ABOUT TIME FOR THANKS
A realization lately. I have been asking a lot.
Throughout my life, even in times I was sure there wasn’t anything I was speaking with, I have spoken to source. I sent wishes for someone’s healing or blew out a candle or prayed, whatever we call those moments when we speak to something larger outside of ourselves. It has occurred to me that in these moments, I have always been asking. Asking for friends and family to be well or to recover. Asking for my finances to straighten out. Asking for whatever is coming next to arrive in the way I would most like.
May the frightening thing in the news not come to pass. May those people find relief from suffering. May the show be successful, or the friend find her way, or the family be safe and happy.
We map out how we want it all to look, and we have a picture of the outcome. We create this picture based on the past, and it is through fear we speak. Fear of not having enough, fear of it not working out in the way we vision, fear of pain or sorrow, fear of change. I think I am supposed to know what the future is to look like. So I ask and ask and ask.
In the past year I have been shifting to a different kind of prayer, a different type of conversation with the great unknown. I began working with a mantra meditation, and the words I focus on praise and thank. After doing this for several months, I suddenly found myself unreasonably happy. Something changed in my moments, and my moments have changed. I see that my prayers have been so one-directed. Now the energy is moving in another way.
I have been given so much in this life. To many it would seem pretty limited: never owned a house, scraping along hand to mouth through work that pays very little, small bits of success, tiny hovel of an apartment. To many others, I live like a queen. But beyond things, there is so much given. Absorbing work I love, family supportive, friends numerous, husband a true partner, interests galore and ability to follow those interests. Health. Travel. Stories.
Once I start thanking, I cannot stop. I could go on and on. Thankful for the rattly refrigerator keeping my food cold. For electricity. For water that comes out of the tap and for its heat. For the sky and for birds and the change of seasons that frames my life in interesting ways. For the ocean and the sound that meets me when I wake: fog horns and barking sea lions. For people I meet in my day, in the grocery, in the laundromat, on the sidewalks, who go about their business as if everything were okay, as if life is here and we are going to meet it with a smile.
I am not immune to the great suffering that rises in waves through humanity and is sure to meet me as well one of these days. It is inevitable that things I want to happen will not happen, or that shocking, terrible things will rise.
There must be a way to be able to meet difficulty, not as if I am being attacked or put upon, but as if this too is the natural flow, the natural rhythm of a life. Valleys and peaks. Carried by the current as the river takes me over crests and into canyons, and back out. A great log ride through life. Maybe the gratitude that I am here at all is the current, and realizing this allows me to enjoy the ride.
For all that I am gifted, may I see then the ways I am cared for. Some of the saddest folks I know seem unable to recognize their allies, distrusting those that are there in support. We see again and again people who have become so distrustful that they forget most people just want happiness for themselves and others. Anger and distrust, allowed to amplify, strengthens feelings of having been deceived, having been forgotten and unloved, and soon, we begin to mirror that which we believe wishes harm. This cycle seems to be at a fever pitch these days, and in every hostile, angry being encountered, this deep suffering is palpable.
I want to make sure I appreciate all the ways I am supported and taught. I want to make sure I don’t let my lens of fear cut off the care that is all around me.
I question whether all this gratitude I feel is not just a sneaky way to ask for more. The way around this is to find where I feel lacking, where I feel fear. This shows me where I feel unworthy of all I’ve been given, and the belief that there is still not enough.
Can I feel myself worthy of love? I recognize all the parts of me I would say are not worthy. My laziness in a weekend of lying about, my grumpiness at night, my cruel thoughts about another, my fear of what is to come, my damn right foot that stumbles in the Bonham triplet. All the ways I resist knowing that my life is just an experience of the All remembering to remember itself.
One thing I have been deeply grateful for in my days has been a series of lectures by Alan Watts, and I have fallen in love with this philosopher, embarrassed that I have taken so long to arrive to him. His voice has been in my ear as I move through my days.
What is the self that I love? What is this thing that I am so interested in advancing and in protecting? And you look very closely into what you feel when you think you feel yourself. You know what you find out? That your self is everything that you thought was someone else, or something else. You have no knowledge of yourself you see except in relation to others. Self and other are as inseparable as back and front. There is no knowledge of self without the knowledge of otherness. There is no knowledge of the voluntary without the knowledge of the involuntary. Of can without can’t. So they go together…
– From Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives
I examine my actions through a lens he has opened. I explore the dualities in which I catch myself. I look for the shadow strengthened by the light of my actions. Does my meditation practice imbed the belief that knowing the self takes time, or that I somehow need to do work in order to know the moment? Am I just postponing real understanding each time I sit?
Is there something here to be fixed? Does my gratitude just cry out from a deep ache of what is lacking?
Do I love to receive love? Do I love to hold on to what is here that suits me? Do I love only to strengthen the illusion that this unlovable being is not so bad? Can I escape the pattern of misery that stops me being able to trust?
Or can I love for loving. Can I love without need. Can I love as if nothing is lacking and there is more than enough.
The ways we are gifted are so numerous that thanking drowns out all fear that we are not worthy.
I look around the room at all the items here. Old yellow kitchen table that brightens the whole space with sunshine. Record albums curated by a man who shows me a world of music so vast it seems each person may have a song to sing, and has pressed it into vinyl. All the books, and the funny rising panic that comes on when I think of all there is to read and all there is left to read. The little pieces of interest from our travels, so many places and so many people that the room feels cluttered and magical with the voices of those who have met us along the way. I am grateful for the hands that have crafted these little things: musical instruments and dandelions in acrylic cubes and animal skulls and a mechanical monkey toy, Victrola and plants and a salt lamp, family photographs and lights from Turkey and yard sales, artwork from friends and yellow tulips on the yellow table standing at attention in the morning darkness.
There is the foghorn. There is the sound of stillness outside the one-paned window that allows the sea chill into the room that these two blankets abate. When I fall into my heart, there is a gratitude that does not echo a fear of losing what is here. I look around me and see only abundance. I need nothing more than what is here. I am just gratitude, remembering itself in one more gift of a breath.
You can listen to me read this on Soundcloud or as an iTunes Podcast.
If you’re so inclined, I read it on YouTube too.
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The wonderful hummingbird photo was taken by Jessica Whelchel.