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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

Judge and Jury

June 5, 2020

Day 2117 – Day 2120

Earlier this week, I made a statement on my social media in support of the black community, amongst other disadvantaged groups.  Some people joined protests.  Some people donated money silently.  Some people were simply silent.

A lot of people judged one another’s response and pointed fingers at one another.

As far as I understand it, the idea of anti-racism is that it is no longer enough to simply not be racist, we must actively take a stand and work towards dismantling racism within all our systems.  We should not be applauded for never doing something dastardly if we stand by and watch others do it.  I get that.  This makes sense to me.  As a privileged white person, I still have inner and outer work to do.

I also know that I don’t know what is happening with the intentions of others, whether they are silent or vocal. All I can do is pay attention to my own intentions and behaviours and work with those people whose behaviour shows me that they are willing to walk the walk of intentions that align with my own.  If I see someone who isn’t fitting into that category, I have a choice to make: do I assume, or do I have a conversation?  As difficult as it is, I’m going to start having those conversations.  I may lose some relationships, as a consequence.  But, I might actually gain some, too.

There is no perfect response.  Sometimes PTSD and silence look the same.  Let us not judge the BIPOC person who cannot face another dead black man or woman and who does not join the protest.   And, let us help guide our brothers and sisters who have not quite caught on to the difference between not being racist and being anti-racist.  Social change takes changes within each and every one of us.  Change always takes time and isn’t linear.  Let us listen to the needs of the ones who are oppressed and then take action that amplifies, without paternalism.

I know I’ve got a lot to unlearn in order to be a potent anti-racist ally but I’m committed to doing that and I’m going to be imperfect and have blind spots.  I expect people to call me out when I’m wrong, but I ask us all to do so with respect for the fact that we are both headed in the same direction.

One of my best friends is a black man living in New York City.  I admit that I urged him to stay home.  Is that wrong?  I just don’t want him being arrested – or worse – because he is a black man out buying groceries, let alone protesting.  I want my loved ones to be safe and I also want change.  One of my favourite YouTubers captured some footage at a protest and you can clearly hear black protestors arguing about whether they should be putting their lives on the line, if it comes to that.  Everybody is having a difficult time deciding how to respond.

And, with that said, while I’m not reposting photos of police officers taking a knee, this does not mean that I think Blue lives don’t matter.  My personal opinion is that police and justice reform is required, in Canada and in the UK, to promote ways of policing and keeping the peace that no longer disproportionately targets certain groups of people.  (I will leave it to citizens of their own countries to determine if it is needed there).  I do not believe that the majority of law enforcement is made up of bad people – at least not in Canada or in the UK.  The fact that we have frequent incidents of excessive force and a disproportionate number of police killing innocent people from the BIPOC community tells me that if the people are not bad, then the system must be.  That is where I think we should be channelling our work – dismantling and rebuilding a just and fair system.

Everybody – whether BIPOC or white, whether protestor or police – deserves to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. At a time when we are standing up for justice and equality, let us not become judge and jury towards our fellow human being.

Let’s talk and let’s listen.

I’m grateful for the dialogue.  I am grateful for the press – whether official or citizen – that is documenting what is going on in the world.  I’m grateful for those who are willing to reserve judgement and offer ideas that will help me find my way through.  I hope that maybe this reminder might help someone else, who is struggling.  I’m grateful to be called out – either through a public activist who is calling out a society, collectively, or by a friend who will privately have a conversation with me.

But I’m also grateful that I have a platform to say this: call-out culture and an attitude of us versus them is not okay.  Publicly or privately shaming anyone or any group of people is not okay.  Shame is not the way to win someone to your ideas; it seems to me that it makes someone take a firm defensive position even when they might have been struggling to know where to stand.  Where they could have been persuaded to be an ally, they are now divided from us.

Finally, I’m grateful that my spiritual path is love because as far as I have seen, love is always the only answer.

Photo: Perry Grone

 

For what are you most grateful, today?