With Open Eyes

butt collector

One day last week the streets around the Super Wal-Mart were clogged with cars much like ants swarming from a ‘stomped-on-anthill’. Inwardly lost in my own thoughts about what I needed to buy and yet had to do, my view of things was narrow and self oriented.

As I walked toward the entrance of the store, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man kneeling down picking something up. From the back his clothes were kind of dirty and there we sores on his head. Fairly quickly I  surmised he was somewhere between down on his luck and homeless. As I moved into present moment awareness, it hit me what he was doing.

The cover was off a large cigarette disposal and the man was selectively gathering partially smoked butts. He’d pick up each used cigarette, glance to see how much was left and then put the ones with a few puffs left into a ‘baggie’. I quickly took a single phone photo (just above) just after he stood up and began to place the top back on the container.

Being a smoker is in my past. I remember the cravings that once in a while caused me scour my ashtrays for a cigarette butt with a few puffs remaining. Only once in a while did that happen and only until I could get to the store to buy a fresh pack. The guy collecting from the Wal-Mart ashtray was gathering the only smokes he could afford: free butts. Smoking is a bad habit; no doubt. I feel sorry for anyone who still smokes, but even more so for someone who has to collect what has been in other’s mouths to satisfy his habit.

In this season of giving, the wish I send out to the ‘butt collector’ is one of love and good wishes that life improves for him. But then, maybe he was an angel sent to make me more present, aware and rooted in ‘now’. Or possibly he was both destitute and angelic. I’ll never know for certain, but will long remember what he left me with.

All that’s needed to elevate my level of gratitude is pay attention. With open eyes there is always something to behold that reminds me how good my life is. In recollecting my most difficult times and bearing witness to those of others, I find reflections that make me better grasp the richness I am blessed with today.

And hard times are good in their own way, too.
Because the only way you can achieve true happiness
is if you experience true sadness as well.
It’s all about light and shade.
Gabrielle Willams

What Is Gratitude?


…a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received; thankfulness.
From Midieval Latin gratitudo from Classical Latin gratus, pleasing: grace.

Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in a Greater Good essay, “Why Gratitude Is Good.”

“First,” he writes, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Over the past decade, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude.

Gratitude brings us happiness: gratitude has proven to be one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction; it also boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions. On the flip side, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.

Gratitude is good for our bodies: …gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health.

Grateful people sleep better: They get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening.

Gratitude makes us more resilient: It has been found to help people recover from traumatic events, including… veterans with PTSD.

Gratitude strengthens relationships: It makes us feel closer and more committed to friends and romantic partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship. Taken from an article found at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition

Living in my own self-made twisted version of life, I made my way slowly through a maze of heartache, grief and sorrow that was often self-induced. But that is behind me now and I can attest strongly to anyone who will listen: gratefulness is life changing. The difference is not swift, but it is certain and sure when practiced long-term. Today I am grateful for my gratitude that made me whole, taught me how to love and brought happiness to my life.

The miracle of gratitude
is that is shifts your perception
to such an extent
that it changes the world you see.
Dr. Robert Holden

Dandelion Growing Out of a Crack


Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you. Lullabies for Little Criminals Heather O’Neill

When I tell people I was ten years-old before I lived in a house with an indoor toilet most don’t believe me, at least not at first. I cared little about that fact before adolescence when I began not sharing it. That was a long time ago and I have come to know that experience was one of many which taught me great gratitude for things as simple as a bathroom. Doing without makes one appreciate what they have a lot more.

Happiness cannot be traveled to,
owned, earned, worn or consumed.
Happiness is the spiritual experience
of living every minute with
love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

A Simple Life


When I slow down and pay attention it is easy to be positively overwhelmed by the richness of my life; by how much I am loved; by how much of the good I have been afforded. Today with misty eyes, once again, I say “thank you” to the universe. I am grateful beyond expression.

Meaning is not something you stumble across,
like an answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt.
Meaning is something you build into your life.
You build it out of your own past, out of the affections
and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind
as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent
and understanding, out of the things you believe in,
out of the things and people you love,
out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something.
The ingredients are there.
You are the only one who can put them together
into that unique pattern that will be your life.
Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you.
If it does, then the particular balance
of success or failure is of less account.
John Gardner (Beth Jordan)