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joy

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?

Milestone

Into the 4th Year…

August 28, 2017

Photo: Melanie Magdalena

As we enter our 4th year of Gratitude Practice, a word of Thanks….

On the 17th of August, we marked the 3rd year of this gratitude practice.  We had a party to celebrate our first year on 20 August 2015, but I started this practice on Facebook on the 17 August, 2014.

In prior years, I’ve looked back at what we’ve achieved, but this has not been an easy year for me.  I have to admit that I’ve struggled to stay positive and to be grateful.  Depression, panic, and anger  have been my companions as much as gratitude, joy, and oneness.  I’ve been stuck in my own pain more than I have been able to serve, it seems.  And, because its been such a difficult year to keep that balance a positive one, our anniversary passed, without me noticing it.

But, as much as I – and maybe you – have struggled with a personal or professional life that have been painfully disappointing and faced, every day, the darkening of the world news, we have stayed the course and we deserve to celebrate that.

I have always said that I am personally most inspired by moments of gratitude found in the darkest hour.  And frankly life is always a dance with adversity as much as it is with ease and joy.  We started this journey of gratitude on Facebook when I was terribly ill.  Daily gratitude practice helped me to overcome that challenge and to inspire others.  Internal challenges are not as cut and dried and progress as easy to see as when it is when the issue is physical.  I understand that.  And yet, we are still here.

We are all still here!

I have learned that frequent practice is essential in difficult times.  During the year, I returned to a daily practice on Facebook, with friends, and I’m sorry that I was not in a place to be able to write publicly as much as I would have wished I could.  Most of us are not able to give our best when we are struggling and I urge you to go gently with yourselves in your own times of sorrow.

I have also learned that grief is a lonely place.

I have faced judgement for being depressed or angry or for experiencing anxiety this year.  Not for the experience itself, but because it stretched on too long for the patience of others.  When someone dies, people are, for example, sympathetic for the first week following the loss.  But compassion fades.  From experience, those who are in touch with their loss and their emotions surrounding loss do not generally get over it within a week, or even a year.  It is usually that second week, second month,  and second year that is the loneliest for those who are struggling to put their life together again after the shock of a loss.  When one has truly grieved a loss, life will never, ever be the same again.

I never aimed to create a saccharine site where all we did was write ‘It’s all good,’ and then stuffed our suffering down into the depths of our souls where it could ferment and cause illness.  To me, the most meaningful offering I can give to others is to say ‘My life is difficult and I’m feeling awful and I can’t seem to want to get out of bed.  But I’m working these tools of gratitude (and joy, oneness and service to find meaning and purpose) all with faith that this low moment will pass.’  I invite you to witness as much of my journey as I can bear to reveal and you can bear to witness, so that you will know that you are not the only one who sometimes struggles with loss and grief and anger and panic that seems will never end.  I applaud anyone – including myself – for trying each day to apply the tools, even when it feels impossible.

I will never judge you for your grief.  Instead, I hope that you will find a place of solace, here.

Let us never use our commitment to these practices to shame one another for not doing as well at our work as someone thinks we should be doing, or for having difficult and dark emotions or for cursing or otherwise behaving imperfectly in times of distress.  We know when we are not doing as much as we wish we could.  We are all doing the best that we can.  I will never judge you for trying and falling down on your gratitude practice.  I will, if only by example, try my very best to encourage you to keep getting back up again when life sucks so hard you don’t know where to turn.

Fall 9,999 times; Get  up 10,000 times.

Together, we WILL make Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.

 

As I do each year, I re-affirm my commitment to living a grateful life through 10,000 days spent observing that for which I am grateful, and making my life one of service to life itself, living a life of joy, from a sense of purpose, and of Oneness experienced through the awe of nature, art and spirituality.

I will tell my story of this journey because I believe that storytelling is how life’s meaning is revealed.  And I invite you to share your stories, in the comments, in an interview or in some new – as yet unknown manner – because it is in mutual sharing that community is forged and a new culture of grateful living can spread.

I’m grateful to readers who have stayed the course with me, through the dark times of winter and the strange and curious death and rebirth that is currently in process.  And I’m grateful to all who have shared their stories with us over these past three years.

I acknowledge and remember the friends and loved ones we’ve lost this past year.

And, I am truly thankful for another trip around the sun, together.  I look forward to our 4th year…

 

Photo: Joshua Fuller

For what are you most grateful?

Articles, Milestone

One Thousand Days of Gratitude

February 17, 2017

Photo: Luca Upper

 

The number 1,000 appears in the Bible some 50 times.  In terms of time, 1,000 is a ‘millenia’ and when referring to quantity, the number conveys the immensity of the thing in question without the totality of it.  In health and development, research has shown that the first 1,000 days of life are what UNICEF call’s the ‘brain’s window of opportunity’ where the future health of an individual is largely set and can either set a child on the path to wellbeing or to a life of morbidity and early mortality.  The first thousand days are are immensely important for the totality of one’s life and that is why health and development agencies focus their investments in those first 1,000 days. So how do we apply this to a spiritual practice?

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali advises:

Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness

In some Buddhist traditions, 1,000 repetitions of a practice is the magic figure at which one becomes an adept.

In some traditions, it takes ten years to even begin to walk the path.  So, let’s not get carried away with pats on the back just yet.  We have another 9,000 days to tackle!

My friend and much admired colleague Alicia once reminded me that we are in such a fast paced world that we often don’t pause to take a moment to reflect and appreciate our accomplishments before we move on to the next challenge.  And although I am inclined to continue to push the envelope by explicitly adding new practices, it is a joy to reach the first 1,000 days that have firmly grounded us in the practice.  This has been the heart, soul and mind’s ‘window of opportunity’ to become attuned to a higher vibration, develop new neural pathways for positive emotions and for the practice to become habitual.

In the first 1,000 days of Gratitude practice, we organically added joy as a by-product of gratitude and then came to see that a sense of abundance led us to want to give back to the world in service.  A sense of connection with others when we looked to be of service in the world grew into our concept of looking for a sense of Oneness in our lives.  After the first year of practice, we moved to a weekly post and started to look for meaning in our experience.  Without being explicit, this has become a fifth practice.

Meaning as I define it, is the symbolic value we give to our experience.  It is the sense we make of the chaos of our lives.  It is the thread of narrative that we write out of our daily experience and which helps us to know who we are, to be in awe of our place in creation and to discover our values in this lifetime.  Meaning then, is no small thing.  It tells us the why of what we are doing. We can find meaning in times that are good as well as those that are full of sorrow.   As we reach upwards to spirit with Gratitude and Joy, we reach into our depths of soulfulness with Oneness and Meaning.

Related to the concept of meaning is living with a sense of Purpose.  Purpose, as I define it, is living in alignment with our values and using our gifts to translate those values into action with the intent to create a positive impact in the world.  Happiness scholars argue that having and working towards a sense of Purpose is one of the key ingredients to creating a life of Meaning.  And so,  the two are inextricably lined and as we formally add the search for Meaning to our practices, we will add working towards a sense of Purpose, as well.

 

 

As I  anticipate the road ahead and reflect upon the 999 days that preceded this one, I feel so grateful for all those who have been on this journey with me.  Getting through the first 1,000 days of practice was no small feat and it didn’t happen without inspiration from others.  If there was something wise that I did to get this practice grounded, it was to seek out and speak to those who inspired me, so that I could learn from them the secrets to carrying on with a difficult task when things were not always easy.  I am grateful to all those artists like Louis Masai, WRDSMTH, Food of War, Noriaki, Matthew Del Degan, Monsu Plin, and C. Michael Frey who have inspired us and shared with our community their beautiful hearts and souls through their artwork.  I am grateful to all those who are not necessarily artists but who are working in their own capacities to make the world a better place, including Alexandra Jackman, Alicia Altorfor Ong, Lord Richard Layard, Action for Happiness , Elie Calhoun, and James Wheale of the Nomadic Community Gardens. They have been an inspiration to me, and I hope they have been, to you as well.  And, because love, and music are my own personal spiritual path, I am grateful to Dan Shears, Jesse Cook, Chris Church and Josh Savage for sharing their music and their hearts with us.

I never know who is reading these posts unless you choose to comment.  But I do always write these posts with you, specifically, in mind.  I am grateful to you for coming here and witnessing this journey.  It is a joy whenever I hear that someone has been inspired to live more gratefully and even if I don’t know who you are, know that you are embraced by me, and we are a community.  You are always part of the circle of Oneness at Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.

Over the past 999 days, I have at times wondered why I continue to post publicly about my private life.  I wonder why I do what many could see as a pedestrian practice, over and over and over again.  I have come to realize that I value inspiration and one purpose of my life and my time on earth – one of the things that sets my soul on fire – is the potential to inspire others to live a more sustainable, meaningful and connected life.  Rather than just quietly living my own life of gratitude, I have chosen to make show up and make public my triumphs and my struggles with as much truth and vulnerability as I can muster.  And so, as we turn the page from 1,000 days my service is to continue to keep showing up to these practices with you.

In the past few weeks leading up to this milestone, I returned to writing a daily gratitude post with the audience being my friends on Facebook.  For me, personally, if there is any meaning in the writing of a 1,000 day post, and the work of the 999 days leading up to it, it is the way opening my heart to you and laying bare my life has repaid me with love and fullness beyond measure. Words today fail to express how grateful I truly am for you.  I hope that witnessing and (it is my hope) joining in these practices has and will contribute to your deeply fulfilled life, dear reader.

 
So I turn it back over to you…

 

For what are you most grateful, today?