#289 Blame

“If you are holding anyone else accountable for your peace and happiness, you’re wasting your time.” Oprah Winfrey

Never blame. “My life would be so much better if my spouse would only get their shit together.”

Never blame. “If my childhood hadn’t been so horrible, I could be happy.”

Never blame. “If sexism wasn’t so rampant in my company, I’d be in a better position.”

Never blame, not even yourself. “I’m so stupid. How could I have made such a mistake?”

Think of it this way: blaming is the coward’s way to deal with life. Be fearless! Eschew blaming!

How might you respond instead of blame?

#288 Mary Oliver Poem

A reader sent this in response to my recent Tenacity Notes: “This Mary Oliver poem is a sacred text to me, and I try to say it sometime every morning/day.”

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety —

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us the warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light —
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

#287 Compassion and Kindness

I don’t know how to be compassionate. I don’t know how to be kind.

Well, I do know — kind of. But my compassion and kindness are selective. It’s the election. It’s brought a lot of ugliness out from under the rocks where it’s been hiding. My own included!

Last time I wrote, I was working on “my presence brings peace.” Now I realize that it’s not only my physical presence I need to concern myself with, but it’s also my verbal presence, and my mental presence. My thoughts. My words.

When I consciously switch from my knee-jerk reaction of disgust and actively seek compassion, I do find it. Eventually.

Our automatic responses always bring opportunities for self-awareness and growth. But our automatic responses are slippery and darn near invisible. They’re hard to catch. Here’s a clue, for me anyway — if my response to a person or situation isn’t grounded in kindness, then I need to step back and reconsider. Step back, take a breath, and reach for kindness.

Okey dokey, then. I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’ll let you know.

#286 My Presence

My campaign to TAKE IT UP A NOTCH has so far mostly failed. But I have learned some things about myself. Well, not learned exactly, because I have always known, and even appreciated, this about myself — I tend to be oppositional and confrontative. And, which I have known and haven’t appreciated about myself, judgmental. Then I received this reply from a reader, telling me the affirmation she uses to foster her awareness of her effort to take it up a notch, and it woke me up.

“My presence creates peace.”

Personally, my presence, tending as it can towards the oppositional and confrontative and judgmental, does not always create peace. So now I have my guideline, a specific way to take my practice of love and gratitude up a notch. My PRESENCE creates peace — just my very presence.

Oh yes, I see the challenge in this, especially concerning certain racist and sexist people in my life. Oh yes, mastering “my presence creates peace” will certainly help me TAKE IT UP A NOTCH.

“My presence creates peace” is not about being passive. It is an active presence, but it is not necessarily action. How will I do it? Wish success for me!

#285 Take It Up A Notch

I’m tying a string around my finger now for sure.

I have long enjoyed Rob Brezsny’s astrology newsletter. He’s got a quirky style that pleases me, and he sometimes reminds me to pay attention to something that I’ve neglected.

His current newsletter tells me to be in love with everyone and everything, and to conjure up almost superhuman levels of generosity.

Love and generosity are practices that I have been happily engaging in for several years, although I admit I’ve been somewhat casual about it. Now here’s the suggestion that I take my practice more seriously, take it up a notch. Just how will I do that? Maybe I should go live in a monastery, where the day is built around meditation, and distractions are kept to a minimum. Well, that’s not likely — so then what?

Awareness is what. Being present and aware in my daily life. Aware of what? Aware of love and aware of generosity (which added together equal joy) in all of my actions and interactions in my day. Take my awareness up a notch, and I can take my practice of love and generosity up a notch.

Hmm, just as I finished typing that last sentence, I looked out my window and saw the poplar and cottonwood trees shimmering and glittering in the breeze. And I am filled with delight and gratitude. I close my eyes, take a breath, and smile. Then I look again, and the shimmering looks rather like applause, and I imagine the trees, who I greet with gratitude every day, approve of my desire to “take it up a notch.”

Are the trees really communicating with me?  Could be. Who knows? Which reminds me of a song from West Side Story — Something’s Coming, which is one of my theme songs. That, and Almost Like Being In Love, from Brigadoon. (Song) Okay, now I’m rambling.

And now I’m tying a string around my finger, to remind me to TAKE IT UP A NOTCH!

#284 How to Accept Gladness

I was pondering a line from poet Jack Gilbert, sent to me by a reader: “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” I was wondering about the ruthless furnace of this world and all the forms it takes, and how to stay connected to gladness in the face of it.

The day after I got the email with that quote, I got an email from another reader, which seemed to address my wonderings perfectly. She said, “Look at this ancient wisdom I am finding in my unfiled emails!!” And this is what she sent, Tenacity Notes #65. From 6 years ago! It is so nice to have these reminders! I wrote it after I’d been in bed with pneumonia for many days. It says:

“I got a bit barky after being sick for so long (just ask Debra!) The other thing I got was bleak. Depressed. Life seemed gray. I’d been sick in one way or another since late September, culminating with pneumonia. I hadn’t been breathing much at all, just little shallow breaths, certainly not my 15 minutes of intentional breathing. I was ill, I was hurting, and I was bummed out.
As I lay in bed feeling bleak, I asked myself some questions. It seemed obvious that feeling good physically makes it easier to feel good generally. But is it a given that my physical state determines my mental state? Don’t I know something that could be of use to me now?

I remembered that many of you had written to me about your delight in using the practice of emanating love. One of you said, “It’s like a charm.”

So as I lay in bed, coughing, short on oxygen, and feeling weak and depleted, I emanated love. It worked like a charm!  Bleakness fled, depression lifted, and I felt something like contentment. Now, whenever I begin to feel glum, I take that as a reminder to emanate love.

Feeling glum is my ally, it reminds me to emanate love! There are lots of other allies, too. Fear, anxiety, blame, shame, comparing, judgment, crabbiness, aloofness, and so on and so forth. All of them allies, reminding me to emanate love.

It’s true that I generally consider myself to be of robust health, and even at my sickest I knew it would pass. I don’t in any way want to make light of anyone else’s suffering. But I do want to gently suggest that if you’re ever feeling glum, try emanating love.

We practice emanating love for the joy of it. And we also practice so that when we come up against a tough situation, we have well-honed skills readily at hand.”

Emanating love is a way to accept your gladness.

#283 Never Pass Up an Opportunity

I said to a friend, who was complaining about something his wife wanted — never pass up an opportunity to be generous! I say it to people who are appalled that I give roadside beggars money — never pass up an opportunity to be generous.

I’ll say it again and again — NEVER PASS UP AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE GENEROUS.

Generosity often includes money, but not always. Be generous with kindness, with time, with acceptance, with curiosity, with everything. If you start paying attention, you’ll see that there are dozens of times every day to practice generosity.

Never pass up an opportunity to be generous — genuine, open-hearted, open-handed, non-self-aggrandizing, joyful generosity.