Sunday, November 29, 2020

At Least There’s No Volcano

My grandson, who can sometimes be a glass half empty kind of kid, was telling me the other day that he had decided to look on the brighter side of life. 

“Yep,” he said, “if I’m feeling bad, I can just look out the window and think at least there’s no volcano.” 

There is that.

I read an article a few days ago about how it was okay this Thanksgiving season to give yourself permission to not feel very grateful. Hmm.... I can’t argue with the premise that we should feel our feelings, but is feeling ungrateful really helpful? 

A different approach was chosen by my friend, who has reason after a devastating year to not feel full of thanks. She said she was practicing “ruthless gratitude.” 

Wow, what a concept. It reminds me of “fierce grace,” something I am all too well acquainted with.

But ruthless gratitude. I had to think about that one. A deliberate and determined choice to be grateful no matter what. As the Bible teaches, to give thanks “in” all circumstances even when you are not grateful “for” the circumstances. 

What would that be like? 

Some years ago, I wrote a blog and published a book titled Ten Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). Step 9 is to develop at attitude of gratitude. During the years I wrote and taught about this topic, I did a lot of reading and research. So many studies show that gratitude is one of the easiest habits to develop and one of the most beneficial, definitely a winner in any sort of cost/benefit analysis. 

In case you need some ideas about how to develop such a habit, I went to my old blog and linked all the posts about gratitude. There are a lot! No need to read them all, or any of them for that matter. But in case you are interested, here is the link. You might just skim through until one catches your attention and gives you an idea about something to try. 

Here is the refrain from a wonderful song about gratitude.

All that I am
All that I see
All that I’ve been 
And all that I’ll ever be
Is a blessing
It’s so amazing
And I’m grateful for it all
For it all
     ~Nimo Patel

Click here to watch a video of this song – guaranteed to lift your spirits and awaken gratitude.
And if that doesn’t work, you can always look out the window and be grateful that at least there’s no volcano! 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Autumn Beauty


Leaves paint autumn beauty
Yet trees still let them go
Knowing that life demands release
That breath cannot be held

Monday, November 9, 2020

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 76

A person at birth is soft and gentle
At death is hard and unyielding
Sprouting plants are tender and supple
At death are brittle and dry
Stiff and unyielding are associated with death
Soft and gentle with life

The wisdom in this chapter is easy to understand from our own observations. Babies learning to walk fall a lot, yet they are rarely injured. Their bones are flexible and they are relaxed in their efforts. An older person is sometimes unsteady on their feet. They are afraid of falling because falls often result in broken bones or serious injury. 

I also experience the truth of this chapter when practicing martial arts. People believe that muscular strength is the key to success, but there is always someone stronger. Using force based on muscle strength is easily defeated. I watched an 80 year old tai chi master, small in stature with a little pot belly, deflect attacks from young, buff, highly skilled kung fu teachers. He stood calm and relaxed as his opponents, some of whom towered over him, tried to grab him. With a barely detectable shift in stance and a subtle movement of his hands or wrists, he sent his attackers flying across the room. 

Where did that power come from? From being relaxed and centered, yielding and fluid, opening up the channels of energy that move freely when not blocked. From being unafraid, fully present, and responsive rather than reactive. He didn’t meet force with force but rather allowed force to pass by him as he remained unaffected.

What I noticed the most was that he was having a great time. He was always smiling. And at the end of the practice, he was not even breathing hard. 

Not all of us practice martial arts, but all of us encounter conflict in our lives. How do we respond? When we are rigid in our opinions, when we insist on being right, when we try to force others to comply with our demands, or to conform to our expectations, we invite resistance. We feed the energy of division and hostility. 

If you are a parent or a teacher, you have no doubt heard the excuse “She started it! I had no choice.” And we have probably heard that plenty of times from adults too. But what this chapter teaches is that we always have a choice – the energy of life or the energy of death. 

So think about it. What does the energy of life look like in a particular situation? It’s not always exactly the same because it is always open and receptive, responsive to the moment. It is fluid, adaptable, alert, appropriate. 

Next time conflict arises, try to be aware of how you engage with it. No need to be judgmental, just curious. Learn about yourself. Then make your choice. 

I could see peace instead of this. ~A Course in Miracles