Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.
-Tao Te Ching, Verse 15
One late summer day last year, I had a profound experience involving one of our deer friends. We typically get a few deer-friend visitors every day, and we go out and feed them some flavored corn or an apple. There have been many times I have sat by them and watched them crunch and munch. And I’ve taken lots of pictures from all angles. Yet, that one day, something shifted in me.
There was one lone visitor that day, and I chose to go out to feed her. After pouring some flavored corn into the usual spot right outside the garage in our backyard, she immediately starting making her way down the hill. Fluffy tail happily flicking, she took a few steps, stopped, watched me, and repeated until she felt uncomfortable coming any closer. I showed respect and chose to head back to the house. When I started to head down the stairs back toward the house, she came a bit closer to the food pile. I took two steps, she took two steps. I paused, she paused. An invisible magnet between us.
I changed my mind, and chose to crouch down on the grass when she approached the corn and began to eat. We were about 5 feet apart. Pretty soon, a cloud of gnats congregated around my head and executed their usual routine of bouncing off my face and aiming for the eyes. My legs began to feel uncomfortable due to the way I was crouching. These are the things that normally would have prompted me to get up and go in. Yet this time, I took note of those thoughts, and just let them go by. I wanted to enjoy being in the presence of this beautiful creature. And I did just that. I sat still. Quietly. Focused on my breathing, my energy. I listened to her breathing in and out with small snorts as she crunched on the corn…little bits falling from her mouth or getting stuck on her nose every now and again. Her large, deep eyes looked up at me from time to time, and when I made eye contact, I made sure I held the space of calm and peace so she’d feel it, too. As I looked at her eyes, I noticed her forehead and all the little bugs that were taking advantage there. I saw her long lashes and for the first time, noticed that her pupils were rectangular! I never knew! In this moment, I truly felt I was bonding with the deer; we were one. I sat there for maybe five minutes soaking up the blissful feeling. My wooded surroundings faded, and it was just the deer and I living in harmony. I made sure I thanked her both silently, and out loud.
Eventually I had to get up and go inside. When I stood up, she backed up a bit and then when I made my way down, she decided to head back up into the woods. When I got back in, I suddenly felt different- a sudden shift. Before I knew it, I was crying as I told Dave about the experience. He told me he was watching and didn’t want to disturb me. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was crying…was it the energy? The bond? I think it was both. Yet more importantly, it was my realization that I had been completely, wholeheartedly mindful and…patient.
Patience doesn’t come naturally for me. I’ve been exploring my impatience lately, contemplating its roots in my childhood. Perhaps it’s because of being an only child? I’d often spend a lot of time in my head, and then suddenly want interaction. I’d go ask my dad if we could do something…go outside and play catch, go for a bike ride, play a game…anything! If he was hesitant, soon the asking turned to begging (with a hint of annoyed whining). Not having a lot of friends to just call up or walk to their house compounded the issue. And let’s not forget there were countless days I’d be sitting at a table next to a bar, or just down my aunt’s house wondering when it was time to leave, not understanding the concept of consuming alcohol. (Like, just chug it! Come on! I want to go and do something and I don’t want to do anything alone!)
I asked my Gram recently if I was exceptionally impatient when I was little, and she animatedly told a story about how I couldn’t stand losing a game like the classic Chutes and Ladders or Old Maid, and how I’d stomp my feet and tell her mid-game it’s not fair. Got it Gram. Thanks for the reminder.
As an adult, in the past four years or so, my deeper impatience would kick in when considering my purpose and comparing myself to Dave and Dave’s friends who of course are very much 10+ years older than me. Their skills, talents, etc. outnumber mine like tenfold. Naturally, I want to hurry up and be like them! I want all the skills! Yesterday.
When I really think about it, actually it’s pretty obvious, that I’ve come a long way since moving in with Dave and starting to discover myself. It’s been a process, as it should be, everything in its own timing. I have learned more than I ever thought I would. I have a skill that I turned into a job that I love and am consistently making money with. Everyday! And with that, I am still searching for another skill, something in the metaphysical realm that I potentially turn into a service for others. This desire probably has been arising more strongly at this point because a) I feel I have hit this personal plateau of inner transformation and b) I am constantly surrounded by people who have numerous skills and have created one or more businesses out of them.
So here’s where the universe is nudging me; patience has to kick in. Here’s where I feel I’m supposed to be meditating more, being still, silent, searching for whatever answers are within me. Yet another step along the path of growing, developing, transforming. In essence, there’s never really a plateau. Life is about the journey, not the destination. There’s nowhere to get to and nothing to be. We need to just…be!
And so, right now, I am creating that possibility of being patient. In all situations. No matter the circumstances. Without excuses. I know my mind and my body will thank me for it! And I know I’ll be able to tune in to nature with brighter clarity and discover.
When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing!
“The present moment is all we have, So we are not constantly seeking A faster way to do things Or a better place to be. Our vehicles sit idle except when truly needed, And our weapons remain locked away.
Our attention is always on The experience of the moment So we enjoy our food, Our clothing, Our homes, And every aspect Of a simple way of living.
Though the world is filled With sights we haven’t seen, We die content because We have truly lived.”
– Translation of verse 80 of the Tao Te Ching from “A Path and a Practice”
Date of occurrence: 01.11.19
Today I attended a homeless man’s burial.
The air stung as it wrapped around us, and the sun strained to warm us as we watched his golden casket be lowered into the cold, but not-yet-frozen earth. He wouldn’t have minded this cold. He would have built his small fire as he always did, right along the fence across from his stuffed storage units and huddled over it. He may have even attempted to heat up a can of baked beans on a day like today. Chances are, he would have been perfectly content. I remember him riding around on his motorbike, or his scooter, or his bicycle, or…whatever he chose to ride that day…in the cold, in the rain, in the heat. This homeless man seemed invincible.
His name was Dave.
Dave was never afraid to speak his mind, or ask for a favor, or two, or three. “Can I charge my phone here?” “Would you give me a ride to _________?” “Can I park my bike here?” He spent most of his days in seclusion, with his own systems and self-contained sanity. There was never a day that you’d run into him, where he wouldn’t be wearing mismatched, ill-fitting, dirty clothing and a baseball cap or bandana or on a rough day, boxers. These clothes clung to a thin, brittle frame. Wild, billowing white and gray hair always protruded from his headdress. He was loud, and dare I say proud of himself.
Dave was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Dave’s sister never believed he was. She wasn’t quite sure what happened that led to his decision to live a life on the streets, in the woods, and…in a dark brown van in a side lot of a storage business that my boyfriend, also Dave, owns. In the grassy lot that is part of the storage business where cars, boats, and RV’s are stored, there once existed an old, battered, brown van. This van was stripped of its interior and eventually became packed with old newspapers, cans of food, some personal notes, and innumerable pizza boxes. Dave ate, slept, and dreamt in his metal castle.
Dave was intelligent.
He spent many days listening to an old radio next to his van, or in the parking lot of the storage business as he waited for someone to give him a ride to who knows where. Dave was mostly harmless; a curious creature always wondering how the world worked. He knew how to read and write. And he’d often leave us handwritten notes at the business, and when he left us a message, he spoke very professionally. Loudly, but professionally. He liked to read random magazines he’d probably picked up on the side of the road. He even had his very own personal, hand designed and written, detailed travel log. Carefully written out on the back of a pizza box lid, he kept track of dates during “2013 -N- 2014” where he’d travel from one side of town to the other. “Front Street to Lower Broadway” and “Across Town – Round Trip”. I’m not sure if these were solo trips on one of his sets of wheels, or a cab ride, but either way, he was determined to have a record of it.
Dave wasn’t always harmless.
Dave had a couple guns. I never saw him shoot one. I never saw him hold one. Sometimes I’d be a bit nervous when my Dave would have to confront him over something…mostly him leaving plastic bags, bottles, and the occasional beer can strewn about the property. Homeless Dave and my Dave had this deep, mutual soul agreement that allowed peace to always prevail between them. No matter what. For that I’m grateful! And, still homeless Dave had a temper. Him and my Dave’s aunt, also a manager at the storage business, did not get along. Cats, dogs…you get it. She’d always get frustrated with his littering habits, and ask him to clean up, and I guess he didn’t feel the need to. Those things weren’t trash to him. Dave threatened to shoot my Dave’s aunt once. That was when my Dave had to evict him. The van was towed out for good. He fled, retreated, fearing the cops. Dave disappeared for months.
Dave had a softer side.
Everyone wants to be loved. According to homeless Dave’s sister, he was picked on and made fun of when he was young. He never finished school. He got in trouble, committed crimes, and was locked up on and off for 15 years. Then he was homeless. He didn’t have anyone to love. Until he met Jewel. Jewel lived across the street from the storage business. She was a full-bodied woman in her late 30’s, had green dyed blond hair, tattoos on her face, and always wore tank tops that revealed more than I wanted to see. Dave fell in love with Jewel. Dave became obsessed with Jewel. He would confess his love for her to us many times. Once, he came in the office and asked, “can you go back on the security cameras?” “Yes, why?” “Go back to Sunday around 12:45 pm.” “Okay…?” “Look, there she is! I gave her a kiss you know! Watch!” And sure enough, through the fence you could see him in all his scraggly glory give a brief kiss to this woman. Then, during that winter, we went to plow snow, and he had the van at the time, right along the back of it, facing outwards was a small shrine in her honor. Five or six empty whiskey bottles were lined up with a few of those dollar store roses in them. (You know, those single fake roses that are made to look fancy with plastic white lace, and a little bear in them. I think they even had a scent.) In front of those bottles was a piece of white cardboard with her name written in black marker in large letters. There may have even been a stuffed animal next to it, but I’m not sure. And, one last thing, on the property next door that my Dave also owns, homeless Dave took a can of blue spray paint and drew a huge heart on the front of an abandoned concession stand and wrote “Dave loves Sweety” with some smaller hearts surrounding it.
Jewel had a boyfriend. Going back to the not-so-harmless Dave, he tried to run Jewel’s boyfriend over once on his motorbike down in the parking lot of the minimart at the end of the street. He bragged about how he made that dude’s bicycle fly into the air.
Oh, and Jewel was prettier than me. That was a fact in Dave’s ever-competing mind.
Dave was able to open up.
My Dave is one of the most selfless men I know. He would always go out of his way to be kind to homeless Dave. He never treated homeless Dave with malice. And if he got a little too upset with him, he would apologize. Like the time he threw a rock at the empty van’s window and cracked it. On a different occasion, my Dave went to homeless Dave to have a talk about his living arrangements. On that particular day, my Dave got homeless Dave to open up a bit. He shared with him how he was made fun of and how that hurt him. Homeless Dave carried those feelings with him. When he shared with my Dave he actually sobbed, and Dave hugged him. I thought it was a beautiful thing that the two of them, so very different, in very different worlds could bond on a soul level. After all, we’re all on this ride together.
Dave wasn’t invincible.
My last memory of homeless Dave was when he was laying on the ground next to his storage unit waiting to be picked up by the ambulance. He had fallen off his small minibike that he had just purchased from a local store. Just an hour or so before, my Dave gave him a ride to the store so he could get it. Prior to that, he came in the office to ask if he could charge his phone. Of course I said yes, and as I was on my way to check a unit, I asked Dave how he was doing. He said not good. His leg was bothering him and he was recovering from a bit of bronchitis. He barely could walk, never mind ride a motorized vehicle. Yet, he did. Thankfully, we were late that day at the office wrapping up finances and paperwork. We saw people walking over, and heard yelling. When the police pulled in we figured we’d better go out and see what was up. We stayed with him until they loaded him up and took him. He was terrified of the paramedics picking him up, and I remember him yelling, “I’ll scream! I’ll scream! Don’t pick me up that way!” They hoisted him very well, and as he was being loaded into the ambulance, he made sure he had his scruffy little canvas bag with him.
Dave was wealthy.
I guess when you evade responsibilities your whole life and get a disability check every month, you can save up. He had over $2,000 that day in that black bag. His sister eventually used that to help pay for the funeral arrangements. Years ago, my Dave said that he once saw homeless Dave carrying around $8,000. Problem was, he blabbed. A couple times his storage units were broken into. There was a legend going around that he had over 20 grand buried in a lot behind a grocery store on the other side of town in plastic grocery store bags. Legend also has it that someone dug it up after his death. I’m not sure if that’s fact or fiction. What I do know, is that he had even more money stashed away in his storage units. He could have had anything he wanted. Lived anywhere he wanted. Yet, he consciously chose to reside outside. A month or so before his passing, his sister secured an apartment for him. Dave said he’d only use it when the temps dropped into the single digits. One time he attempted to live with a friend in his apartment; that didn’t go over too well when the messiness set in.
Dave passed away in peace.
I regret not going to see homeless Dave when he was in the hospital. My Dave went to see him a few times. Twice locally, and once an hour or so away when he was transferred. It was during that time, Dave snuck a picture of him for me. He was a different man. Untamed hair cut short, and a wild beard neatly trimmed, he looked like an elderly retired man who perhaps worked in pharmaceuticals his whole life. My aversion to hospitals and sickly people I know kept me from going. Actually, I had planned on going after finding out he was going to be transferred back here. At that point, Dave seemed to be fine. There were no signs that anything was going wrong. He even asked about me and encouraged that I come next time. I was flattered. One phone call came from his sister that he was transferred. The next phone call a day later, he had passed. My Dave and I stared at each other in disbelief. No. How could this be? He was doing well. We never know when our time is up. Dave knew he was going to die, and vocalized it to my Dave. I think he was concerned and at the same time at peace about it. My thoughts were that if the chain of events leading up to his death didn’t happen, he would have died, perhaps completely unknown to anyone, in the woods and later found after silently decaying in the wild. I’d take a hospital bed over that.
Dave’s burial was beautiful.
Admittedly, this was the very first time I had this experience. In a cemetery, with large machines with cranes and big track wheels, lifting his casket into a concrete box, then driven up to a neatly dug hole in the earth. My Dave helped get his casket there. Once gently placed within, there were six of us surrounding – myself, my Dave, homeless Dave’s sister, and three funeral directors. One of them asked my Dave if he’d like to say a few words. It was as if they knew he was a presence of authority. He is a minister, after all, so it was appropriate. Before he spoke, he tossed in a couple tiny Herkimer diamonds that we had mined up in NY earlier in the year- a token of connectedness. When Dave began to speak, I immediately teared up. His words resonated a depth of connection that only souls can know. He flawlessly recited the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic. He acknowledged that while they were very two different beings, they were human just the same. And lastly, he thanked Dave for teaching him things that he didn’t know…for showing him a part of himself. Once the eulogy ended, Dave threw in small handfuls of dirt onto the concrete box- one last parting gesture. And we walked away. I gripped Dave’s hand tight, tears continuing to stream, telling him that was one of the most beautiful and selfless things I had ever witnessed him do.
We are all connected.
It’d be selfish to think we hold any one true answer to anything. And to think that we are better than another. Everyone on this planet is a reflection of ourselves. When we meet another and make a profound connection, we are receiving a piece of ourselves needed to unlock something bigger. When we are open, we learn from others, always. I am grateful I met Dave Krotzer. I learned from him that this human experience can be lived out in many ways no matter what the circumstances. It’d be judgmental to say that Dave was homeless because he was escaping the pain of the world or just avoiding it. Maybe it was true though. I believe he chose his lifestyle because it’s exactly where he needed to be. The lessons he needed to learn in this lifetime were contained in his outdoor world, in his seclusion. There was nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with him. I learned that we can choose our course, no matter what, and as long we live it out boldly, we won’t be unhappy.
In my previous post, I mentioned complete connection with everyone and everything. Right after writing, my boyfriend sent me a link which introduced a term to go along with that feeling! Samadhi. A Hindu word meaning seeing with equality. It’s tied in with yoga practice, and can also apply to everyday living. I found a short article online which has a section that sums it up wonderfully:
“Instead of attaching to happiness or a sensation of ‘bliss’, Samadhi is about seeing life and reality for exactly what it is, without our thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, pleasure and pain fluctuating and governing it. Not necessarily a state of feeling or being, or a fixed way of thinking; just pure ‘I – am – ness’.”
I can SO identify with this. Ever since participating in the Landmark Forum, and the Advanced Course, along with many seminars, I have been practicing this. It does not come naturally. I’m still in the process of training my brain to recognize and acknowledge instead of react and feel.
Just this morning, I had an incident come up with Dave where feelings and reactions bubbled up as he spoke. What was missing for me was just being…pure listening. He even admitted all he wanted to do was share something with me. Not debate it, not ask me to solve anything…just to share what he was thinking and how his sleep was affected by some thoughts.
So, what happened was- Dave spoke to me of how he lied awake during the night. I made his words mean things like, he’s keeping the past in the present. He won’t let go. He can’t just get over it…etc. When those thoughts clouded my thinking, my being shifted dramatically. I was not Love, Peace, and Togetherness. I was creating a boundary in myself before he was even finished talking. Which then created unnecessary arguing after, and feelings of sadness, and guilt.
I took our incident this morning as an opportunity for connection and self-realization.
To continue to fulfill my main concern- Peace, Love, and Togetherness.
When I stopped analyzing, feeling and judging, both himself and myself, I was able to disconnect from those feelings in order to connect to Dave and truly understand him. Immediately, I felt relieved. It was as if a literal switch was flipped to put a stopper in my flow of consciousness. And yet, I could acknowledge that I am still not fully letting go. And I am noticing what is blocking me, and what fears are holding me back.
It’s in this noticing, without judgment, that I will be able to completely connect with Dave to get complete on an important issue from years ago. I can be in the space of pure peace, which, I dunno about you, but to me feels 100% better than being in the space of defensiveness and anger. I can literally feel a difference between the two. It’s as if I’ve literally separated the two things and set them down in front of me.
Like two colored balls of the same size. One red, and one blue. Say, the red one is a bit heavier than the blue. I can now, from the outside, not only see the difference between the two, I can also feel it. The red one feels heavy. It wouldn’t work for me to carry it around with me all day. The blue one is light. It would work to carry that one.
It takes effort to be angry, and in conflict. And much energy. The body rejects it, defends it, and when it does, it hurts. Back pain, headaches, stomach issues…you name it. Pain arises from actually trying to keep those behaviors in place. Yuck!
Living inside of Love is natural. Your body will not argue with you, nor will your mind. Life and all activities in it become effortless. Even complications will come and go effortlessly when in a state of Peace and Love. A flow.
This I have experienced.
This I will continue to experience.
This journey, my Sadhana, will help me reach my full enlightenment.
Are we really that separate from everyone else? From everything else? In a world where survival of the fittest sometimes applies, many live to do just that: survive. In doing so, they capture a false sense of individuality; they spend time developing a sense of self that on the outside appears to be a “one for all” mentality, yet on the inside is a “one for one” mentality. Those people may be giving, loving, caring…and if you look closely, there are conditions. Why? Well, the answer is simple and will always boil down to the same emotion: fear. They might say to themselves, “surely I can’t be as open to that person, as I am to this one. I have to protect myself. …This one will keep me safe. No problems will arise. But with that one, ooh, others may disagree, I will be discredited somehow…I’ll only let that one in so far…”
All of these conditions, based upon circumstances, create thick and heavy boundaries. When one is not willing to let go of their own, created fear, they cannot create the space for anything or anyone else to come in. No matter how loving that other person might be. Self-righteousness becomes a prime concern. And separation becomes apparent. Like the laws of quantum physics, those behaviors that create separation are then repeated and mirrored over and over again in every type of human relationship and perhaps throughout lifetimes.
These cycles can be broken.
When we realize our true self, and that we are connected to everyone else in a deep profound way, we can disappear those boundaries. When only Love is present, there is no room for fear; we are able to embrace others in a way that brings unity. Even if there are disagreements, and that person isn’t a perfect fit for your life, there can still be communication, conversation and connection. A healthy disconnection may happen, and that certainly works in many cases, yet the lines for real, non-reaction based communication are still available.
What’s missing in our society today is just that: connection. Many believe their sense of connection is tied to technology. Many believe it’s impossible. Many let fear block them. In reality, who we are is everyone else. We are the very essence of that person in fear, that person unwilling to communicate, or that person who is wide open and loving. We are the miracle of life that is contained in every organism that surrounds us. We are the soul, the God, the Creator of all. We are not separate! Once that can be realized, there would be no need for family feuds, broken friendships, and so forth. World leaders would be able to get along, have meetings where Love for others, for other countries, the people in them are the main concern.
We can all work together as the team that we are.
We can look into each other’s eyes and see the entire universe there before us. How breathtaking, how peaceful to know that! All fear, anger, resentment and resignation is pure illusion. Can you see yourself, your mother, your father, your friend in a stranger’s gaze? They are there. All there is to do is to open up to Love to see.
I took part in an extraordinarily powerful exercise recently in a weekend course. The exercise was simple: in silence, stand up and look into another person’s eyes. Just look. Notice feelings. Notice judgments. Then notice that connection. One girl that I connected with was a Chinese woman. She was beautiful. Her soul so vibrant. What I noticed initially when looking in her eyes was that she was very different than myself. From a completely different culture, with a different language, a different set of values. Her eyes physically were different than mine. A different shape and color. The color of her skin. The shape of her face. The color of her hair. All different.
And what was extraordinary in that moment that I noticed all of those things, I also noticed that she, too, just like me, was a soul. A soul that contained God, Love, Peace. I was able to quickly let go of all those differences. They vanished. Because they, too, are illusions. It was beautiful. Tears welled up while looking into her brown eyes. I was able to recognize everyone else I knew in her. Because she is me. I am her. We embraced deeply when it was time to return to our seats. I felt such a unique movement inside of me after that. My soul shifted. I had a spiritual experience unlike any other, yet I could say it was connected to other moments of spiritual awakening I’ve had. Suddenly, I felt deeply connected to the other ninety some people sharing space with me in that room. Even the ones I hadn’t spoken to. Stunning.
Then this morning, I had to laugh…I watched a short news clip about a death in a trailer park. A body was found in a burned shed. A man that was interviewed shrugged and said, “what do you expect? It’s a trailer park!” And you can tell he was totally unfazed by the death and perfectly content with the way things were, no matter how devastating. It’s actions and behaviors/beliefs as such that keep the current system of disconnection in place. If it’s expected that a certain place or type of people should be one way, and a large group agrees, then they will remain that way. No one should be any one way. Why in the world has it become okay to just go on living this way?!
School shootings…same thing. Actions based on fear. A system that repeats itself, keeps particular behaviors in place, no space for transformation. The space is filled with debates, emotion and reaction ridden stories. No action for a different result.
We are disconnected from those that haven’t experienced connection.
Again, if we could just see ourselves in those that are being that way, we could find our true identity.
So many are not being what they truly believe in.
So many haven’t even discovered hat it is that they truly believe in! And it’s there, always. Inside.
They are being who they think they should be, or who they have been conditioned to be. Their beliefs are clouded by illusion.
They choose to follow illusion instead of their heart.
I believe we all have the power to identify our true concerns for ourselves and inherently others. I also believe that everyone’s could be similar if we felt connected. What would we be concerned for? Love, peace, happiness, togetherness, gratitude, joy. Actions are then produced in accordance with those concerns. Those concerns are not only for ourselves, but every other human being we share this planet with.
I am the possibility of Love, Peace and Togetherness. With this possibility, I will be those things. My being will shine with radiance that can transcend pain, suffering, and sadness. Love, Peace and Togetherness are instruments to shatter the illusions of the opposite. I say illusion because they are all created. Nothing happens to us. What we believe, we become. What we be, we see.
Let us gain control of ourselves, as a whole, a group, a community, a society, a world. We are all souls inhabiting these borrowed vehicles on this plane of existence. Take off the mask. Surely it must be heavy, a burden? Perhaps there are many masks…if so, begin to peel them away. What is behind them will be the most beautiful, shining soul you’ve ever encountered.
Dare to meet yourself.
Dare to create new possibilities.
Man’s true self is eternal,
yet he thinks, “I am this body, I will soon die.”
This false sense of self
is the cause of all his sorrow.
When a person does not identify himself with the body
Your alarm rattles your brain in the morning. You reach over, and hit that snooze button for the fifth time. “What’s the point of getting up today?” You might ask yourself.
What you might not be asking yourself is, “What am I grateful for today?” When you’re down and out, that certainly can be an annoying question that you most likely wouldn’t want to answer. Yet, through my personal experience, others’ stories, and articles of research, it’s proven that being grateful ultimately alters your overall state of being.
Launching into the day with grateful thoughts can seriously boost your mood and attitude; you can then carry those feelings with you all day long. If you need a refresher, take a break in the middle of the day to be grateful for whatever you have in that moment.
There are a couple tricks to helping this stick. Let’s start with the morning. Don’t just passively list a couple things in your head when you wake up like, “oh yeah, I’m grateful for…I dunno…my bed, and my pillow?” It’s extremely helpful if you have a journal, notepad, scrap of paper, so you can help make those things more real. Grab your paper right when you wake up and just jot down a few things that you truly feel grateful for- even if it really is your bed and pillow! Nothing is too small. Notice how you start to feel as you jot things down. Feel free to jot those feelings down as well. Write down as many as you can think of.
I personally struggled with getting up in the morning just a couple years ago. To me, there wasn’t anything to get up for…no activities to do that really sparked my interest, nowhere to go, just…nothing special. I felt miserable. I had no routine to get myself into. And Dave would always have a multitude of activities to keep him busy. This added to my feeling down. I always compared myself to him and what his life was all about. I was completely missing what was right in front of me!
We both stumbled upon this super cool journal called “The Five Minute Journal” about a year ago. It’s a gorgeous, hardcover book which includes an inspiring intro section on how to use it, and pages designed to help you become motivated, on track, and yes, grateful! There are three short sections to fill out for the daytime, actually, right when you wake up: three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make today great, and a daily affirmation. For the evening, you fill out “three amazing things that happened today”, and a section on how you could have improved your day / what you could have done differently. It took me a while to get into the habit of writing in it every day…especially in the morning! I would begrudgingly and drowsy-eyed pick up the book, stare at the page, and just kind of blank out. What on earth was there to be grateful for early in the morning?! Okay, so long story short, I got it. I really got what the little book was about. And it totally shifted my whole perspective on mornings. Not just mornings… being grateful caused a reaction in my brain that helped me with my overall attitude. No longer was I a slave to feeling down.
The fun part is that there are no limits. You don’t just have to write about the big things, but little things count, too! You could be grateful that you’re warm, that you are able to write, that you got your hair cut yesterday….anything! I would often write things like, I’m grateful for my four cats. I’m grateful for my boyfriend, Dave sitting next to me. I’m grateful for the sunshine coming through the window.
I found myself smiling as I wrote.
When finished, I would get up, feeling much happier than I did right when my alarm went off. I would go about the rest of my day making mental notes of all the things that made me grateful. And again, I would smile.
How does this all work, anyway? Aside from all the research, I personally believe that humans as a society are naturally inclined to look at the negatives, to complain, and to find it easier to be down than not. Why? Struggle is the biggest commonality amongst everyone! Jobs, finances, romance…the list is endless. What’s the first thing most do when they get into a conversation? Talk about what’s going on in their life, and what’s not working. We search for that outside sympathy. We have to justify our feelings. Oh, your job sucks, too? Yeah, so does mine, I totally get you. Let me tell you more about how mine really sucks… It’s a vicious cycle that can consume your entire life.
Reality check- It doesn’t have to!! By all means, anytime now, break out! There isn’t any enlightenment in playing a victim, in just agreeing with someone else’s misery, in contributing to the misery bucket that’s most likely overflowing. Instead, share with someone what you’re grateful for. Pause, look around, look in the mirror, see the positive, and talk about gratitude. Lift one another up. There’s so much benefit both physically and emotionally.
Your car breaks down, it’s raining, you’re alone, and your cell phone is nearly dead. What’s there to be grateful for? Be grateful that you’re okay! That you didn’t get into an accident, or injured. Be grateful for the 5% of battery life that’ll get you one call to get you out. The point is, is that there’s always a plus side to the negative- always. The light of gratitude can be found in the darkest of places.
The only moment we have is now. Right now. And, now. Now.
What are you grateful for?
Please check out this link to the Five Minute Journal! And make sure you read my review of it on their page! I promise it’s pretty wonderful.
“When confrontation arises, we face it without aggression. When someone opposes us, we do not give in to anger. We view no one as a competitor because we do not seek our own way.
We know our strengths and we know our weaknesses. We use them each for benefit. We are not trying to fix ourselves or others so we move naturally and easily along our path.” –Tao Te Ching (translation of verse 68)*
Sometimes, you just gotta walk away. Take a deep breath, and take some steps back. Are you dealing with someone that you still want in your life but your relationship isn’t quite meshing? Have you been trying to convince them of a point of view, an attitude, a new way of being, a belief? There are times when no matter how many words you say, conversations (or arguments) you have, a person will not change their view. And that’s okay! Instead of getting stuck with spinning tires, lay off the gas, and turn the motor off! Breathe. I’ve been learning and practicing this essential trick for the past few months with my family.
Here’s a secret to letting go: realize it’s not the person that you are walking away from- it’s their behavior. I struggled with that concept for a long time until Dave led me to a personal epiphany. So many times people are quick to judge. Quick to doom a situation. Quick to give up and think that they have to get rid of the person that they are in conflict with. Yep, that’s where I was! In my mind, I was never going to have my family back, because they will never change, and the only solution to heal the pain then was to detach completely. And that felt pretty crappy. I still yearned to talk to my family and remain in close connection.
I had to give up what was in my way since they weren’t willing to give up what’s in their way.
It didn’t take me long to drop all my “nevers”. Why worry about some invisible future that may or may not happen? I held onto my mindset of being in the now. Right now. No other moment. Not in the past or the future. Eckhart Tolle sums it up quite well- “What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. ‘Who am I, then?’ The one who sees that.”
Sometimes it’s crazy hard to let go, and just be in the present moment. Therefore, it’s even more difficult to create those healthy boundaries! Typically, you remain trapped on the hamster wheel, spinning faster, and faster, (coming up with more and more arguments as to why “you’re right”) and eventually, your legs run out of stamina and you’re flung off and splattered against a wall- defeated.
If you’re truly dealing with someone you authentically care about, show them! The greatest gift you could give them is a boundary! With a boundary, you can still communicate. In my case, the boundary was not physically seeing my parents because they refuse to acknowledge Dave. That hurts both of us. Yet, I created the possibility of still being as close, and loving as I can to them. I call my mom often, and we chat for hours! We haven’t exchanged gifts in about 3 years…last year was the first! I could speak with my dad more easily, too. What it boils down to, is that I can just be myself.
After all, when you’re just yourself, your completely honest self who’s not trying to resist, not trying to change, or feed into drama or create it, who could hurt you?
Beauty reigns in simplicity. It all starts with a conversation. Talk to the person you care about that you feel you have to create a boundary with. Stand firm in your belief. If the other person becomes angry, or sad, remember to not take it personally. They have a right to their feelings, too! It’s also healthy to let them express everything they need to. There will come a point in the conversation when those options are exhausted. There will be an energy shift where you feel a mutual understanding being reached. This is a good place to end the conversation peacefully. Express your care, and love for that person, and hopefully they will return it back. After this, all following conversations should be easy.
How can these boundaries be overcome if one person isn’t willing to budge, yet continues to be civil and close, but distantly?
I’ve come to believe, with Dave’s insight, that if the person in opposition truly cares, and feels that they want to reestablish a connection, or mend some aspects of the relationship- they will. They will be the one to come to you to mend some broken fences. (I have yet to experience that, fully.) But! I am happy to say that that has happened with an Aunt of mine. Dave and I are becoming closer with her, and the feeling is amazing!
Pro Tip: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT ever blame the person that you’re upset with. When you blame someone, you make them wrong. In situations like these, no one is right or wrong. Keep that in mind when attempting to work it out.
Hold a space in your mind, in your heart. Your boundaries won’t last forever, but in the meantime, they will be healthy!
*Quote taken from one of my favorite, most influential books- A Path and a Practice by William Martin.
Can you imagine looking at your current self as a complete stranger? Can you imagine completely dissolving the haunting, disillusioning power that your mind has on you? And, can you imagine tasting freedom, not for only one second, but for one lifetime- the flavor lingering on your tongue for as long as you desired?
These were things I could never imagine just a few years ago. I was stuck, trapped, a slave to endless shortcomings that were driving me insane- but insanity never tasted so good…back then. Insanity quickly melted into seething sadness and endless anxiety. Day after day wondering why I was doing what I was doing, wondering why I was with the people I was with, wondering why those close to me were creating the deepest pain, and wondering…was life worth it?
Breaking apart the mind to separate despair from delight is no easy feat. You can spend your whole life bending, pushing, pulling, only to find your fingers slip, your body fall. It took me years to break my mind apart, and I can admit that the sadness still finds its way in amongst the bliss I encounter pretty much daily at this point.
So, what happened?
I gave up the fight and fought at the same time. I relinquished the despair that had its grip on my mind. I gave up those that were no longer serving me. I was hurting people I loved. I was becoming distant to those that wanted to be close. As difficult as it seemed at the time, I just made the decision to let it all go.
So, how did I let it all go? (Like that’s ever easy!)
I stopped giving my brain the power to rule over me. It was all an illusion. I took responsibility for the hurt and harm I willingly and sometimes unknowingly gave to others. Then, I shook the past from my back and decided that it no longer could survive in the present. It would only suffocate the present, and therefore the future. The past can never complete you. It certainly can never come back, and it can undoubtedly never help you be free.
Whether it’s an act that you find as some immense transgression, words that you spilled that stained another, or simply, a loss of a loved one who had your heart, it’s all destined to be overcome. Don’t be weighed down by those events. As they are in the past. There’s a peculiar lightness in the now. Right now. You are free, right now. You’re not suffering. You only tell yourself you are. There is more to life. Pay attention. Now.
Even in the present- the recent past, I’ve had to let go of my mind’s trappings as they were inhibiting me from accomplishing goals. Not only that, they were affecting my overall attitude toward life, my mood, my boyfriend, and his mood. My loss of motivation, sadness, anxiety toward the future are tools my mind uses because of the past. I remember events from then and link them to the present, because the past is all the mind knows and knows what to draw from. We’re constantly making comparisons. But again, it’s the PAST. It’s gone. We have nothing but now.
For me personally, I look down and see my skin, I feel it. I know it’s the same skin I’ve had for 24 1/2 years. And my face, yep, those same features. They were always there. At one time I wanted to both crawl out of my skin and was ashamed to look in the mirror because of the things I did. I felt ugly. Horrendously, hideously ugly at who I became. But now, I feel like I’ve been reborn. Completely. That old me is the stranger to myself. This renaissance has given me new light. I feel more alive, lighter, filled with endless possibilities. I know I feel different, but I sense that others see me differently, too. I now can show up differently for my family and friends that only knew the old me. This might be a shock to them; they might want to deny everything and attempt to hang on to their perceptions of me as I was when I was closer to them. But all that matters in the end is that I am me. No reservations. I have nothing to hide. Nothing to be ashamed of. I have and can take responsibility for all that I’ve done. Integrity means the world to me now. I’m not just doing myself a favor. This is for everyone. My boyfriend. My parents. Family. Friends. The world.