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Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude

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?

 

 

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?