox

February 23, 2021

Photo: Daniele Levis Pelusi

Day 2358 – Day 2383

I identify with Bear Spirit, but I cannot recall a time when I have so fully been in a winter hibernation as I have been this past month.  I have been undergoing intensive physiotherapy for a tremendously painful complication of an old injury from 2019.  At first, the pain was manageable between sessions but in December it became so intense that I was unable to sleep for over a month despite my physiotherapist’s best efforts and then an ultrasound and X-Ray pinpointed the cause of the problem.  Thankfully, there is a non-surgical intervention and my physiotherapist and deep tissue massage practitioners have been working to heal me.  I’m still a long way off, but I have treatment 3 days a week.  With the help of some legal, over-the-counter painkiller/anti-inflammatories and the application of heat,  I’ve more than made up for all the sleep I lost.

After each session, I have some fluids, take some medicine and sleep for several hours while my body repairs itself.  I wake, eat and return to sleep for an inhuman amount of time.  I seem to come out of this healing coma just in time for another treatment.  I do only what is absolutely necessary in a day and am asleep almost from the moment I arrive home till the moment I leave again.

While this healing coma was not expected, it is, I am told by my practitioners, not harmful and probably helpful.  I do, however, rather feel like I am sleeping my life away and as the Lunar New Year has come and gone, it is time for me to get on with getting on with my life.  It’s time to improve my range of motion – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

And yet, I want to honour what has gone before.  In honouring the hibernation of Bear Spirit, I recognize that I have been conserving my energy – not for survival – but for revival.  I am coming out of this sleep having done a lot of physical healing as well as psychic healing through dream work and letting go of some old attachments and fears.  Not every sleep has been peaceful but while my body has been healing at a cellular level, my mind has been processing a lot of junk and burning up what no longer needs to accompany me in the year ahead.  It’s time to thank Bear Spirit for the healing rest and see what the year of the Ox has yet to birth.

Photo: Macau Photo Agency

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Twin Flame Recall

January 28, 2021

Photo: Elizabeth Munro

Day 2343 – Day 2357

About a year ago I started noticing repeating number patterns and specifically the number 11:11. In the New Age world there is a belief that this represents the presence of one’s Twin Flame, in one’s life.  What a Twin Flame really is and whether they really exist, I don’t know.  I do know that there was someone who felt very familiar that had appeared and was taking up a lot of my headspace at that time.  He continues to occupy some headspace but not in the same way.

At first, I was attracted to him.  And then I developed a crush on him.  And then I grew to feel that he was a burden.  I kept asking myself and the Universe: Why am I stuck with this bonehead for a Twin Flame?

Admittedly, I see a lot to dislike in his behaviour.  I was charmed by him but charm can be deceiving.  And it was probably this pattern of narcissism which was familiar, not some form of woo-woo mystical connection.  Watching what he actually did, and not always what he said, I grew to lose respect for him and I questioned his trustworthiness.  When I had joked that he was a 2.0 version and took my mind off the previous man (who was certainly narcissistic, if not worse), I already knew what I could expect, even if I would not yet admit it.  He left me feeling rejected and hurt and round round we go, again.  So familiar.

In the beginning, I dreamed of him and it was sweet.  As the rose-coloured glasses started to slip, I continued to dream of him but the dreams were at first, ambivalent and finally, downright dark.

What is a Twin Flame?  Apparently, the theory is that it is your own soul in another human form.  I don’t buy that idea.  But what is interesting to me is that there is a sense, with a Twin Flame, that you are looking in the mirror.  He’s not a reflection of me, but he reveals the contours of something that I could only catch a glimpse of, with these men 1.0 and 2.0.  In a way, I felt like I could read him like a book, and he was familiar.  And in another way, what I was reading was the familiar.

We all look in the mirror and focus on the positive: our eye colour, the cute haircut we’ve gotten, the virtues that we uphold in the world.  What we try not to see are the warts, the ugliness and the darkness in our own psyches and the way we willingly fit together with a puzzle piece that has jagged edges that will make us bleed.  How can we see into that darkness?  Dreams provide a clue.  Life patterns provide a clue.  And perhaps whatever this thing they call a Twin Flame provides another clue.

Each of us is a being of light and an ogre in the shadows.  We are upright citizens and we are liars, thieves and murderers.  We have the potentiality of all of these things within us.  The more we repress the darkness, the more we project it onto others and say – see how horrible that person is, see how horribly they behaved!  Look at how they victimize me!  And as we focus outward on their savagery we can fool ourselves that it does not exist within ourselves and that we are not an active participant in the game.

I am grateful for this person in my life.  I’m not grateful for their bad behaviour or for the way they have mistreated me and others.  I am, however, grateful for the role that he is playing in my spiritual development.  He provides for me a metaphor for all the things which I cannot and will not (at least so far) accept about myself.  In my most recent dream, he was a tornado that was coming to destroy me.  But, he was made of light.

When we begin to confront our shadow selves, it is dangerous.  We invite the trickster, the thief, and the wildman into our lives and we must find a way to dance with their energies in a creative, rather than a destructive way.  We also must let go of the idea of who we are and make room for all of the archetypes, not just the saint, but also the sinner.  Shining light on the dark places creates a storm of transformation.

And now, the real work begins.  I can’t say if I have any impact on him but he certainly continues to embody a whole lot of psychic energy in my life.  I suspect that, for my part, at the end of this work, I will find that he and I are not so different, after all, and what I needed to make myself whole will be found in dreamwork.  Our soul work will be done.  11:11.

 

Photo: Everton Vila

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Give Me Till February

January 13, 2021

Photo: Doran Erickson

Day 2309 – Day 2342

Give me till February.

Over a few dishes of dim sum, a friend once noted that I really don’t kick into the new year until Chinese New Year.  At the time, I attributed this to the fact that I would be jetlagged for much of January and would require several weeks to really recover from a trip overseas.  Those trips were hard on my body.  But I think there is something else at play, as well.  The holidays are difficult.  I need time to decompress, do a good purging of closets, and practice self-care until I can return to a state of equanimity and equilibrium.

I also never buy into an arbitrary date when everything changes or the idea that a new year brings about a new me.  Change is an arduous process.  Sometimes we take two steps forward and then slide back again.  I’m grateful that I do not buy into the New Year’s hype.  I am a bit more realistic.  We do not change overnight.  Circumstances do.

The world is traumatized.  We all need some self-care.

I do believe that globally, the prolonged stress of this period of our history is going to leave a lot of mental health challenges and widespread PTSD.  If you can, practice self-soothing and seek help if you need it.  I did a series on self-soothing, to which I will return in 2021, on my YouTube channel.  You can find it here.

I’m not ready to get back to YouTubing just yet.  I considered calling it a day after a year on YT and while I don’t enjoy it, I have the privilege of having the attention of over 100 subscribers. I am incredibly grateful for that privilege.   If I can, I will do my best to inspire them to grateful living, even in the worst of times.  But to do that, I need a full well on which to draw.  Some people love the process of making videos.  I find it a lot of work and it takes time from pleasures that I have been missing.  I am going to spend today painting.  Sometimes, when words fail me, making music, taking photos or painting seems to be the best medicine.  I’m so grateful for my voice and for my ability to create through a visual medium.  I hope that you, also, have something soothing and expressive that you can turn to, to help yourself express the inexpressible and to ease into this new year.

I will be ready to tackle goals and take on the world once I’ve spent some time alone in my simple pleasures.  I will post, but it may not be anything earth shattering or profound.  In the meantime, we begin 2021 with a re-focus on the simple practice of Gratitude Journaling.  I’ve created a free downloadable calendar for the practice which you can access by signing up to my email list here.  Each month, on YouTube, I will be focusing on one of our core practices, but of course, I always encourage people to continue journaling and see how it changes as we add on new practices and states of being.

I’m off to make a cup of tea and look deeply and quietly at things.  For anything else…give me till February.

Photo: Elijah Hiett

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Hold On Just A Second!

December 10, 2020

Photo: Eduardo Flores

Day 2293 – Day 2308

I know you might disagree with me that gratitude and kindness are important for making the world a better place.  I agree, we need justice for victims of violence against women, against racialized communities, against the oppression of dictatorships and for the uneven distribution of wealth in the world and the impacts of climate change.   I’ve never been one to say these things are not crucially important and I’ve spent a considerable portion of my professional life working on policy to change these things.  I also think that these softer but sublime practices can lead to better understanding and compassion, rather than violent self-interest.

Everywhere I look right now there seems to be positioning and aggressiveness.  I had a call from a friend this week and even as I tried to say that people are no longer able to disagree without becoming entrenched in a position, the friend became intrenched in their position and gave examples of how others were wrong in what they were saying and doing.  There was no pause to hear what I was saying before digging into the trench from which they would do battle.  If I had thought of it, maybe forcing a pause might have slowed down the conversation so that we were actually listening to one another.  Not feeling heard, I struggled to want to follow them where they wanted to take the conversation.  Maybe if I had just hit pause on the conversation, I could have just taken that moment for a breath for myself, gotten present with my feelings and then, with presence, returned to the conversation, ready to follow where they needed to take the conversation and affirm what they needed to have heard.  I wonder what would have happened if I had used phone technology as my ally.  “Hold on.  Just a minute.  I need to feel this anger, this sorrow, this fear and let it pass.  I can find my gratitude in this situation and return with kindness.”

I am grateful.  I am grateful for the phone call that let me know that I am still a treasured friend, even if we cannot see one another.  I am grateful to hear the news and to know that illness and death has not touched their home.  And I’m grateful for the lesson that our failed ability to hear one another taught me.

In our trenches, the explosions from the grenades we lob at one another and the constant shelling from one side on the other makes us deaf, even to those who stand beside us as allies.  We cannot hear one another, let alone the perceived enemy or those who normally go unnoticed by us.  It is maybe no coincidence that in what seems an increasingly isolated and polarized world, where our echo chamber has become our support network, the suicide rates are rising at alarming rates.

To anyone out there who feels alone, and unheard, I want you to know that you are not alone in your despair.  I feel it sometimes, too.  I believe that it may not be tomorrow.  It may not be next week.  It may not be next month.  But I believe that external conditions will improve and we need to cling to our practice of finding the good in bad times until the good times return and make living easier.  Next year might seem too far away and so we take it moment by moment.  To anyone struggling right now, I say:  Hold on.  Just a minute.

Let this anger, this sorrow, this fear pass.  And then, find gratitude.  I will be grateful if you hold on, just a minute and continue to live.  This world needs you and it wouldn’t be the same without you.  Even if you can’t see that, right now.

Recently I read an article in the Economist about the impacts of mass trauma on individuals and societies.  In it, the author notes that this kind of trauma “can also change group dynamics. People stop trusting each other. It becomes harder to bring people back together and easier to open new wounds. If nothing is done, this can permanently damage a society—and even destroy it.”

I feel like we are at a point of choice here, and the future of our mental health, our relationships, and our very society is at stake.

In this month where our focus is on kindness, I know we can do better and we can turn this around.

There is evidence that if we can opt for kindness and make a conscious effort to trust and listen to one another and have compassion for one another we can make it through.  The author writes that in recovering from mass trauma, “‘received support’ … is less important for psychological outcomes than ‘perceived support’ the feeling that people can rely on their neighbours.”

Kindness, to self and others, may actually be one of the most important things we can do right now, to save the world.

To those of us who may be tempted to be blind to the struggles of others or turn a deaf ear to their concerns because we’ve got our own, to those of us who are tempted to respond to this unprecedented time of stress and trauma by cutting off our partner in mid-conversation or by hurling an accusation at a friend, or to take out our frustrations on our children who are constantly underfoot in a time of social distancing, I say: Hold on.  Just a minute.  Let all this anger, this sorrow, this fear pass.

Take a breath. Exhale slowly. Do this as many times as it takes.

And then, find gratitude and pay it forward, with kindness.

 

Photo: Tom Parsons

For what are you most grateful, today?