Grateful In Greater Measure

This Thanksgiving morning I have spent about an hour reading email, sending holiday wishes and looking at the news of the day on-line while dimly in the back of my mind thinking about writing here. For this blog focused on gratitude, I first thought I wanted to leave some intricately bold and meaningful statement about the meaning of Thanksgiving. Instead the main theme my mind settled on is neither complicated or long. It’s only sixteen words:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was,
“thank you,” that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

Better than I have done on any previous Thanksgiving, my intention is to spend this day wrapped in a glow of sincere gratitude while asking for guidance in becoming an ever improving version of ‘me’.

There’s no record to be found for the original source or who wrote the piece just below. The words speak to the core of my being and state clearly my aspirations for living life well. I give humble thanks to the anonymous writer whose work so accurately reflects the philosophy of life I have adopted.

      • This is your life!
      • Do what you love. And do it often.
      • If you don’t like something, change it.
      • If you don’t like your job, quit. Now!
      • If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.
      • If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. It will be waiting for you when you start doing thing you love to do.
      • Stop over analyzing, life is so simple.
      • All emotions are beautiful.
      • When you eat, appreciate every last bite.
      • Open you mind, heart and spirit to new things and to new people. We are united in our differences.
      • Ask the next person what you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them.
      • Travel often.
      • Some opportunities only come once. Seize them.
      • Getting lost will help you find your self.
      • Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating with them.
      • Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.

My short prayer for today:
Maker of all things and higher power
that guides me from the inside out;
May I learn to be grateful
in greater measure for all that comes to me;
May I more clearly see that pain is necessary for a balanced life;
May I learn the lessons being taught to me with less resistance;
May all those I love know the depth of feeling in my heart for them;
And May I fear death less and embrace life more.
Amen.

 Originally posted here on November 22, 2012

The Power of Hopeful Wisdom

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*Voice 1: You have been given a second chance to start your life over.

Voice 2: How can that be? I’m late middle age… hell, I’m old.

Voice 1: You can’t throw this opportunity away. If you do you will be a colossal fool.

Voice 2: I’m tired and don’t believe in things like I once did. Leave me alone.

Voice 1: If you get the chance to do something and don’t do it then you’ll simply live with regret.

Voice 2: I have failed so many times I am tired of even thinking about starting new.

Voice 1: That’s a worse situation than trying something daring and maybe not succeeding. At least you tried. Dare to dream!

Voice 2: Why should I believe I still have the ability to make what I wish for come true?

*Voice 1: If you did not have the capability to make your wildest wishes come true, your mind would not have the capacity to conjure such ideas in the first place.

Voice 2: But I am emotionally beat up and battle-scarred.

Voice 1: There is no limitation on what you can potentially achieve, except for the limitation you choose to impose on your own imagination.

Voice 2: So you’re saying if it is to be it’s up to me?

Voice 1: What you believe to be possible will always come to pass – to the extent that you deem it possible. It really is as simple as that.

The voice in my head was naively hopeful in my youth (Voice 1). In middle age, the experienced voice became wiser, but cynical (Voice 2). By fighting my tendencies and stirring both Voices together I was able to connect a measure of wisdom and hope. It took intention and a lot of effort to change my perceptions, but was worth the struggle.

To be wise to some extent and hopeful at the same time, now that’s a great life. I am grateful it is mine.

I am old and I have had
more than my share of good and bad.
I’ve had love and sorrow, seen sudden death
and been left alone and of love bereft.
I thought I would never love again
and I thought my life was grief and pain.
The edge between life and death was thin,
but then I discovered discipline.
I learned to smile when I felt sad,
I learned to take the good and the bad,
I learned to care a great deal more
for the world about me than before.
I began to forget the “Me” and “I”
and joined in life as it rolled by:
this may not mean sheer ecstasy
but is better by far than “I” and “Me.
Meryl Gordon

*Voice 1 borrowed from the writings of Anthon St. Maarten and Lorena Bathey

Just Go For It

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There will be a few times in your life

when all your instincts will tell you to do something,

something that defies logic,

upsets your plans,

and may seem crazy to others.

When that happens,

you do it.

Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else.

Ignore logic,

ignore the odds,

ignore the complications,

and just go for it.

From “Remember When” Judith McNaught

And so it is with me as Judith McNaught wrote. The more I have become able to listen to the soften spoken voice of my heart and soul (or whatever you call that presence that lives in my chest and gut) the better my life has become. It’s damn scary to take off in a direction that a good bit of me is uncertain about while at the same time knowing at an instinctive level it is absolutely the direction I must go.

My destiny is not something I can always decide on or choose, but I can let it happen if I stop paddling against the current and let it take me where I am meant to go. I am not saying I don’t have to think and use my head. I do, but when logic has been thoughtfully laid out in my head I allow my ‘heart and soul” to lay over it. When the two match, “no problem”. When they don’t, more often than not, my logic is flawed. It’s then I need to do one of two things: 1) rethink the subject and stir in my heart and soul to see what surfaces or 2) simply follow my heart and soul. The latter has rarely ever been a mistake.

How utterly freeing it is to live life knowing I don’t have to figure every thing out! II am grateful for the mystery and excitement that living this way lends to my life.

Remembering you are going to die
is the best way I know to avoid the trap
of thinking you have something to lose.
You are already naked.
There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Anonymous

Cannot Be Seen or Even Touched

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The truth: “This poem made my eyes mist up”. Somehow when Ana Castillo wrote “I Ask The Impossible” she managed to string words together with an urgent honesty and patient clarity that speak to me.

I ask the impossible: love me forever.
Love me when all desire is gone.
Love me with the single-mindedness of a monk.
When the world in its entirety,
and all that you hold sacred advise you
against it: love me still more.
When rage fills you and has no name: love me.
When each step from your door to our job tires you–
love me; and from job to home again, love me, love me.
Love me when you’re bored–
when every woman you see is more beautiful than the last,
or more pathetic, love me as you always have:
not as admirer or judge, but with
the compassion you save for yourself
in your solitude.
Love me as you relish your loneliness,
the anticipation of your death,
mysteries of the flesh, as it tears and mends.
Love me as your most treasured childhood memory–
and if there is none to recall–
imagine one, place me there with you.
Love me withered as you loved me new.
Love me as if I were forever–
and I, will make the impossible
a simple act,
by loving you, loving you as I do.

Proof that the kind of love Ms. Castillo wrote about exists or has ever existed can’t be concretely found. Yet, I believe, but see it as uncommon and a stroke of fate far more than intention. Within me is certainty that most ‘impossible’, but lasting loves are lived quietly. Such people need no glamor or recognition for they have already won life’s most sought after prize: true and lasting love.

My softness of heart was a weakness years ago, but has grown into what appears to be fairly rare, or at least rarely shown by others. There is nothing I am more grateful for than my ability to feel deeply.

The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.
Helen Keller

Exploding Fireworks and Ringing Bells

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I am a lover of love in it in all forms. Mother or Father for a child; a child for parents; a friend for a friend; a lover for their beloved and even the way one can dream up a fantasized person and fall in love with him or her.

A lover’s feelings can be intense and severe when expressed frankly and bluntly. I was moved by the sincere rawness within a letter from “A Wallflower Christmas” by Lisa Kleypas shared below.

“The letter had been crumpled up and tossed onto the grate. It had burned all around the edges, so the names at the top and bottom had gone up in smoke. But there was enough of the bold black scrawl to reveal that it had indeed been a love letter. And as Hannah read the singed and half-destroyed parchment, she was forced to turn away to hide the trembling of her hand.

—should warn you that this letter will not be eloquent. However, it will be sincere, especially in light of the fact that you will never read it. I have felt these words like a weight in my chest, until I find myself amazed that a heart can go on beating under such a burden.

I love you. I love you desperately, violently, tenderly, completely. I want you in ways that I know you would find shocking. My love, you don’t belong with a man like me. In the past I’ve done things you wouldn’t approve of, and I’ve done them ten times over. I have led a life of immoderate sin. As it turns out, I’m just as immoderate in love. Worse, in fact.

I want to kiss every soft place of you, make you blush and faint, pleasure you until you weep, and dry every tear with my lips. If you only knew how I crave the taste of you. I want to take you in my hands and mouth and feast on you. I want to drink wine and honey from you.

I want you under me. On your back.

I’m sorry. You deserve more respect than that. But I can’t stop thinking of it. Your arms and legs around me. Your mouth, open for my kisses. I need too much of you. A lifetime of nights spent between your thighs wouldn’t be enough.

I want to talk with you forever. I remember every word you’ve ever said to me.

If only I could visit you as a foreigner goes into a new country, learn the language of you, wander past all borders into every private and secret place, I would stay forever. I would become a citizen of you.

You would say it’s too soon to feel this way. You would ask how I could be so certain. But some things can’t be measured by time. Ask me an hour from now. Ask me a month from now. A year, ten years, a lifetime. The way I love you will outlast every calendar, clock, and every toll of every bell that will ever be cast. If only you—

And there it stopped.”

The letter from Lisa Kleypas’s book is powerful, passionate and gritty just as real  love actually is. Loving someone means going beyond what is politically correct and speaking heart and soul honestly in their full dimensions.

I am grateful there are some with deep feelings about love who write about them (like Lisa Kleypas).  They encourage me to finish the love story book I have been working on for a few years. And I am reminded to settle for nothing less than love that is genuine with plenty of beautiful fireworks.

Love encompasses so much,
reaches so far, and heals so deeply,
that any attempt to describe it,
no matter how poetic, only dilutes it.
Steve Maraboli

Focused Intention and Effort

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In looking backwards life mostly can appear as a single line moving from point to point while looking ahead is a something of a confusing muddle. So I settle comfortably into ‘today’ where there is clarity of purpose. Life is so much easier when I center myself in the ‘Now”.

Up high on my ‘list of things to do” is to ‘continuing to grow as a human being’. American Spiritual leader A.W. Tozer’s wrote down his “Rules for Self Discovery” around seventy-five years ago. His inquiries are as contemporary today as when he created them. (Off the top of my head my honest answers this morning are in parentheses).

1. What we want most; (peace and love)

2. What we think about most; (personal growth, romance and travel)

3. How we use our money; (mostly to indulge myself)

4. What we do with our leisure time; (write, listen to music and be with loved ones)

5. The company we enjoy; (intelligent people with kind hearts)

6. Who and what we admire; (thinkers of all ages who left their wisdom behind)

7. What we laugh at. (Natural silliness of children or dark humor about living)

So, in paragraph form: Peace and love is what I want most. Romance, travel and growing as a person take up the most space in my thoughts. I use money mostly to indulge myself. My leisure time is spent writing, listening to music and hanging out with friends and family. I am drawn to intelligent people with kind hearts. My admiration is greatest for thinkers of all ages who teach by what they left behind. Children being children make me laugh the easiest, but dark humor can bring relief about the absurdities of life.

I’m pleased with my answers EXCEPT “money: to indulge myself”. While it’s not a complete negative, a good bit of my tendency to spoil myself is not a positive thing. That inclination is rooted in feelings of lack and insecurity that I am grateful for being made aware of (again). With focused intention and effort a man grows.I will!

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.
We grow sometimes in one dimension,
and not in another; unevenly.
We grow partially. We are relative.
We are mature in one realm,
childish in another.
The past, present, and future mingle
and pull us backward, forward,
or fix us in the present.
We are made up of layers,
cells, constellations.
Anaïs Nin

NOW, it’s your turn to answer the seven questions.

Worth the Risk

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Once in a while a thought comes so strong it blocks out all other thinking temporarily. Even when I move on to other considerations and ideas, the over-riding concept blazes back into my mind frequently.

It was scary as hell when I was deliberating about walking away from my profession with no concrete thought of what was next. There was a dumpster of cranky inquiries as my ego fought the possibility.

What happens if your hopes don’t come true?
What if you run out of money?
What if you’re wrong?
What if others think you are crazy?
What if you want back in and no one wants you?
When are you going to start this new life?
When will you know if you’ve done the right thing or not?
Why do you think you’ll succeed at something new?
Why do you really want to do quit your career?

Five when’s and a pair of when’s and why’s are only the beginning of the consternation I want through. Ultimately there was no logic to walking away from a successful career of decades. Rather it was a feeling in my heart and gut that I just had to. I would suffocate emotionally if I kept on doing the same thing and denying myself a chance at other aspirations. Finally I just said “F’ it”. I know this is what I need to do, although I can’t explain it to anyone else.

Even if no one is watching you, lighting out for new, unmarked territories is terrifying. “We impute a lot of power to the unknown, because it was life-threatening for much of human history… Putting that fear in its proper perspective can help. You are probably not going to fall down a ravine or get eaten by a lion if you move to the opposite coast.”

… the human spirit wants to break out of habitual constraints. Studies confirm… We tend to regret the things we didn’t try more than those we did—even when we fail. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200611/you-20

Don’t ask me to explain why I resigned years before my planned retirement. I can’t tell you why the desire to travel the world, weeks at a time, burns so hot in my soul. Where I got the idea I could be a writer I am clueless. There is no logic to walking away from a flourishing professional life when all I have are dreams.

And there was the answer. Screw logic and follow your heart! Stop paying so much attention to you mind.

My conclusion became I will find a new path as long as I am speeding 100 miles down the old one. So here I am uncertain, but joyful; a bit perplexed but happy. I cast the lines off and am sailing into what I hope is a ‘new world’. I am grateful for the fortitude and belief in myself that made my new expedition possible. I am worth the risk!

I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships
to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been
when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed
to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.
Jodi Picoult

Living From the Inside Out

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Once in a while I find myself wishing to be in a time before now. I have imagined living in Victorian times when history tells us manners and romantic love were in vogue. On other occasions, my fantasy has been living in the age of honor and chivalry written about the Knights of the Roundtable. Both are pure make believe and in truth both times were actually really tough for average folks.

It’s more productive to come back to my life experience. Many people wish for earlier times in their life and I am not immune. The late 60s and early 70s have long seemed like a cool time to visit as long as I could have a different life back there than I actually had.

Most people, from the age of about 16 to about 30 have dreams, expectations, zest and energy. They are still young and the future is before them. Often, there is a certain feeling of euphoria and great expectations. This is the time when people are at the start of their life, still able to think big, before settling down, getting a job, getting married, and entering the hustle and bustle of life.

When you think about the past, the feelings of joy, happiness and expectation associated with it awaken, and you feel good. Then you associate those feelings with the past, and get the impression that the past was a better time. Actually, what you are yearning to is to the feelings of euphoria that you experienced when young, to the dreams and expectations, which are gone now.

My advice to you is to awaken those feelings and thoughts intentionally, and to associate them with the present. No matter how old or young you are, where you live, and under what circumstances you are living, you can use these thoughts and feelings to motivate you. ou can again experience the euphoria and great expectations you had when young, but use them constructively to make them come true. Remez Sasson http://www.successconsciousness.com/blog/motivation/past-better-than-present/

A fairly recent discovery of mine has been changing the direction of my life has brought back some of the good feelings enjoyed in my teens and 20s The reason is not complicated. I am embracing the possibilities of being alive in ways like I did when young. And it’s not just the feel-good neurochemicals that my waxing nostalgic brings. Back in my younger days there were many “things I thought I could be” and lots I was “going to do”. Life seems filled with such possibility again.

One of the benefits of “old days” was the amount of times I spent with people. Today with all the possibilities to entertain myself it’s easy to fall into a hole and not spend much time with others. I’ve found adding more time with friends and making new ones is one of the best uses of my time. Making new “good old times” with others has become my best remedy for yearning for times past.

As a society we do live in challenging times with monstrously huge problems. However the overall quality of my life really does not have much to do with them. I can be socially aware and even active without internalizing the issues. Living from the inside out is a lot healthful than life being shaped from the outside where I have no control.

The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day,
the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
Arnold Bennett

Wait and Hope

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Grief dares us to love once more.
Terry Tempest Williams

I cry over the pain of my past, but feel great joy and hope for the my future. She is out there somewhere in this big world, I just don’t know where she could be. She is the one my path has moved me toward my whole life. All the pain and heartache I have experienced has been to appreciate her when I find her; to be able to love her with all my being when she is before me. She might be anywhere, any country, any town, but I know she’s out there. The greatest love of my life is somewhere on this Earth, I am certain of it. But I won’t find her here in comfort wallowing in money and comfort. I must give up much of what has been in order to find what could be. I have to go search the world to find her before I run out of time. James Browning 10 29 2012

I wrote that eight months ago and found it again last night. While the thinking rings clear and true, I can’t remember specifically what was the catalyst. Maybe it was just a wanting thought thrown out to the cosmos hoping for its echo back to me.

The only worry that flies around me once in a while like a determined mosquito is a concern that I won’t recognize “her” should she appear. What if “she” is already around and I am missing it? Most such quandaries have been freed in the spirit of ‘what will be, will be’. All I can do is my best to let go, live in the moment and embrace life as it unfolds. Living ‘now’ well is the surest path to a recent past I am pleased with and a future that more closely matches my hopes and dreams.

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must of felt what it is to die… that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life. Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope”. Alexandre Duman

Whether my destiny is to only know searching or to walk through true love’s gate again, I am grateful for the contentment the possibility alone brings: a dream; a real dream that could become true. I am grateful to have the courage to free myself and seek what I hope for. Hallelujah!

Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist,
there are still those that lie beyond our capacity
and our imagination. From time to time,
when a piece of music no one has ever written
or a painting no one has ever painted,
or something else impossible to predict,
fathom or yet describe takes place,
a new feeling enters the world. And then,
for the millionth time in the history of feeling,
the heart surges and absorbs the impact.
From “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss

Top of the Heap

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“Golden Rules for Peace” (expressed by 13 different religions)

Aboriginal Spirituality
We are as much alive as we keep the Earth alive.
– Chief Dan George

Baha’i Faith
Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be
laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would
not desire for yourself.
– Baha’u’llah, Gleanings

Buddhism
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find
hurtful.
– The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18

Christianity
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to
you; for this is the law and the prophets.
– Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Confucianism
One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct…
loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want
done to yourself.
– Confucius, Analects 15.23

Hinduism
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would
cause pain if done to you.
– Mahabharata 5:1517

Islam
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what
you wish for yourself.
– The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Hadith

Jainism
One should treat all creatures in the world
as one would like to be treated.
– Mahavira, Sutrakritanga

Judaism
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is
the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
– Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a

Sikhism
I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me.
Indeed, I am a friend to all.
– Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 1299

Taoism
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your
neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
– T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218

Unitarianism
We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web
of all existence, of which we are a part.
– Unitarian principle

Zoroastrianism
Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.
– Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29

This past week I spent several days in a culturally diverse city and my interactions with others lent many reminders that beyond our outer appearance and dress; our cultural traditions and language; we are all essentially the same.  I came away believing if humanity could only forget the past we could all find peace together. I am grateful to have my beliefs refreshed, for what is at the top of the heap is what the mind uses most often.

All religions lead to the same God,
and all deserve the same respect.
Anyone who chooses a religion
is also choosing a collective way
for worshipping and sharing the mysteries.
Nevertheless, that person is the only one
responsible for his or her actions along the way
and has no right to shift responsibility
for any personal decisions on to that religion.
Paulo Coelho

This excerpt above is from the “Golden Rules for Peace” poster gathered by Paul McKenna and presented to Mrs. Gillian Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations in 2002.