Issue 41 A Day of Giving Thanks
A Day of Giving Thanks
As I was heading home yesterday, my thoughts drifted to the word “thankful.” Perhaps, it was because Thanksgiving was coming up and I was thinking about all the things for which I was thankful. How difficult could that be? After all, I journal everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. Somehow, I wasn’t in the mood. Somehow, I didn’t want to think about my journal and all the gratitudes with which I filled the pages—everyday.
It’s funny. Now that I think about it, I find myself contributing entries to my journal during times I feel the most sad, dissatisfied and disenchanted with life. I realized that it has become my little tool of distraction to cover up how I really feel at that moment. And no, I never use it as a diary as I have advised countless of individuals—the journal is not a diary of woes. It is for anything for which you feel grateful. It could be a synchronous event or something we did of which we were proud—something positive that propels us forward.
My teachings remind me that we must always strive to confront head on, sit with and “be” with our feelings, most importantly, the ones that bring us down. It is only then that the feelings can be released. Otherwise, they just get covered up and eventually rear their ugly heads at the next available opportunity. So, as I counseled others frequently, in these situations, make time to sit in meditation and allow whatever needs to come out and be released. Our job is to simply observe and not interfere with the process.
It also occurred to me that journaling in such a way could be dishonest, but maybe not pointless (I could go back and read them and feel grateful at another time). They say that the God and the universe know when you are lying about your feelings. To write down we are grateful when we are feeling anything but, seems to act in a counterproductive manner. And yet, should we still do it? I decided—yes, sure, why not? Even when we don’t feel like heroes or warriors of life that very second, we can still recognize and embrace everything we can be grateful for. Whatever and however we are feeling at any given moment, the truest essence of us still knows what is beautiful about ourselves and the world around us.
Earlier today, I had a very lengthy conversation with an old friend of mine who launched a lucrative grassroots business almost 10 years ago. Apparently, during a recent merger, a complication arose over a clause in the contract that favored the partner company, a clause that was carelessly missed by his own legal advisor, whom he considered to be a trusted friend he had known for years. He accused his friend of doing him in. He went on to say how disappointed he was that his friend did not have his back after all. I recalled how he used to sing his praises. I vaguely remember meeting his legal friend once in the past and how he arrogantly remarked that he vowed to take down anyone who would would dare harm my friend. I remember thinking, “Oh, how noble. You don’t see that everyday.”
To make matters worse, his legal friend had recently avoided his phone calls, text messages and emails. When he does answer, the explanations are dismissive, flippant, vague and noncommittal. Expectedly, my dear old friend has been beside himself with worry, stress and anxiety. He expressed privately to me that his main fear was that he would lose the company he had worked so hard to build. He felt desperate. For the first time, I saw tears welling up in his eyes. In all the years I’ve known him, he has always been the positive one, always telling me how I had to let things roll off my back. It broke my heart to see this side of him. At the same time, his situation made all the reasons I felt sorry for myself like a walk in the park.
More importantly, listening to what he was dealing with helped me bring home what I had forgotten and brought me full circle back to an awareness of what our life journey is really all about.
As I was busy reminding him, I was also bending my own ear that there is a reason for everything that happens, despite what our specific feelings regarding them are and that sometimes becomes obvious later on. I try to remember that things don’t happen to us. Things just simply happen. All events, as unpleasant as they seem at the time they occur, do nevertheless serve a purpose of some sort. It is said that all that happens lifts us to a higher purpose. This can be a real challenge to realize sometimes when all we can feel is the pain at that very moment. Everything that I have read and come to understand embrace the phenomenon that the universe always conspires to bring us closer to our goals that are connected to whatever we are passionate about. It transports us to our truest intentions, where our lives were meant to be. The more consciously aware we are, the more we intuitively know this. The less consciously aware we are, the more confused and fearful we become, at which point we become highly reactive to our surroundings and external environment as we assume the role of victimhood. Our cortisol levels go up and we become sick.
My friend listened intently and he remained silent, pensive as I spoke. I asked him to consider if there was more he could do that he had done yet and if there was not, could he be ok with it. He admitted that the outcome now was out of his control but he wasn’t sure he could accept this. I asked him if it would make any difference in the consequence whether or not he accepted the current situation. He shook his head no. I then explained to him that at least if he chose to accept everything as it played out, he would possess some level of control. Exercising choice of perception is control. When he did not appear convinced, I asked him would any of this matter if today was the last day he would be alive on this earth? All of a sudden this internal bulb lit up. He understood.
I added that when one door, one window closes, another opens. We just have to exercise presence and pay attention. He remained attentive filled with a strange curiosity. Sometimes, I told him, things happen not to us but things just happen and by chance, we are at the same place at that time. I reminded him that everyone has a purpose in this lifetime equipped with a set of actions. On a daily basis, I witness how many individuals are not actually living, seemingly unaware of much other than robotically acting out the day-to-day grind, all predictable, all routine, all scheduled, all planned out with nothing left to spontaneity. Then, we die.
Canadian-litigator-turned personal growth author and speaker for Fortune 500 business folk, Robin Sharma, states that when interviewed, the most financially successful individuals on their deathbed confessed that they realized too late that the most important things in life were not the things they chased after and acquired. They were inevitably always the people and things right in front of them, things they always had but ignored. The greatest gifts are never the ones we have to get from the external. They are always the things we “let” in from the internal.
I then told my friend to step back further still and observe all that was happening and briefly put aside any judgment. Did it ever occur to him that perhaps his life journey was taking him to a higher calling, somewhere even better than what he was about to lose and that at the end of the day, his friend unknowingly was also playing out a part in his own journey that had really nothing to do with my friend, but that their paths simply just crossed? In his eyes there seemed to be a cause and effect, but perhaps one had nothing to do with the other. Both just happened to be at the same place simultaneously. He looked down at that moment and was reflective. He nodded. He understood what I was saying.
In my experience, whenever I label events in terms of cause and effect, I know that the egoic mind is trying to find plausible and logical explanations. It is constantly searching for evidence and reasons within the realm of the circumstances. Most of the time things happen that defy our definition of logic and the reasons seem to tread upon the illogical. This usually means that the powers-that-be are giving us an upgrade, a promotion, if you will. Most of us find this scenario to be challenging, unnerving, even frightening. After all, it is much easier to see all that we will lose than to grasp all that we will gain. I try to live with the motto that if things are spiraling out of my control, my job is to let it and see where it takes me. I tell myself that if there is something I can do, I will do it. If not, just lose the marbles and see where they roll and fall. Perhaps they will lead me to more of what aligns with what resonates with me.
Robin Sharma also reminds us that we need to get clear about our goals.
“Vague goals lead to vague outcomes.”
I think about that statement a lot especially when I am journaling. Sometimes I can’t tell if the moments I am feeling low are a consequence of my “vague” goals or if old trauma is trying to be released. However, if I take the time to sit and do the “M” word—meditation—the heaviness clears without any effort on my part and this incredible peace just comes through me. So, I just continue to live each day in moments, remembering to be grateful for all that the egoic mind labels as bad or good because they are all lessons and to release judgment on those I feel have not walked the right path nor have served others well. The latter is difficult. We are all “judgy.” I try to remember that if I have to do so much inner work to remain sane, to remain consciously aware of my path, to not be affected by the external, and to always remain in coherence and present, I cannot imagine others who have not an inkling of an idea of what I just wrote here.
Here is one of my short and sometimes seemingly silly list of things I’m grateful for:
—my life (and all the fixings)
—all the love within me
—all the love that surrounds me
—the ability to love
—the peace within me
—the peace around me
—the beauty of nature
—the clothes on my back
—the roof over my head
—the experiences I am having
—the ability to write
—the ability to play the piano
—the ability to sit in a chair
—the ability to walk
—the ability to talk
—the ability to rise every morning
—the ability to see the sunrise
—the ability to see the sunset
—the ability to meditate
—the ability to laugh
—the ability to smile
—the ability to cry
—the ability to feel grateful
—the joy within
—the joy around me
—the opportunity to serve others
—every full moon
—the feel of grass under my feet
—having books to read
—the sweet smell of the earth after the rain
—knowing how to use chopsticks
—food on my table
Take a few minutes right now and get out your journal or a piece of paper and write down without thinking too much 50 things you are grateful for this very moment. Read each one out loud and reflect on what each truly means to you.
After the above exercise, write down the one thing you would do if you had only 24 more hours of life on earth. Then, consider taking time out of your however busy life to do that.
In this season of giving and receiving thanks, I am determined to navigate this existence with less fear and more curiosity, less irritation and more love, less judgment and more acceptance, less worry and more presence, less regret and more growth, less disappointment and more patience, and finally, less complaint and more gratitude. Keep journaling and meditating.
Time to take a breather:
—Sit comfortably and breathe through your nose slowly while tracking the breath down to the belly allowing the belly to expand (5-7 seconds) and then release through the mouth squeezing the belly back towards the spine (5-7 seconds). Do this 2 more times. This forms a positive feedback cycle between the mind and the body.
—Today, instead of using the finger tips, form fists and gently strike both areas next to the breast bone (like King Kong) for 10 seconds. Remember to continue slow breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is a Qi Gong exercise that also serves to open up the meridian channels and allow energy (chi) to flow freely.
—Then, open up the fists and using the palms, gently slap down on the area where the shoulder joins the chest, right palm to the left shoulder and left palm to the right shoulder. Do this for 10 seconds each.
—Then, hold out the right arm with the palm facing down and with the left hand continue gently slapping down the entire length of the arm to the wrist. Then, turn up the right palm to face up and with the left hand continue gently slapping down the entire length of the right arm to the wrist. Do this for 10 seconds each.
—Reverse the arms and repeat.
—Conclude with the breathing exercises from the first section above. You may feel a fine tingling or mild vibration sometimes. This is normal and is the energy flowing through the body.
—If it calls to you, continue with your eyes closed and just sit quietly for 20 to 40 minutes more, focusing on the ambient noises around you, being aware of your body, your breathing and heartbeat and just listen to the silence. If this is the start of your morning, open your eyes slowly and begin your day either exercising or journaling. If this is at bedtime, just go to sleep afterwards.
(Remember to always let your healthcare practitioner know what exercises you are doing)
Thank you for reading. My goal is that you found one thing meaningful to elevate your life. If you know someone who may benefit from this article, click SHARE and tell them to SUBSCRIBE to this free weekly newsletter. If there was something particular that you found to be especially helpful or you have questions about this newsletter, click COMMENT and let me know.
Until next time, may you always be blessed with love, peace, joy and light,
Celeste Amaya, MD