Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Thanksgiving PIES

My beloved friend Susan Spritz-Myers instructed those of us lucky enough to be guests at her family’s Thanksgiving feast to bring a song, poem, or story about gratitude.  Here’s my song (and more on the mnemonic in a minute)

Thanksgiving PIES song

Thank you for the PIES
My nose, my ears, my eyes
For my body – large and tall
And my health – so good overall
Thank you for the PIES

Thank you for the PIES
Logic, reason – asking “why?”
Books and learning; all I know
Still have wonder – want to grow
Thank you for the PIES

Thank you for the PIES
I laugh, I love, I cry
Living life with an open heart
Loving people, music, art
Thank you for the PIES

Thank you for the PIES
My God’s not in the sky
She lives in me; He’s there in you
Like a river running through
Thank you for the PIES

P – Physical
I – Intellectual
E – Emotional
S – Spiritual

There’s so much to be grateful for!  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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That’s what my friend Mary’s license plate says.

Yeah, like you, I was curious.

“Thank You, God, for my amazing life”

I’m so grateful to Mary for that succinct, positive phrase. Thanks to her, it’s now a prayer/praise/phrase which I use frequently. 

Last week Mark Zuckenberg had a birthday, took FaceBook public, and got married – all in the same week.  Now you might think – THAT’S an amazing life!  And, you know, it is.  He seems very much the Golden Guy at this moment in time.

And, like you, I’ve had big things happen – not Mark Zuckerberg big, but momentous in my own life.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

When I say “Thank You, God for my amazing life!” it is at times like last night.  Heading to bed early, overtired – but in a very good way, walking around the cat toys that are always in different places in my bedroom I said this prayer.

I didn’t have a Mark Zuckerberg weekend, but I had a “thank You, God” weekend.  My cousin Pat was in from Raleigh, NC for a visit. The last time we spent quality time together a pogo-stick contest was involved (that is, we were little kids!).  We’d had a delightful day Saturday:  Frank Lloyd Wright house/studio tour, Ernest Hemingway childhood home tour, a driving tour of Chicago’s Loop (despite more police on the street than perhaps ever before, closed museums and road closures), and then a really amazingly good Bonnie Raitt concert.  That led to a 1 AM bedtime, followed by a 6 AM get-up-to-get-Pat-to-her-conference-on-time awakening.  So Sunday started out tired.

I got to talk to my beloved father.  If your parent(s) is/are alive and well and you get to talk to them you have an amazing life.

I road my motorcycle for 4 hours with my dear friend Candace – a blessed and amazing life (Robin Gibb, a year younger than me just died – I’m out riding a motorcycle – an amazing life!).

We went to the coolest store in Illinois – Ginger Blossom – a truly AMAZING import/export store – yep, amazing.

When I PAY ATTENTION, I get that I have an amazing life.  When I operate from AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE my life gets more amazing by the moment.

How about you?  Does Mary’s license plate ring true to you?  As always, I’d really like to know!

from http://www.katsaksyoga.com

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Pretty gloomy day here in Chicago yesterday.  And I’m ready to be back at work yet right livelihood hasn’t appeared exactly to the minute on my timetable.  I was feeling pretty glum.

My grandma said “if you’re unhappy, pick up your broom.”  My spiritual path teaches that the way out of our self-absorbed unhappiness is to be of service to others.  So after I painted a door in my basement (“pick up your broom”) I called my friend Kay and asked if she wanted to go visit our friend Ann.

About a month ago Ann, who had a serious stroke 14 years ago, was on her way to a medical appointment with her husband Tom.  They had a head-on car accident and Tom was killed.  Ann’s ‘bad’ leg (the one the stroke left impaired) was crushed.  The stroke left her unable to care for herself – Tom has been doing that.  Her fate is pretty up in the air right now and her day-to-day looks very hard.

We hope our visit was of some cheer to Ann – Kay and I remarked how it didn’t exactly lift our low spirits but that we were very glad we went.

Still feeling glum, I called my best friend who reminded me that walking always helps my disposition.  While on my walk, I got a call from my friend Caryn who reported that her new chemotherapy is working – her cancer cells are WAY down.

That’s when it all came together for me:”

“It’s all right
Even if the sun don’t shine
…happy just to be here
happy to be alive…”

Each morning when I awaken, my initial prayer includes gratitude for my good health and asking God for good health for today.

Kay and I had reflected on our car ride back how lucky we are to drive, to open our water bottle by ourselves, to walk into the house unaided, etc.

I forget that.  I forget how totally blessed I am to have robust good health.  Yes, I focus on health and try to ‘do the next right thing’ – but honestly? Ann probably did too.  Some of it is just ‘luck’/’chance’/being abundantly blessed.

So today, no matter what happens, it’s a GREAT day thanks to the tremendous blessing of health.  I am so grateful, I am so blessed!

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”.  I’ve always taken this cliché to be about missing companions – be it through a simple absence (business trip); a severing of relationship (divorce) or death.  I’d never really thought to apply it in any way other than to people.

I’ve discovered the past few days that it is a corollary of the phrase from some old rock music “you don’t know what you’ve got, until you lose it.”

That song, too, was about lost love.

But as I begin to recover from a rather virulent flu that came in out of nowhere, I’m fondly remembering feeling more robust.  It’s a GORGEOUS morning in Chicago – a perfect day to hop on my new motorcycle and drive around the beautiful countryside near where I live.  While I feel much better than I did yesterday, I’m fondly remembering feeling robust.

I’ve discovered that this “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it” are wonderful doorways to one of my favorite spiritual paths – gratitude.

I could, of course, bemoan my fate (“I’m sick! and it’s gorgeous out! and I’m supposed to leave on Tuesday for a much-desired vacation! Oh! woe is me!”) – and I’ll admit that I DID bemoan the ‘sick before vacation’ part a bit.

Worse yet, I could take offense that ****I*** have been singled out and am unjustly suffering.  So so not true.

I could ignore what’s going on (not so much with this flu….)

Or I can use it as a great springboard.  Wow!  I only have a flu, not cancer like several friends.  And, I have a great health care provider whose tips have already lessened the impact.  I’m feeling much better than yesterday. — I call that situational gratitude – I’m grateful that things are getting better and that my troubles are small.

But I can expand my gratitude. I can think globally – how totally and completely blessed I am compared to the vast majority of the world.  I can put this current malaise into a broader time-span in my own life – yes, I’ve had the flu for a few days, but overall I’ve been blessed with robust good health and with information and helpers to help me maintain practices likely to add to my good health. 

I WOULD like to be out on my motorcycle this morning.  I AM tired of resting and while Lisa’s medicinal tea is most assuredly helping me really I’d rather drink coffee or Good Earth tea.  Those things are true.

What’s also true is:

  • It’s a stunningly beautiful morning in Chicago (no matter if I’m on a bike or on my couch)
  • I’ve gotten to spend a LOT of time with my two precious kittens
  • My natural state of robust, energetic good health is rapidly returning to me
  • I’ve had a lifetime of blessings – in the continuum of time this is a mere drop, compared to the ocean of blessings
  • I’m so much healthier and robust than many other people – I am blessed

Gratitude is not new to me – it’s integral to my spiritual path and has been a daily practice since 1996.  But this turnaround on “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – now that’s new!  And what’s also new, as an aside, is that I had always thought this was another of Ben Franklin’s useful aphorisms.  Turns out is was written by Thomas Haynes Bayly, an English writer, circa 1844.

So how does this apply to YOUR one wild and precious life?  What is currently absent, though generally plentiful, for which you can be grateful.  I really want to know!

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Sundays are Spiritual Day here at Taking it to the Streets

So Valentine’s Day was just a few weeks back and we all got a pretty good feel for the cultural zeitgeist concerning romance – cherubs, roses, heart-shaped everything.  The word “romance” conjures up a look and feel – different for all of us, but we’d all recognize the signposts (just like in another country you can usually figure out “exit” and “bathroom” even if you don’t speak the language).

So – how about spirituality?  Not religion (“Here is the church, here is the steeple…”) but spirituality.  For me, I conjure up imagery relating to peacefulness, nature, meditation – but the overarching feeling that comes up is peacefulness.

I was reflecting today after a particularly emotionally wrenching night last night that sometimes spirituality looks like kindness, compassion, depth, meditation, peacefulness, action, passion – all of that.  And sometimes – well, sometimes to quote my generation’s Poet Laureate “the only thing he knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on.”

I’m a bit “Tangled Up in Blue” (with that same nod to Bob) today and I was thinking – hmm, time to blog, sposed to be on spirituality – maybe I’ll just sit out this dance.

But it struck me that perhaps YOU have days like this, too.  Days when you feel empty, deflated, rejected, beat up and sad.  So where is God on those days?

For me God showed up as my friend Trish – calling me right off this morning to see how I was doing after last night’s encounter with cruelty.  then God showed up as a day of quietly attending to my own life after putting it on hold for four months – clean sheets and a full refrigerator bring one closer to God than I heretofore might have assumed.

Trish had told me she thought she could fix what was ailing my car so I drove up to their house and while one good friend (Trish) fixed my car, her partner, my other good friend (KJ) did a lot of fixing of my heart (I walked in and said “my heart got an owie last night”).

Keep on keepin’ on.  My friend died.  My former sweetheart felt compelled to add insult to injury at the benefit concert for my deceased friend.  My car got an owie and so did my heart. 

You’ve had days like this – and worse.  And we all sometimes would just like to say “{insert bad word here} it!” and woe is me.

But I chose today to be with what is – to allow my heart to feel all the heartache that’s been brewing.  To grieve Becky’s passing, to take in the sense of further hurt and to feel the fool.  And to let that not be all that there is.  Because while feeling those feelings and not running away, I was open to Good (one of God’s aliases).  And Good and Love and Kindness were everywhere I looked.  That didn’t bring Becky back or take away the surprising cruelty I encountered last night.  But it put it all in perspective.  And reminded me that rather than “Life sucks!” I can see that “Life is!” – and allow myself to just let it be.

Where do you find God hiding when life feels bleak?  What reminds you to Be Here Now?

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Life is beautiful

I was taken tonight by how beautiful and sweet life is. And that much that I find meaningful and beautiful is very simple. 

Sometimes I think when people hear talk of living a simpler life, or choosing to live more sustainably, or consciously, or in any way that bespeaks “not mainstream” it sounds like it’s dull, hard or unforgiving in some way.  “Less than”.  For me, that’s SO not true!

I’m hopeful that one of the silver linings in America’s economic meltdown is that people have been forced to look at the American money/stuff/work treadmill and examine what they really need, and how to live their lives. 

I think for me, it’s more about the time I’m at in my life.  To steal from an old Jim Croce song “I’ve looked around enough to know….”   That is, I’ve done the striving/the conniving/the climbing the ladder – and ended up here, at home, at peace, in love with my life and the world.

I have been finding that the more I move away from ‘stuff’ and its accrual/care, etc. the more I can focus on what matters to me – my connections to God, nature, other people.  Creativity, and just loving life.

Some of the things that brought me great joy today:

  • Hanging with ‘my homies’ – a group of women I spend Saturday mornings with who help me dive deeper, get more real
  • Strong black coffee – such a wonderful way to start a day!
  • My workout with my personal trainer – this one IS a monetary indulgence but the rewards seem to me to WAY outpace the investment – I am getting stronger and I like that a lot!
  • Spending a delightful afternoon/evening with a new friend – far-ranging conversation, driving around in the country (ah, McHenry County in fall!), and taking her to see Ginger Blossom – www.gingerblossom.com
  • Woodstock Square – so beautiful – just a walk around the square with a cup of chai and my friend – delightful!
  • And then dinner at a French creperie – savoring the fresh, delicious food, conversation with my friend, the sweet, earnest young waitress, watching night descend on Woodstock Square – exquisite!
  • The moon and the clear night sky (which reminds me that my longtime love, the Winter Night Sky, is soon to be mine again)
  • Finding little gifts for my grandnieces and grandnephews at Ginger Blossom and packaging them up with small notes for each child – you cannot imagine how much joy this gave me for approximately $2 per child (x 11 – still cheap!)
  • And now looking forward to a bath in my clean bathroom, getting into clean jammies, then into newly changed sheets – ah, Saturdays!
  • and looking forward to the book I’m reading now – Three Cups of  Tea

Sara and I talked tonight at the French bistro in Woodstock of visiting the south of France – a place we’ve both been.  I was thinking that while the south of France is arguably one of the prettier places on earth (surely one of the prettiest to which I’ve traveled) that I was as happy today in my little town and then out in McHenry County – as I’ve been in far more exotic locales.  While I’d love to travel internationally again (and I’m sure I will), I can be just as happy on little day-trips – just drinking in beauty and new-ness makes me feel alive.

I think two of the components of Real.Joy.Right.Now are:

  • Being fully present – really SEEING the cool imported objects at Ginger Blossom – drinking each item, imagining the country from which it emanated, appreciating each nuanced part of the whole; noticing the brie, the pancetta, the fresh spinach and the crepe in which they were encased (like French burritos said Sara!) at La Petite Creperie
  • And being grateful.  Last weekend, visiting my Dad and his wife, I was delighted when we sang “Morning has Broken” at their Catholic church.  It’s one we sing sometimes in Unity and a song I (and likely most of my generation) associate with Cat Stevens the iconic singer of my youth.  It has been playing on Radio Diane all week “praise for the singing, praise for the morning….” – being grateful ‘greases the skids’ and ‘creates luck’ I think

So if the simple life seems dull or ‘poor’ in any way, or (worst pejorative in my book!) – boring, well, then I say wake up and say thanks and then see what it looks like to you.   Really, it IS a wonderful life.

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“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all’ Emily Dickinson

I have been feeling an influx of hopefulness lately – crescendoing to a swell this beautiful morning with both the delight of coolness after days of Chicago hot-mugginess, and (more importantly) having my very beloved nephew Owen here visiting after taking the Illinois Bar Exam.

So I can attribute some of my heart’s fullness and joy to these outer events today. And perhaps some of the rather big (for me) dietary changes I’m making are starting to have neurological effects on my brain (learning a lot about that from the book Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity).

I wonder though if it’s that cut and dried. I DO think a wide variety of things affect our moods and worldviews.

But at some level I think it may boil down to desire, willingness and grace.

My mom used to say “You become what you think about” and I’ve been thinking about the life I want to lead. naturally, in placing my order it’s of the happy, joyous and free variety!

I’m willing to do what it takes to get there. I think this involves a lot more changing of little habits and a lot less Big Dramatic Jumps.

And I trust that God’s grace is pouring over my life.

All that said, I have been in periods of my life where it felt like one externally based calamity after another (I’m particularly thinking of 1997-1998 in which my then-partner and I experienced 3 very big deaths in our families within 6 months, one of them the likely murder of her 21 year old nephew). Life can seem capricious and harsh.

And yet, I agree with Emily Dickinson – who continued on to say:

“And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.”

Or – to put it in a slightly more modern way, as Bob Marley said:

“Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

Got hope? I do -you?

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