Day 22: A day at the beach

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee

Last year, six of us were scheduled to go on a surfing trip to the Jersey Shore.   I got a call from the instructor minutes before leaving the house to let me know that the waves and the wind were too high and dangerous for us to try surfing.  Without hesitation everyone agreed that we would still drive down to the beach and make the best of this day.

We arrived and as predicted the wind was blowing hard and the red flag was flapping strongly on the mast to warn everyone to not get into the water.  All of us walked down to the beach, took in the majestic views of the waves and we simply stood there in awe.  We went with the flow throughout the day and found a small more protected beach.  We learned Tai chi and in the end we learned how to paddle board and “surf” without the waves.

I am certain that what made our day so memorable was everyone’s intention to make the best of it, to have fun, to enjoy, to learn, to be together, to just be.  To be present.  And while every day is not going to be “a day at the beach”, that “surf” day taught me to continuously nurture my intention in order to become more present.  Becoming more present can positively transform the way I feel  about my day and each small or large task that fills it.

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Day 15: Before you take that next bite…

An expression of gratitude at Kokoro

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By Lucila McElroy

I consider  myself a person prone to awareness, and expressions, of gratitude.  And I realize that my view has been limited.

Here is what I mean.  I can easily be grateful for food on my shelves.  However, that food came from well stocked grocery store shelves.  Which in turn came from hard working store employees, which in turn came from well established distribution networks, which in turn came from hard working long haul truck drivers, which in turn came from people picking crops in places like Florida and California.

I have well stocked shelves due to the efforts of othersOthers who I don’t see or know.  I am able to eat, drive down roads,  fly to far away places, and enjoy the benefits of electricity due to the efforts of others.

My gratitude now extends further than what I  see which changes my experience of life.  I am happier and life seems richer; more enhanced because of my focus on the hard work and goodness of others.  Seemingly mundane experiences like eating, shopping for food, going to work, driving or parenting are now richer and infused with joy.  This happens when I allow myself to see beyond what I can see.  An apple in my fruit basket now represents the effort, and goodness, of others.  Those people with sore backs at the end of  twelve hour days made it possible for me to eat.

How have the efforts, and kindness, of those you don’t see benefited you?  And how are you grateful?

Day 14: Don’t bang your head against a window.

A mother son moment of gratitude at Pro Elite Nutrition

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
~ Zig Ziglar

By Candice Davenport

As we have been going through this project, part of the practice is seeing things through a different lens. One that looks at the great and little things that make our lives pretty special and rare. So we get the pleasure every once in a while to be there, either behind the window or right next to a person staring at an open canvas of window and they laugh embarrassingly and say, “I don’t know what to write!” Suddenly there is pressure to perform, pressure to write something profound and epic. And a wave of disappointment may wash over their face for one second, disheartened that they really have nothing to be thankful for.

But wait…it’s coming.

Some people put it down. Walk away from the experience. The moment creates too much ‘thought’. I am here to say, ‘folks, come back. You just have not been given enough opportunities to practice! Try again.’

And then, we see it. That moment, where a grateful thought comes into the person’s head and they start to smile. Not only are they smiling but they are radiating joy. Pure energy. And as we watch them we are watching the concentration of a child as they write down as best as they can, “I am grateful for my mommy” or tears in their eyes when they say “I am grateful for a roof over my head”. We hear the laughter when someone reads a child’s entry, “I am grateful I can fart and my family” and we see the joy when a person seizes the moment to acknowledge: “I am grateful for my life (with a heart)”

So as you walk by one of the participating store fronts or by our library or cruising the web and find our blog (which is like a virtual window), consider this an invitation.  Don’t bang your head against the window. Don’t turn away.
Just wait.  The inspiration is coming.

Day 13: No more problems please!

A family expressing their gratitude together at The Roman Gourmet

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. ” African Proverb

“No more challenges please!”.  Do you ever say something like this to yourself?  Do you ever feel like you can’t let go feeling disappointed, upset, down or angry with someone or something  in your life?

What if things could be different?  You see, we are so used to relating to the world as if our happiness is caused by something or someone “out there”.  We look to our friends, our family, our jobs, our houses, our situations to bring us happiness.  We get attached to things in our everyday routines being a certain way and if they don’t go as planned…what happens?  The more deeply we watch our minds we realize just how attached we are.  Think about how you feel when you have a goal and you don’t achieve the outcome.

What if we started to relate to our world differently?  Wouldn’t it FEEL differently?  What if today, you adopted a view that happiness comes from learning to react peacefully to whatever happens to you?  We know this deep down but we don’t often take a moment to contemplate it and act on it.

Don’t you want to become skillful at feeling peace of mind and reacting peacefully regardless of what is going on “out there”?  Well…for that you NEED “rough seas” to practice!  You need challenges to practice reminding yourself that your happiness comes from your reaction and not “them” or “that’ out there.  You need “problems” to practice patience with yourself and others.  You need tough moments in your life to help you see that you can get up again and to see that nothing is permanent.

So if you were relating to the world from this point of view,  perhaps the challenge itself will not be such a “challenge”.  You might even appreciate the challenge and start to see that this is your greatest opportunity to become the skillful sailor of your life.

What are you grateful for today?

Day Twelve: Can the whole world change?

“I understand that others carry burdens I do not see – including burdens I have placed on them by my own self-betrayals… Seeing now with compassion, my view of others changes whether they change or not.” Arbinger Institute, The Choice

  Yesterday, I went to one of our local Gratitude Graffiti Project participating businesses, Strawberry Fields, to take a picture of their window of gratitude.  I was happily met with a window that was so saturated with gratitude you could barely see through it.

So, after one last expression of gratitude on the crowded window, Ben, the nice young man working at the store, helped me to clean and clear the windows so we could allow for more participants to express their gratitude.

And it got me thinking about my own mind and how sometimes I too have to clear my mind, just like we did the window, to be able to create anew.

When my mind is crowded with my to do list, my thoughts  and my irritations, I can’t think clearly.  I can only see the world through the jumbled, hurried and packed mind.  All this without even realizing it.

We can apply the Windex to our mind.  We can sit for a moment, perhaps close our eyes and take in what is there first.  We can notice and observe like we would a window full of graffiti.  Then, we can gently clear it away.  We can make room to create.  Just as the young ladies at Strawberry Fields did yesterday, today, we can create a mind of gratitude, love and compassion.  By so doing, moment by moment, our view of the world changes.

Day Ten: In one minute, you can make a difference today…

Making a difference in our community at Maplewood Karate

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  Albert Schweitzer

Could you be the one that rekindles the light for someone else today? Your words of gratitude can turn someone’s day around.  They have the power to make an ordinary day become more meaningful for someone who reads them.

Last week I received an email from someone  to tell me that after reading some of the gratitude posts  she had experienced a richer day, one where she noticed and appreciated some day to day conveniences she hadn’t before.   She was then inspired to post her words of gratitude with a thought: “Perhaps my words can make a difference in someone’s life today.”

What are you grateful for today?  Gratitude if practiced, has the power to change the ordinary into the extraordinary not only for you but for others.

Day Six: Why be grateful anyway?

An expression of gratitude at Core Mind and Body window

We often think of gratitude as an expression of thanks for a thing or a person and we sometimes forget that we can be grateful for a way of thinking or a way of being or a way of feeling (as expressed so beautifully in the Core Body and Mind window yesterday by one of their clients).

Yesterday I met with four amazing women who shared their wisdom with me.  We discussed the idea of who we want to BE in situations and letting that be our guide for our actions. We want to be loving and compassionate and gentle.  We also agreed that when we don’t act from this way of being, we tend to judge.  We judge ourselves and get angry with others (and ourselves).  But we do experience moments when we are being gentle with ourselves.  We do have moments when we “don’t act according to plan” and we are able to gently return to a place that feels better.  These are the moments we tend to ignore in our moment of gratitude because we are still too busy judging ourselves (or justifying why we acted the way we did).

So today, in this moment, I urge you to look not just at all the things that you are doing wrong but at the moments where you turned things around, or at the moment you let go feeling angry (even if for just a second), or the moment you realized you were acting from a place of judgement and decided to act from a place of love instead.    These are the moments we need to remember to remember (yes, remember to remember!) as often as we can.  This is training our mind like you would other parts of your body.  You wouldn’t expect to do a set of sit ups a day and not see results.  Same goes for practicing gratitude.

Shall we start our first set?

Day four: All can, but most do not.

  Expression of gratitude at Fringe Salon

“If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive the week.  If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the world.  If you have money in the bank or in your wallet, you are among the top 80 percent of the worlds wealthy.  If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.”  Author Unknown

This passage really touched me today.  It reminds me of some of the poignant thoughts I had after returning from Haiti.  I visited a community of people living in tents two years after the earthquake.  Some of the people I spoke with expressed how grateful they felt to be alive and to have found a community of people who care for each other.  They would tell me that even after the devastating earthquake they now felt happier than before.  Others could only see devastation and expressed how angry they were.

I found it interesting how the external conditions were the same for everyone in the camp, but each individual’s  inner perspective created a completely different experience.  We all do this don’t we?

Today, in this moment, you have the chance to create a different experience for yourself and others.  Please, take a moment to contemplate this.  What are you grateful for?

The Gratitude Graffiti Project Makes a Splash on the PATCH

Maplewood: How Grateful Are You? Say it in Writing !

Wow- what a great article. Thank you Carolyn at the PATCH! The Gratitude Graffiti Project is just starting so keep on the look out for more coverage, more hidden messages from the project throughout town, go and visit our libraries on Monday and check out who is participating so far and stop by their stores and write down just 1 thing that you are grateful for!