Thursday, November 27, 2008

If I could live only one day, I would choose this one: Thanksgiving Day.

My first words when I waken in the morning are the words “thank you,” as early streams of light pour through my windows, my spirit re-connects with my body, and I begin to feel the crispness of fresh cotton sheets on my bare skin. There’s a sweetness in these moments in between sleep and wakefulness, and my first conscious thought is gratitude. It feels good to be here. I need to go to the bathroom so I slide out of bed, and when my feet touch the floor and I feel myself standing upright, I again whisper the words “thank you.” It feels good to be inside my own body. It feels good to be here, and I really have a lot to be thankful for.

I have not always lived with such an awareness of gratitude, but I have been gifted with many teachers. One of my teachers was an old man I used to see sitting in the park while I walked to and from work. One day the old man wasn’t there anymore, and I imagined he had moved on or had simply tired of the same old park. He was just plain gone. A year or so later I received a letter in the mail; the writer of the letter wrote that she was a nurse in a veteran’s hospital in a city somewhere across the state, and one of her patients requested she write the letter to me on his behalf. She explained that her patient Bill had been the old man in the park, that Bill had just had his legs amputated and would probably never again leave that hospital. The letter continued to let me know that Bill wanted to say thank you for my friendship in that park, that he appreciated that I had given him apples and home-baked cookies, that I had so often taken the time to stop and say hello and chat with him for a minute or two before I went on my way. And now, when he knew he would never see me again and in fact knew he wouldn’t even live much longer, the one thing Bill wanted was to say thank you to someone who had made a difference in his life. Bill didn’t have much, but he gave thanks for what he had.

Gratitude is more than simply saying the words “thank you.” True gratitude is fully enjoying a thing, thoroughly experiencing it. (If I am truly thankful for a thing, I cannot at the same time ignore or neglect it.)

If you have only one gift, that one gift is deserving of a lifetime of appreciation. We in the Western world, however, have more than one gift. We have incredibly much of everything. Even on an ordinary day (not a special day such as this holiday), we have such abundance that we sometimes have a hard time deciding what it is we want to eat, what we want to wear, what we want to do for entertainment. We live in abundance of possessions and abundance of opportunities. And with so much abundance it can be difficult to feel how much we have. I don’t want to make that mistake. I don’t want to miss my own bounty. I want to drink deeply. I want to taste completely. And for being given such an abundance of gifts, I want to live a life of gratitude.

What could be better, then, than a day set aside for the giving of thanks….

On this special Thanksgiving Day, I wish you much joy in the treasures in your life. I wish you to be deeply aware of your own abundance. And I wish you to be happy in thanksgiving. After all, we really do have a lot to be thankful for.

photography by permission
cindy lee jones

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is "thank you," it will be enough.

~ Meister Eckhart

Sunday, November 23, 2008

random act of kindness

Last night I sat at a dinner table with nearly a dozen women, and in the conversation one of the women exclaimed that this very day she was the recipient of a random act of kindness. She was incredibly excited as she began to tell her story. As it happened to be, while she was at the post office, someone gave her a postage stamp so she could be off and on her way without having to wait in a long line. Such a simple act, the giving of a postage stamp (a value of 42 cents...), but the expression of kindness made her day as though a brilliant light has shined upon it. And now even her evening was graced as she recounted her story to us with great joy.

I loved seeing her pleasure in her "random act of kindness" (as she so lovingly called it). Not long ago I began a practice of every day giving something to someone, and last night I had the opportunity to see what it might be like for a recipient for someone I have given something.

Sometimes my gift is as simple as a couple of dollars to a homeless person. Sometimes it might be a check I write for a child I support in Ethiopia, a greeting card to a lonely woman in a nursing home, a bag of fruit to a group of teenagers, a loaf of home-baked bread for a neighbor, or a handwritten letter to a woman I sponsor in a work program in Nigeria. Sometimes I have to get creative to find another way to give. A couple of days ago I picked up a woman with her very young children standing and waiting at a bus stop when the temperature was 32 degrees and very windy. She kept saying "thank you" to me again and again, and "God bless you." I gave her little boys some quarters for their pockets and their little faces broke into big smiles. Such a simple thing, really, giving someone a ride for a few blocks, but for this mother the act of kindness was more than a warm ride on a cold day. It was a moment of feeling special, a moment of feeling the touch of friendship.

If you give or do something as a random act of kindness, please share with us so we can take joy in the gift as well (and, of course, I am always on the lookout for new ways to give!).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meditation may require a lifetime to master,
but it will have been a lifetime well spent.

If you want to judge your progress,
ask yourself these questions:
Am I more loving?
Is my judgment sounder?
Do I have more energy?
Can my mind remain calm under provocation?
Am I free from the conditioning of anger, fear, and greed?

Spiritual awareness reveals itself
as eloquently in character development
and selfless action
as in mystical states.
~ Eknath Easwaran

art by permission

Friday, November 14, 2008

Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the put water into a bottle, it becomes the put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Bruce Lee

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the work for which all other work is but preparation...

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most
difficult task of all,
the work for which all other work is but preparation.
It is a high inducement to the individual to ripen...a great claim upon us, something that chooses us out and calls us to vast things.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, November 10, 2008

with that moon language...

I love the writings of Hafiz perhaps more than any other poet (but I love so much the work of both Hafiz and Rumi that it's hard to say one is my favorite...). In the poem I posted on November 4, Hafiz suggests "Any thought that you are better or less than another man quickly breaks the wine glass..." Isn't his completeness beautiful? He didn't say "any thought that you are better than another" but included "any thought that you are better than or less than another man" breaks the wine glass. Belief in one is a belief in the other, and any feelings of better or less diminishes one's taste of the holy wine.

I would like to bring you another of my favorite Hafiz poems, one called With That Moon Language. This poem is my reminder to be the love the world seeks...

Admit something:
Everyone that you see, you say to them, "Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The sun once glimpsed God's true nature
And has never been the same.
Thus that radiant sphere
Constantly pours its energy
Upon this earth
As does He from behind
The veil.

With a wonderful God like that
Why isn't everyone a screaming drunk?

Hafiz's guess is this:
Any thought that you are better or less
Than another man
Breaks the wine

~ Hafiz

Saturday, November 01, 2008

the voice of God...

The Creation of the Inaudible
by Pattiann Rogers

Maybe no one can distinguish which voice
Is god’s voice sounding in a summer dusk
Because he calls with the same rising frequency,
The same rasp and rattling rustle the cicadas use
As they cling to the high leaves in the glowing
Dust of the oaks.

His exclamations might blend so precisely with the final
Cries of the swallows settling before dark
That no one will ever be able to say with certainty,
“That last long cry winging over the rooftop
Came from god."

Breathy and low, the vibrations of his nightly
Incantations could easily be masked by the scarcely
Audible hush of the lakeline dealing with the rocky shore,
And when a thousand dry sheaths of rushes and thistles
Stiffen and shiver in an autumn wind, anyone can imagine
How quickly and irretrievably his whisper might be lost.

Someone faraway must be saying right now:
The only unique sound of his being
Is the spoken postulation of his unheard presence.

For even if he found the perfect chant this morning
And even if he played the perfect strings to accompany it,
Still, no one could be expected to know,
Because the blind click beetle flipping in midair,
And the slider turtle easing through the black iris bog,
And two savannah pines shedding dawn in staccato pieces
Of falling sun are already engaged in performing
The very same arrangement themselves.

Pattiann Rogers, “The Creation of the Inaudible” from Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Pattiann Rogers.