Thanks for the Coffee: Journey of Gratitude – Day 32

Copyright Tam Black 2015 Designed for susanwithpearls.com
Copyright Tam Black 2015
Designed for susanwithpearls.com

Guiding Thought

I lift my mind and heart to the Truth of Being, to all that Is, to All I Am. I accept my Self in Truth and offer my Self to All in gratitude for Its Being.

Sharing

I look around me, or take a breath, or feel the warmth of the sun, and appreciate Life. This has been the essence of this Journey for me: appreciating life, every aspect of it, anything that contributes to it. Emerson said:

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

I like that even though he starts by saying “every good thing” he ends by saying “include all things in your gratitude”. Don’t just be thankful for things you think are “good”! Find reasons to be thankful for challenges, lessons, or even things that are unwanted. Gratitude may not transform the experience, but it will transform your interpretation of it.

The end of Emerson’s quote reminds me of the Buddhist concept of interdependent co-arising. This, simply put, is the idea that everything is interconnected. When I make coffee in the morning, it is not just “me” making coffee; it is every thing—every experience, every effort, every action, every substance, every person—who has gone into creating that moment of “me”, that moment of “coffee”, that moment of “mug”, that moment of “water”, etc. When I give thanks for that invigorating black liquid, I give thanks to every person, every action, every effort used to bring me those beans, this mug, this water, the electricity to run my coffee maker…every single thing!

When I read the part in the quote, “…all things have contributed to your advancement,” I think about it in terms of interdependent co-arising. Nothing is apart from Being. Nothing is apart from Life. In some way, everything has contributed to who you are, who I am, today; everything deserves thanks and gratitude.

Gratitude is both being thankful for what we have now, as well as striving to create the conditions for feeling gratitude. What are you thankful for? What more can you bring into your life that you can be thankful for?

Prepare your mind for gratitude; appreciate whatever you can, remember everything connected to it, and be thankful for those things as well.

Nurture your environment in gratitude. Openly express thanks to anything and everything. Silently thank anything and everything. Everything is of Life, for us.

Spur of the Moment Buddhist : Journey of Abundance – Day 39

Copyright Tam Black 2015 Designed for susanwithpearls.com
Copyright Tam Black 2015
Designed for susanwithpearls.com

Guiding Thought

Divine abundance expresses infinitely through my own Divine Presence. When I identify with my Divine Presence, I open the floodgates, and Divine abundance flows naturally, easily, and effortlessly through me, materializing all good in my life and affairs.

Sharing

I feel kind of numb today. Numb has elements of feeling indifferent, but I don’t want to feel indifferent. Indifference implies uncaring, and I care very much; thinking I don’t care feels frustrating. What is this?

Yesterday I was so optimistic and creative! I did so much (see here)! And I felt so positive about the Journey, about life, about the future! What changed?

You know what I think part of this is? I think it’s fear that “this doesn’t work” or “what if this doesn’t work.” The Journey is coming to an end, and I want something to happen. I want there to be visible confirmation that I’ve done something.

I also know that this is an attitude that repels the very thing I think I want to happen. It’s always so frustrating to be aware of things I am doing or feeling that I know are in direct contrast to what I know about them. It’s like I just watch myself doing or feeling what I know I want to evolve out of, but there I am, doing it.

Oh my…. Sometimes I can only laugh at myself. This is all part of the process. Recognizing (being aware) is a step in the forward progression and evolution. Laughing at myself feels very healing today.

Buddhism is coming in very handy today, too. It is giving me a framework to understand my thought process and to help me “just let go” (although laughing at myself has already started that!). Here is how:

First – Attachment: Attachment is one of the causes of suffering. People want; people desire; these emotional states cause suffering. As I said above, “I want something to happen.” This is a desire, an attachment.

But I can’t just say, “I want to feel something different” or “I don’t want to feel this attachment anymore,” because all that does is to replace one desire with another, and there is still suffering.

What to do?

Second – Become Mindful, or as I would say, Become Aware: I took this second step when I started writing about how I felt! I didn’t really want to write about feeling numb or frustrated, but that was exactly what I needed to look at, exactly where the emotional disturbance was. I find it uncomfortable to write about my emotional disturbances; it can be really hard to share even the smallest emotional states with people. But I also know that doing so really helps me become aware. And awareness leads to…

Third – Non-attachment is what I experienced going through this process today: Becoming aware set up a new dynamic within myself. Instead of me stewing in my emotions, feeling… feeling… wahhh- wahhh- wahhh…I began to observe myself feeling. The observation aspect was the non-attached part of me. I wasn’t invested in my emotions. I wasn’t wanting them to do something. I wasn’t judging, or thinking… I was just watching.

This set up a lot of the non-attachment qualities that Buddhists talk about when they describe mindfulness. I was simply observing the flow of emotions; I was accepting of whatever they were; I was open to what I was experiencing, I felt compassionate toward myself…as though the emotions were not “me,” but that they were just a distressed state that wanted some compassion.

I continued to feel and to stew but the act of observation instigated a new and different relationship within me, with my emotions. They were in the spotlight! My emotions became very aware of themselves. They didn’t stop, necessarily, but they began to wonder what they were doing, why they were being so dramatic.

Was today a detour? Or was today the Journey? Where does this lead? What is the end? Is there an end? Or does the Journey just continue…infinitely?

 

Picking Up Worms

Do you know this story, “A Single Starfish” by Loren Eiseley?

–One day an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide, and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish that the water had carried in and then left behind. The man began walking very carefully so as not to step on any of the beautiful creatures. Since the animals still seemed to be alive, he considered picking some of them up and putting them back in the water, where they could resume their lives.

The man knew the starfish would die if left on the beach’s dry sand but he reasoned that he could not possibly help them all, so he chose to do nothing and continued walking.

Soon afterward, the man came upon a small child on the beach who was frantically throwing one starfish after another back into the sea. The old man stopped and asked the child, “What are you doing?”

“I’m saving the starfish,” the child replied.

“Why waste your time?… There are so many you can’t save them all so what does it matter?” argued the man.

Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed the starfish back into the water… “It matters to this one,” the child explained.–

That’s how I feel about worms. You know, after a rainstorm the parking lots are filled with worms which, drowning in the soggy ground came out onto the concrete only to die in the sun or continue drowning in puddles. So, I go around picking them up. I take them to “higher ground” and cover them a bit with dirt or leaves hoping they recover; giving them a chance at recovery, anyway.

I once read of a Buddhist temple being built; the excavation was a long, tedious, process. The monks were preparing the land by hand—I picture the tedious clearing of an archaeological find—so they could gently transplant each creature in the dirt (worms!) to a new home. In the Buddhist tradition, every being is a mother, a father, a sibling, a son/daughter, or a friend. All life has value. All life is sacred…even worms.

I even have “pet” worms. Yes, I vermiculture. Worms eat my garbage. What is this affinity that I have with worms? I did not always feel this way about worms.

In a snow storm this past winter, which dumped inches-to feet-of snow on the northeast, I was walking to my back door and found a worm on the sidewalk. “What! You are quite out of place!” I said to my little friend. But I had a dilemma: snow on the ground, worm on the sidewalk. What do I do? If I put him back into the “grass” he will freeze. There was no higher ground, no safe place where I could put him outside; what do worms do in the winter, anyway? So I took him inside and placed him (it?) gingerly into the dirt of my Christmas cactus.

The following internal dialogue ensued:

“You have just made yourself responsible for this life. You took him out of his natural environment and placed him in an artificial environment. How are you going to provide what it needs to live?”

-“I have no clue, but I couldn’t leave him outside; he would have died”

“What do worms eat (I know what my red worms eat—my garbage—but this is an earthworm, they are different [or are they?]) How much water does he need?”

-“What if you put too much water in the plant and he drowns?”

“There is probably enough organic material in the dirt to feed him, but maybe I should put some organics in the plant. How do I even ‘check’ on him to know if he’s all right?”

And so on.

So I did a good deed. I saved a worm from dying in the snow. Or did I? What if he dies at my hands? I am responsible.

“But he surely would have died had you left him outside.”

-“You are giving him a chance.”

“Is the chance better than the inevitability of his fate outside?”

-“Is death a bad thing?”

Some people believe that death is a transition into a new life. Some believe that the death of the body is not “death” for the soul lives on. Some people believe that people are “born again” into a new body (reincarnation) or into a life of spirit. Some people believe that death is the end, done, finis (but since you are dead, you don’t care!). So why is death a measure of whether or not the deed is good? How do we know?

How do we know when a good deed is really a good deed? What if our intervention causes more harm than good? How do we know?

When I was about 8, I had a guinea pig. I was an industrious and caring youngster and wanted my guinea pig to be happy and to live in a nice environment. So I cleaned his cage…with bleach…or ammonia, I don’t remember which. The fumes of my eager cleaning lingered in the small glass tank; my guinea pig died.

Eagerly well-intentioned, but ignorant, I was a child. How could I have known that I was going to kill my guinea pig?

How do I know if I haven’t killed my worm-friend?

-“But you are well-intentioned.”

“But is that enough?”

We never know, do we? We never know if we create more harm than good, even when well-intentioned. The nature of ignorance is ignorance: the blind spot that prevents us from knowing everything about everything and not knowing that we don’t know. Only in omniscience can we make perfect choices. And I am certainly not omniscient. So I have to live with my ignorance…and my questions…and sometimes my guilt.

So I remind myself that I am doing the best I can. I remind myself that there are parts of me, like that child, that just don’t know any better, and I forgive myself my ignorance. I clear my head, listen to my heart, and strive for the best for all, and continue to pick up worms after a rainstorm.