Gratitude 108 Offering

IMG_0256We hear a lot about the power of gratitude lately. There seems to have been a hundredth monkey leap in consciousness, a global awareness that gratitude is a powerful and relatively easy way to sweep out the propensity toward negativity and connect to what’s good and right in our world.

For me, a gratitude practice is a way to connect to God (Spirit, nature, highest self; for me the word God works well). There are many ways to connect with God, of course: sitting in nature, meditating, listening to or writing poetry, a full-bodied dance in your living room, a candlelit bath, making love. I cannot say exactly what happens when we connect to the divine, as a lived experience transcends words, but you know it when you taste it.

And we know it when we’re disconnected from God-consciousness. As a culture we misplace the natural yearning to unite with God onto a variety of places: food, love, money, alcohol, drugs. As Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi writes in Davening: A guide to meaningful Jewish prayer:

We try to satisfy that hunger for God in other ways. We mistake the yearnings of soul for the cravings of the body. We feed them with food and drink, drugs and sex, money and power, but these things just inflame our appetites further. We might seek higher things, intellectual pursuits or artistic accomplishments. Even those do not touch us in that loneliest of places, the place that longs to be filled with God. (p. xii)

Due the nature of my work, I most often see this misplaced yearning in the realm of romantic love. Seduced by a culture that sells us the bill of goods that romantic love is the answer to all of our problems, when we do find real love and it doesn’t exalt us into the realm of ecstasy we wonder what’s wrong. If my work around relationship anxiety could be encapsulated into two sentences it would be these: It’s not your partner’s job to make you feel alive, inspired, exalted, creative, or sexually awake. That’s between you and God. In other words, if you carry an emptiness inside of you, there’s not a person, job, house, child, or degree in the world that can fill it. It can only be filled by your relationship to the divine.

Again, this relationship to the divine can be nurtured through a thousand different portals. For some people, they feel connected to something beyond this realm when they spend time in nature: gazing up at a star-filled sky fills them with awe, which opens up that magic passageway. For others, it’s when they’re connected to their creativity that the miracle of something beyond the five senses flies through on the wings of imagination. Others connect in more traditional religious ways, through prayer, meditation, or community worship. And still others connect through their passion. One of the most poignant moments in my life as a parent was when my older son said to me, “Mommy, do you know why I love flying in airplanes so much? Because that’s when I feel closest to God.” Well…

If the idea of a spiritual practice overwhelms you or if you’re carrying negative imprints from early controlling religious upbringing and suffer from post-traumatic God syndrome, there’s one very easy way to open up that portal that connects us with the infinite source of goodness and love: connecting to gratitude. It doesn’t require affiliation to any religious path. It doesn’t require that you know what lights your fire. It doesn’t require that you even leave your house. It only requires that you set your compass toward noticing the moments of yes. To listen for the whispers of when something alights on your soul like a tender bird and asks to be let in.

When I open to gratitude, when I set aside that time and make a space in my heart and orient my awareness toward blessings, my heart opens and I connect to God. I can literally feel God-essence pouring into the inner pockets of loneliness and yearning. There’s a smile behind my eyes, the secret joy of connecting to the underground river and overground invisible web that connects everyone and everything. Opening to gratitude weaves a soft pillow around my heart, which creates more tolerance for the irritations of people and life. Things that may normally have caused my skin to bristle slide off easily when I’m consciously connected to gratitude.

So now my soul-sister Carrie and I are encouraging you to notice proactively the moments of gratitude, to orient your awareness to see the blessings that abound. We’ve created a Facebook page called Gratitude 108 Offering where you can share your list and hopefully find warmth and inspiration in others’ lists. Try to set the critic aside. This isn’t an exercise in perfection or comparison. Simply orient your compass and let the awareness of blessings pour into you and onto the page.

You can read Carrie’s post here, and then head over to the page and add your list. Carrie has included her entire list on her blog and on Facebook and I’ll be adding mine there in sections over several days.

If gratitude by yourself can open up the channels to joy, imagine what gratitude in community can do. Let’s give it a try!

Anxiety is Not Your Destiny

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“I’m just an anxious person,” I often hear my clients and program members say. The statement underlines a common globalization belief intrinsic to many who struggle with anxiety, which is: I’m anxious, I’ve always been anxious and I’ll always be anxious. In other words, anxiety is just in my wiring and it’s here to stay.

Let’s talk a bit about wiring. We are born with certain predispositions: Some people are introverts, others are extroverts. Some love airplanes and others love art. Some excel at reading and others excel at math. Some like broccoli and others like carrots. Some babies roll with the punches and others are affected by the ups and downs of daily life. Where do these predispositions come from? We can that they’re hard-wired into our genetic code, but research shows that we can actually change our genetic code. So let’s take out the hard-wiring and say … Click here to continue reading…

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Loss of Light

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Light fading, time passing, big boy is ten, baby isn’t a baby and the time for having babies is over. The pregnant woman in the check-out line and it’s eleven years ago, pregnant with my own belly of hope and love, on the threshold of everything new and exciting. There was pain then, too, but it’s the joy and anticipation that come flying from past to present now, another layer of recognition that a stage of life is over. Oh, this life. Oh, the highly sensitive soul with the acute awareness of the passage of time and how it just keeps on marching on.

Light fading, time passing, my birthday week. When the years are filled with more wisdom and equanimity, why does a birthday bring grief? It’s not the birthday itself; it’s the transition, that a new age can only happen by letting go of the old. There’s a … Click here to continue reading…

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Angels All Around Us

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There is so much pain in this world. There’s personal pain that often takes the form of anxiety, depression, addictions, and intrusive thoughts. There’s the physical pain of illness, injury, and disabilities, both short-term and chronic. There’s relationship pain when we endure conflict with partners, children, friends, colleagues, bosses, and family members. There’s community pain when we witness homelessness, poverty, isolation, and elder and child abuse. And there’s the pain of the world: war, disease, natural disaster, the effects of global warming, and the fact that every day we lose a species of animals. Widening circles of pain, like the ripples released from a stone dropped in water.

Let’s pause here for a moment. If you’re as sensitive as I am, reading a list like this can send you into a moment of despair. We tend to turn our heads from the pain and live in denial. Or we open so fully … Click here to continue reading…

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A Passionate Life

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Inspired by the courageous, wise members of my July 2014 Trust Yourself program. Quotes from the forum reprinted with permission.

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My family and I were driving into town last summer when we saw a blue van pass by with the words “Mr. Pool” printed on the side.

“There goes Mr. Pool,” I said, as we had just hired him to finish hooking up our pool heater. And I had this moment of appreciation for the person who started Mr. Pool.

“Isn’t it great that someone had an idea or had a passion for pools and started his or her own business? It’s so much better than working in an office building for The Man,” I said.

My husband vehemently agreed. After working in cubicles for twenty years in the visual effects industry, my husband has a particular, visceral aversion to The Man.

“But wasn’t there some sense of … Click here to continue reading…

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