Giving Thanks

November 28, 2013

It’s the one day of the year when we are reminded to consciously be thankful. I think the observance of the first Thanksgiving is one thing, something historical, albeit controversial these days. However, I feel the concept of giving thanks on a daily basis is something different.  I try to give thanks daily. While I appreciate the time allowed to be with family and loved ones, that does not happen on a daily basis, I try to be grateful EVERY DAY!!

This morning I am sitting in the dining room of a hotel, waiting for my family to wake up. I am so full of joy and gratitude when I think about my children and my husband. When we get to be all together, I feel as if the movement of the universe has cooperated to bring me this magnificent blessing.

I was searching the internet trying to find some sweet sentiment of the day to post on FB, when I stumbled across a favorite: Tiny Buddha’s blog. http://tinybuddha.com/blog-posts/

Celestine Chua posted an entry titled: 60 Things to Be Grateful For,  http://tinybuddha.com/blog/60-things-to-be-grateful-for-in-life/  It is fantastic!

She reminds us to be thankful for:

Our Sense of Sight for it allows us to see the colors of life.

Our Sense of Hearing – For letting us hear trickle of rain, the voices of our loved ones, and the harmonious chords of music.

Our legs and lungs. Our tears and disappointments. Our happiness and sadness.

Our mistakes and heartbreak.

Our home, our beds.

Our enemies and kind strangers.

In short, she reminds us that everything is deserving of gratitude. Every day.

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” 
— Henry Ward Beecher

To paraphrase another saying circulating the internet:

Today I will count my blessings,
practice kindness,
listen to my heart,
and breathe.

If I hope to practice gratitude and thankfulness fully, I will do these things every day not just one day in November.

Celebrate giving thanks!

It’s Still a Great Mystery

November 16, 2013

“We are all part of the great cycles of things.
And so magnificent and harmonious is this universe, it’s still a great mystery.”
— from the Prelude to the Thanksgiving Address,
Ted Williams, Tuscarora Elder

The November full moon will be tomorrow night. There is a chill in the air and a rush to find all the visually beautiful ways to materialize Christmas.

Christmas aside, what about Thanksgiving? I don’t care so much about the commercialized Thanksgiving, but I like the idea of remembering to be thankful. I wish we didn’t somehow feel, that by designating one day to it, we don’t have to think about it very much the rest of the year.

I wish we could remember we are all part of the cycle of great things.  And that it is all still a great mystery.

TV ads, store fronts, radio, magazines….anything and everything remind us incessantly to want, want, want, need, need, need, own, own, own……but what about everything else? What about just being grateful?

If you just pause for a few moments, turn off the noise, the computer, the phone….the rush, the to-do list, the whirlwind of life, what is there? In the silence and stillness, what moves your heart to be grateful?

Anyone want to share?

One Quiet Morning

November 9, 2013

“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

– from “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Last Saturday in the wee hours of the morning I received a text that my cousin had passed away. Honestly, my first reaction was a sense of peace. He had been suffering for 15 years from the effects of cancer treatment. Then I felt the grief of his family—the loss of a husband, a father, a brother, a grandfather. Then I felt the loss of his friends: long time friends, new friends, even those who would never know him.

And then, as tears washed my cheeks I began to think back to a time in our lives when things were magical and innocent. Michael and I were close in age. He was a little older. He had huge brown eyes, thick auburn hair and a smile that outshone the sun. His heart was huge, his kindness and gentleness were effortless.

Some of you may know I often use Gratefulness.org as a source for quotes and information. This morning I found this:

“Even if an experience crushes you, can it not serve as a wine press that releases an unexpected sweetness? Is there some way in which it allows you to reclaim a part of yourself that you’d forgotten? Did it release courage, compassion, a deeper awareness of what matters? Ponder each of these qualities and see if you can find them in your own experience: courage (take a moment for this); compassion (for whom?); a deeper awareness (of what?). And can you name other sweetnesses that can flow out of the grief that crushes you? Pay attention to the faintest taste of sweetness.” (from Gratefulness.org)

And that is what happened to me that morning, and the following week and today. A sadness that seemed to cover me like a soft blanket, yet an awareness of a sense of sweetness. The sweetness Michael brought to my life.

My memories of Michael and I during childhood are full of vibrant emotions and color. Movement and energy. Laughter and tears. Joy and total frustration.

We would spend weeks at our grandmother’s house in what was then rural Ohio. Her house nestled in a quiet corner of land that bordered the Olentangy River. The river at her house was more of a stream, but nonetheless it was a child’s delight. We would run down the softly banked lawn to the slender trees that signaled the river’s edge. The water slipped over rocks and made small, bubbly rapids that sang the song of a child’s freedom and joy. We played for hours in the river. Was there ever any more fun than collecting sticks for no reason? Throwing rocks at nothing just to hear the “plunk” and watch the ripples? Talk wasn’t even required because we could read each other’s mind.

My grandmother never “called” us in. We would play and explore and just be kids until we went back up to the house. If we had fish in hand we were usually sent back outside. If we were wet and muddy we were dried off and warmed up. At night we slept in cherry wood beds with sheets and blankets that smelled like lavender. When the morning sun woke up, so did we and we started all over again.

As we began to grow up, we still could be found together: climbing behind waterfalls in the many gorges of Ithaca, skiing in the crisp white of winter, sailing on the Finger Lakes, swimming in the chilly waters of Cayuga Lake.

And then, adult life happened and we drifted a bit. We married, raised children and put aside the companionship, but never the love. At my uncle’s (Micheal’s dad) birthday, when Michael was in a very painful part of his  recovery and had little strength and energy, my aunt wanted to take a picture of the two of us “because we had always loved each other so much”. I remember those words because, for some reason I didn’t think anyone else knew that……

Michael’s passing is like a press squeezing sweetness from my memory. A  kind of nectar that tastes of joy, and laughter and love, freedom and companionship, innocence and lightness. It does help to reclaim that inner magic that was childhood. It helps remind me to make time and space for those things again.

Thank you for letting me share this.

Teacher

November 5, 2013

I think we all have someone, or many someones, who we would refer to as a “teacher”.

Maybe your kindergartner teacher comes to mind. Or your minister, therapist, boss, friend, grandmother, father….

Some of these are spiritual teachers, life teachers, vocational teachers, educational teachers. Teachers, teachers everywhere.

” A true teacher is someone who can offer us a map,

a question, an insight,

or simply a listening presence that sparks a fire in us. “

Joan Tollifson

I read something recently, and I will include the link at the end, that called into question the label of “teacher”, and the value, power, importance we place on that person. Sometimes we put them on a pedestal. Sometimes they put themselves on a pedestal.

But who IS a teacher? What is a teacher? How does someone become a teacher? Are we all teachers? Could we be? Should we be? Is a “teacher” finished being a “student”? Can they continue to learn from others?

What do you think? Who are the teachers in your life? What kind of teachers are they? Are they the kind of teacher that have some kind of piece of paper that says they are a “real” teacher, or have they become a teacher through life experiences? Do you view them as “different” from you, “better” than you, “smarter” than you? Do you regard them as someone “special” or “gifted”? Do you feel you could never be “as good a teacher” as they are?

Are you a “teacher”? To whom? About what? Do you think you’re “pretty special”? Do you feel as if you are a “student” too?

What happens when we stop being a student? What happens when we see ourselves as “above” someone else, or “better” than someone else?

I am a teacher and a student. Right now my most significant teachers are a group of three to six year olds. Sometimes I feel like they look up to me way too much, figuratively and literally, so I often sit on the floor. I am not smarter than they are. They teach me important things: “Just be kind” they say. To them that’s the answer. To almost any question they face.

I hope you have good teachers in your life. I hope you still see yourself as a student. If there is a pedestal involved I hope you can gently remove it.

“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way.

I pointed ahead- ahead of myself as well as you.”

George Bernard Shaw

http://www.joantollifson.com/writing18B.html  Go to entry 10-30-13, scroll down