It’s interesting to me how many people tell me that I’m a Buddhist. I have never studied Buddhism. I am not at all inclined towards religion. Any religion. I would never call myself a theist. But hearing so often that I’m a Buddhist has gotten me to wondering where my values and my world view came from.
Two institutions influenced me in my youth. Girl Scouts and Jesus.
Although I am not religious, and did not grow up in a religious family, I did attend 12 years of Catholic school. Unlike some Christian sects, Catholics, it seems to me, concerned themselves more with the New Testament than with the Old Testament. So over the years of my education, I developed an idea of Jesus — he was the son of god and he was also a man. He was an itinerant teacher; he befriended and hung out with the poor, the sick, and the outcasts. This last included women. He was kind. He was generous. He was not enamored of the wealthy.
Girl Scouts showed me how to follow Jesus’s example. We learned to help other people at all times. We learned to be useful; to leave a place better than we found it; to be a friend to animals; to be courteous and cheerful. We visited the sick and we fed the hungry. We learned to be trustworthy. To be generous. To be kind. We matured into humility. We learned all this by doing. In addition, we learned to paddle a canoe, to build a campfire and cook on it, to pitch a tent, to use a compass and a map.
That’s it — Girl Scouts and Jesus, the guides of my youth. Both of them taught me about love in action; love in the every day real world.
I had many teachers after that, but the trajectory of my life never changed much from the path that the Girl Scouts and Jesus set me on.
Appreciation is an experience that keeps me present in the moments of my life. It’s very easy for me to drift, to have my mind far away from my body. But appreciation keeps my body and my mind in the same place and in the same time. And it feels good!
Gratitude is my communication with all that I appreciate. I say thanks to the tree and to the river and to my tiny home. I flash a smile of gratefulness to the Mockingbird and the Blue Jay. I gratefully inhale the scent of rain.
There is a lot to appreciate in every moment. Saying thank you to all that I appreciate is an act of praise, an outpouring of joy.
Sometimes it feels like life is going too fast, and that I can barely remember who I was at 23, when I thought I knew who I was. So much has happened between then and now!
Doing some minutes of conscious breathing every day helps gather together all the disparate threads of who I am, who I was, and who I still hope to be.
Remember the Breath and Water Club? 15 minutes of conscious breathing, twice a day. A balm for the tattered and scattered.
All this political stufff is driving me crazy. And I don’t even have a TV!
My granddaughter, Amberley Brynn McGuire, was born a few days ago. I find myself wondering, “What kind of future can this child have? If some people have their way, she won’t have health care, or birth control, or any type of equality. She probably won’t have water or clean food. She won’t have unions or social security. She won’t have…”
Then, looking at her picture on my Facebook page, I happened to glance at a Tenacity Notes, also posted on Facebook. June 10, “Lamentations.” In it, I suggest that focusing on solutions feels better than lamenting. In fact, I suggest a specific solution. Whew, just what I needed!
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that I sometimes look at back issues of Tenacity Notes.
Remember a couple of issues ago, I talked about pausing to experience gratitude every time I got in my car?
Well, the circumstances of my life got a bit whirly, and I completely forgot that lovely practice. However, after some time I came to my senses, and I started again. And am I ever glad I did.
Here’s the thing — once I began my car = gratitude practice again, everything changed. Even though it’s also true that nothing changed — the circumstances didn’t change a bit. But my interpretation of those same circumstances changed considerably — and so my experience of those circumstances changed. Whirly-ness departed. Worry retreated. Sleep became easy and restful. And solutions presented themselves to me. Just like that! (Imagine me snapping my fingers. And grinning.)
On a more personal note, today is my mother’s 102nd birthday. And she is just fine, thank you. Still quick-witted, healthy, and relatively mobile. I am very like her, and I’m only 67, so I’m planning on being around for quite a long time yet.
Also, Debra and I are about to join the fall Snowbird migration. Next week we’ll be in Apple Valley, MN for several days, then we’ll mosey on down to our winter home in a State Park in Texas.
Lately, in an attempt to soothe feelings of disappointment, I’ve been saying “it is what it is” to myself.
You know, expectations cause such trouble! In my case, I had not just a simple expectation, but an entire string of expectations. And, as is their nature, my expectations were a set up. I set myself up. How much less wrenching it would have been if I had had curiosity about the situation, rather than dreaming up a whole story (a novel!) about how the situation would unfold.
But I digress. We’ve discussed expectations plenty in the past. Enough of that for now. Back to “it is what it is.”
What I find when I say “it is what it is” is space. I find open-hearted, present-time space. I find space that makes room for wonder, for appreciation, and for gratitude. I find respite from my nattering, recriminatory mind. I find ease. I find a balm for my sad disappointment. “It is what it is.”
A reader writes about gratitude, and a great way to fall asleep:
I like to write gratitudes in my journal just before bed, but often, like you, I forget to do it.
So after I’m luxuriating under the covers and feeling great gratitude for my pillows and sheets and wonderful mattress, I remember about gratitudes, and then I recite the things I’m grateful for that day/night.
Helps me fall asleep.