As we come up on Thanksgiving my Facebook feed is starting to fill up with commentary about “The real history of Thanksgiving.” Most of it is true, and most of it I am familiar with. America was built on the backs of people who shared their labor and their knowledge. Rather than responding with gratitude, our white European fore bearers appropriated their gifts and made sure their stories written out of history.
So I want to take some time to be grateful. I am grateful to be able to live on this bounteous beautiful land.
I am grateful for wild rice, and corn, and pumpkins and all the food that is indigenous. I’m grateful to see tribal people standing up for their land rights against fracking and pipeline building, knowing how destructive those technologies are to the environment. I’m grateful for the people who share the history not taught in our schools and who tell the stories of the downtrodden.
I’m grateful for the immigrant cultures that have brought so much variety to my life. I’m grateful for fried rice and tortillas and collard greens.
I’m grateful for print and color patterns and architectural wonders that were never a part of my European heritage. I’m grateful for literature with points of view that are different from my own, but which make it easier for me to shift my own perspective. I’m grateful for the music, the meditation, and the technologies that make my life easier and more pleasant.
I have been blessed in my life with the opportunity to travel. I have been in positions to decorate my home with artwork from other cultures. I have had the opportunity to work and play and truly get to know people whose upbringing was very different from my own.
I’ve recently started an online meditation series Headspace. As I move through the meditation lessons they ask me to reflect on who else benefits from my practicing these techniques. Trying to build a business speaking on spirituality I ask myself, “who do I serve? Who needs to hear what I have to say?”
I think the cultures and people who supported the development of this country had that attitude.
“How can I help? Who can I serve?”
I think our culture has an attitude of “What do I get out of it?” I’d rather live with the former.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to try.
The wheel of the year keeps turning and I’m still running to catch up. I starting the morning with, “What do you mean it’s already Monday again?!?” The leaves are finally starting to turn, about two weeks behind. I’m feeling about two weeks behind as well. Unfortunately, my schedule isn’t.
Sometimes when things are this hectic, and there is no end to the hectic in sight the best thing to do is actually to stop. Take a moment and breathe. Give myself permission to simply be present and grateful and still. Setting a timer is sometimes a necessary component in this formula. If I don’t set the alarm I spend the time worrying about how much time I’m taking. If I do set a timer I can trust that it will go off and I will move on.
So let’s take a minute (no really, one minute) and breathe together…..
Take a deep breath in
Let it out with a long exhale
Take another deep breath, slowing it down just a little
And simply let it slowly release
Let’s be in our bodies, simply allowing the experience we are experiencing. Noticing where we are in space. Noticing what does or doesn’t hurt. Not correcting, or compensating but simply accepting what is. Let’s be in our bodies.
Let’s open our hearts to gratitude. Today, in this moment I am grateful for taking a breath. I am grateful for the friends who are lending a hand this week. I am grateful for the family that is pitching in or simply making space in their lives for me. I am grateful to be up and moving and writing and continuing forward with my plans. I am grateful for all of the people who take time to share this moment with me, in their own time. I am grateful for all the bounty in my life.
Take a deep breath in
Let it out long and slowly
Dinner Friday evening was a surprise. The oven failed to light. Now, I’ve been struggling with this stove for awhile and I know the oven’s been acting up. Since I still couldn’t get it to light by Sunday I resigned myself to a new stove as well. I have been resolved to get a handle on my financial situation for awhile now. This is not helpful!
How many of you have all ready managed to break your New Years resolutions? Have any of you ever managed to keep a resolution for a whole year?
The New Oxford American Dictionary that came loaded into my laptop defines resolution as follows:
resolution |ˌrezəˈloō sh ən|noun1 a firm decision to do or not to do something : she kept her resolution not tosee Anne any more | a New Year’s resolution.• a formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting, typically after taking a vote : the conference passed two resolutions.• the quality of being determined or resolute : he handled the last French actions of the war with resolution. See note at courage .
2 the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter : thepeaceful resolution of all disputes | a successful resolution to the problem.• Music the passing of a discord into a concord during the course ofchanging harmony.• Medicine the disappearance of inflammation, or of any other symptom or condition.
3 chiefly Chemistry the process of reducing or separating something into its components.
I happen to prefer the second definition especially at this time of year. The action of solving a problem or a contentious matter. The passing of discord into concord. I suspect that most of our New Years resolutions stem from some kind of discord in our lives, dissatisfaction with ourselves or desire for something different. The proclamation that we’re going to resolve that problem in a years time is often quite ambiguous. I resolve to lose 100 lbs this year. There is no real plan of action for how to go about that momentous task.
When I make a New Years resolution I usually manage to hang on to it for about 3 weeks. When I approach a problem with resolve I’m much more likely to gnaw away at it until it comes into harmony. I’m likely to pick it apart and find out what I can get done immediately. I worry the rest of it until either I solve the problem or decide it isn’t worth continuing to fuss about. Then I cheerfully leave it behind without any guilt or concern that I failed.
It seems to me that a New Years resolution is like credit card debt. Great instant gratification and guilt for an extended time down the road. Sadly, as I’ve found this year, sometimes that credit card debt seems pretty unavoidable. Unless of course your resolutions tend to be more in line with the old custom of Braggarts Toast. The drinking game where each in turn says they are going to do some great deed topping the last toast made, and we all drink to that.
So the first person says they are going to lose that 100 lbs this year, and we all drink to that. The next person says they’re going to take that 100 lbs of fat and turn it into 30 lbs of lean muscle tissue, and we all drink to that. The next person says they’re going to use their lean muscle tissue to repave the road the city never gets to, and we all drink to that. The next person isn’t just going to repave the road they’re going to build a whole mass transit network, and we all drink to that. You get the idea. The only guilt involved with that kind of braggarts resolution is from the hangover the next day!
I decided a long time ago that I was giving up on New Years resolutions. I didn’t like beating myself up for a month over it. I do a little better with shorter term goals that with this kind of big promise. I do think it’s a good time of year for visioning. I like to take a little time out to meditate on how I would like my life to look, how I see myself, in December next year. Because this is a wish, there are no strings attached. Often though, the visioning can serve as a carrot throughout the year to get myself somewhere I really want to be. Better for me to work towards something than against.
I hope that whatever you’ve resolved, what ever issues you have resolve about, and whatever New Years visions you hold that the coming year holds many blessings and pleasant surprises. I wish you great joy and laughter in 2012. May your spirit be filled with love and peace.
I’m sipping at my wild rice soup and thinking about what to do with the rest of the leftovers. I have a hand with leftovers. I’m very good at reshaping them, freshening them up and making them seem like something new. Of course there are some leftovers that are best untouched like lasagna or the nibbles out of the turkey meat.
I have done a lot of event cooking. Planning and preparation for groups of 20-50 for an entire weekend , usually Thursday night through Sunday lunch. I plan those meals with an eye for leftovers. I know if I cook extra of something on Friday and I can use it in a meal on Saturday it will save time as the program gets more intense and I won’t have as many leftovers at the end. It saves money too as I can buy more ingredients in bulk when they are shared throughout the weekend.
Then I started thinking about leftover time. You know, those little pieces in the day where there isn’t enough time to start a new project before the next scheduled event. The time spent waiting, for someone to arrive, for the Doctor to call, and in line. The time that shows up suddenly because you finished a task early. The time you know from experience will show up because something or someone always runs late. Even the commercial breaks could be considered leftover time.
I must admit that I am not nearly as proficient in my use of leftover time as I am with my leftovers from dinner. I squander it away like dropped pennies. I have a tendency to eat when I’m bored, so while it may not be a great surprise that I’m good with food leftovers that doesn’t serve me when it comes to leftover time. I am a reader and there are some kinds of books that don’t mind being picked up and put down in small pockets of time. Those tend to be fiction without much suspense or action. Anything else I’m liable to stay up until 4 am to finish rather than put them down. Not good candidates for leftover time.
I’ve certainly been given plenty of suggestions over the years of things to occupy me in those leftover moments. Most women have had kegels suggested to them. There are breathing and stress release exercises. There is the one minute meditation. Every physical therapist I’ve ever worked with has made a suggestion about exercises during those leftover moments, “when you think of it.” I am sorry to report that physical therapy exercises are about the last thing that comes to mind in those little bits of leftover time.
The reality is that even if I do think to take a quick walk, or pick up a little around the house, or empty the dishwasher I’m more likely to reach for a video game on my laptop. I have whiled away hours of leftover time pressing the buttons on an online slot machine or matching slingo dots. In fact I feel almost virtuous if I reach for the crossword puzzle book rather than the computer games.
So maybe, with the crazy mad rush of the holiday season upon us, I could make better use of those leftover moments. Maybe I could be a little more conscious of breathing and letting go. Maybe I could reach for the computer and write for ten minutes rather than find something to eat. Maybe I could even try a physical therapy exercise or two.
What do you do with your leftovers?
Thanksgiving – the expression of gratitude. Those of us who run in spiritual circles hear a lot about gratitude. There are numerous books in the market on the topic. It’s become almost a buzzword. But there is a huge difference between saying thank you and feeling grateful from the tips of your toes.
Gratitude in an emotional context feels both humble and bounteous. Gratitude comes with an upwelling of joy and love. It is a giving back, thanks in love returned for gifts received. There is a Norse tradition expressed in the rune Gifu. Acceptance of a gift obligates, a gift for a gift. But when gifts are exchanged in gratitude that obligation becomes joyful and burden-less.
The holiday this week brings gratitude, thankfulness, into our cultural awareness. Many of us find ourselves fulfilling family obligations, and often with more trepidation than joy. Is this a holiday of food and football? Is this a celebration of white privilege, colonial expansion and manifest destiny? Even staying in the moment can be difficult as many of us use the day to scan the ads and plan our black Friday shopping expeditions.
In an effort to stay present in the moment and to experience the week in gratitude I have written a short mediation, a prayer if you will, that I would like to share with you here. If you like it I would ask you to please share my blog, pass it on.
I breathe deeply, in and out.
I can be grateful for my breath in and out.
I breathe in and fill my body with gratitude.
I breathe out and release that which does not serve my greater purpose.
I am grateful for my breath.
I breath into my body. My chest moves as I breath. My belly moves as I breath.
I can be grateful for my body as it contains my breath.
I breathe in and fill my body with gratitude.
My body moves in gratitude.
My body carries gratitude into the world.
I am grateful for my body.
I live in my body, moved by my breath in each moment of my life.
I can be grateful for my life.
My life is lived in gratitude.
My life is filled with gifts and opportunities for giving.
I am grateful for my life.
I haven’t been sleeping well lately. This isn’t entirely uncommon, but usually I can identify a specific cause. Scary movies have been keeping me awake since I was a kid, so I don’t usually see them. Pain often keeps me awake and I can’t say I’ve been “pain free”, but I don’t really think it’s been that bad. Stress will keep me awake going over my “to do” list or worrying a problem, but that’s not what I’m doing. Drinking a pot a day of really good strong coffee (Jamaica Blue Mountain!) might keep me awake, but that was weeks ago.
It’s certainly affecting the basic thinking process and even more the creative process. I can’t seem to stay on topic or keep track of my schedule. I have 3 blog drafts started (this is the fourth) and I can’t seem to figure out where to go with them after the second paragraph. I had the annual meeting on my son’s care this week which I totally spaced until they called to cancel and reschedule. (Someone is looking out for me!)
When I struggle to get to sleep I often meditate in bed. That can cause issues for people with both meditating and with sleeping. I know plenty of folks who train themselves to fall asleep during a meditation. I also know that sense of needing to get to a meditative state before sleep is even an option. My trick for dealing with that is positional. I meditate on my back and I sleep on my side. It’s enough of a difference so that I don’t fall asleep meditating. It’s easy enough that I get the benefits of having relaxed in the meditation to fall asleep.
But this week getting to sleep doesn’t really seem to be the problem. It’s staying asleep I’m struggling with. The sleep apnea thing is always a possibility. I’ve been struggling with my panic attacks when I use the mask for a year and a half. Still can’t get through the night with it on, but I can take a nap for as much as 2 hours and that’s a huge improvement. So even if I go to bed using the bi-pap machine, I’m awake enough at least once, 2 hours later, to take the mask off roll over and go back to sleep.
I suspect that’s actually part of the issue. I seem to have taught myself to sleep in 2 hour chunks and then wake up. Now I wake up plenty even on a good night, but there’s a difference between waking up with, “What time is it? Is the alarm going off soon?” and waking up with, “pillow, switch sides, sleep.”
It could also be the dream pillow I’ve recently added to my pillow pile. I don’t remember my dreams well except the occasional dream I’m having as I wake up. Maybe my subconscious is interpreting making a dream pillow as a cue to make me remember all of my dreams? Or maybe I’m just allergic enough to the dust and mold on the herbs to make sleeping difficult, back to the breathing issues.
Whatever it is that’s keeping me from sleeping at least I’ve managed to find SOMETHING I can blog about for more than a couple of paragraphs. Hopefully by next week I will have gotten a good night sleep. I may have to have a chat with Morpheus.