Tag Archive | gratitude practice

Harmony

The bucks are out strutting today, stalking after one another or does. Magnificent creatures. They show no fear as I walk up to open the driveway gate. I’m grateful to live in harmony with wild animals.

I’m grateful to have the ingredients, the recipe, and the skills to bake crusty sourdough rolls in lieu of buying them, saving me a trip into the grocery store, where pretty much everyone has decided there’s no more pandemic, if there ever was one. I’m grateful to see truth clearly.

Acceptance

I realized the second I hit “Publish” last night that I had just spouted something old, a view at odds with what I actually currently believe. Yes, intellectually, philosophically, mentally, we are each alone; but, fundamentally, energetically, elementally, spiritually, we are All One. All sentient beings are interconnected in ways Western science has yet to fully comprehend, but at the forefront of consciousness studies is the dawning recognition that we are literally all connected. So, when I remember this, and I think in cosmic terms, and even in the sense of community, networks of friendship and support, I do recognize that I’m not really alone.

Further, I really feel this in my bones, my inherent belonging in this world teeming with life. From the microorganisms living in symbiosis with my body whose cells outnumber my human cells 10:1, to the insects in my summer yard, to the brilliant avifauna of tropical forests represented in today’s completed puzzle, we depend upon each other. We are all animated by the same force. We just don’t really understand what that is yet, or what to call it. Life. But I feel it. I’ve lived close to the earth for most of my life in one way or another. The boundary between inside and outside is quite permeable at my house. Even as a little girl climbing the poplar tree, and hating boys who burned ants with a magnifying glass, I’ve felt my connection with all living things profoundly for as long as I can remember. It’s made for a hard life, among a species who’s so hard on the planet. I’m grateful for acceptance, resilience, and equanimity, all recent acquisitions which contribute to contentment and joy, even in times of loss and grief.

Solitude

Tableau: Resilience

I pay a lot of lip service to solitude. But it hasn’t really been solitude all these years, it’s been the absence of live-in human companionship. There has always been a strong dog presence in my home, for 38 of the past 40 years, and those two dogless years were back in my 20s. Now I am without a dog again, and living alone, truly alone, because you can’t really count an aloof cat and a hibernating tortoise. It is cold comfort that I have no regrets about euthanizing Stellar when I finally chose to: I’m still alone. But, the truth is, I am always alone, no matter what connections I recognize; we are all always, ultimately, alone. So I’m grateful for the capacity for solitude, and for the opportunity to explore it in more depth than I have for the past forty years, with gentle curiosity and self-compassion.

Grateful for whimsy and imagination

Here I am doing a beautiful Liberty Puzzle, and thinking of Auntie, who introduced me to the joy of these remarkable functional artworks; very aware of her absence. Listening to Eva Cassidy crooning Songbird, keenly aware of her premature death. Hearing the absence of Stellar’s every breath. So much loss! It’s only human. And it’s human also to continue to find joy, delight, and contentment in the unutterable beauty of this fragile life, and to feel gratitude for each and every day.

Progress this morning…
…delight in the whimsy pieces…
…and after a full day of connecting with friends and family, working in the yard, tending the house, and self-care, the puzzle at bedtime. Each piece placed a tiny moment of satisfaction, the unfolding process of puzzling a meditation in its own right.

Puzzle Season

I’m grateful for Boyz Lunch today: Southern Fried Cabbage with Sausage (Gosar spicy Italian!), caramelized yam spears, and a side salad. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I’m grateful for a mild day, for Topaz being pretty normal and sticking close to home, for a washing machine, for podcasts, Star Trek Next Generation, 30 Rock, streaming, solar power, vanilla ice cream with maple syrup, and so much more…

I’m grateful for Puzzle Season. I claim a pass to start early. I’m grateful for cultivating the skill of relaxation, and for this gorgeous, bright Liberty puzzle, “A Company of Macaws.”

Mind Training

I’m grateful that I found mindfulness practice. The world we inhabit is complex and often confounding. Learning a few simple skills, starting with meditation, has helped me find more joy and contentment in life, and experience less mental and emotional suffering. I still get frustrated, annoyed, jealous, suspicious–just, not so much as I used to, and those afflictive states don’t last as long. I still hurt. In fact, I’m going through a pretty tough time right now, I won’t deny it. Sometimes I feel so empty it aches. But not all the time, and other times I feel profound gratitude just to be alive. To be able to share the skills and benefits of mind training with others, as I did this afternoon, is icing on the cake. Today, among other things and people, I’m grateful for the students in the Mindfulness Foundations Course I’m teaching now, and those I’ve taught before: when they tell me how the lessons and practices have helped them handle a challenging situation, or find more peace of mind or happiness, my heart sings. So even though I’m sad today, a week after Stellar’s death, I’m also happy. I’m grateful for all my teachers through the years, and for my constantly deepening understanding of life’s endless lessons.

Love on the Spectrum

Among other things, I’m grateful today for “Love on the Spectrum,” an unusual Netflix dating docuseries. I appreciate open-hearted programs that broaden my perspective on humanity, and nurture compassion. I’m grateful to have been watching it with one of the biggest-hearted people I know. We catch up on FaceTime, then countdown and watch the show and laugh and cry together. Tonight was extra emotional because it was the last episode of the season. We came to care about all these amazing, vulnerable, beautiful young people on the autism spectrum, seeking romance and happiness in relationships; and then it was over! Too soon! It’s an eye-opening, sympathetic, at times uncomfortably intimate, look into the challenges of people who are neurologically different, but so much the same, as everybody else who’s dived into the dating pool. I’m grateful I’m not out there flailing around with them! Nevertheless, we’re all after the same thing in life: more happiness and less suffering.

Ronan, who finds happiness with Katie, at least thus far.

I’m grateful Rocky came to say goodbye to Stellar, and was walking on all fours. I’m grateful I still feel Stellar’s presence here, despite feeling also his absence. I’m grateful that Topaz seems almost back to normal today, and got to go out for a walk with me this morning, and a few hours on her own. It seems to have exhausted her; she’s been inside sleeping since before Deb and Rosie came for their ‘thank you’ lunch (roasted chicken with harissa chickpeas). I’m grateful for the unfolding adventure of another day.

How Much I Learned

Baby Stellar with Uncle Brick in 2008

At the risk of seeming maudlin I am remembering, reviewing, calling to mind the details of Stellar’s last days. How time lost its linearity. 

I shared my life with him. There is no one now to turn to and smile. I would finish writing a bit at the desk, and turn to him, and smile. Wanna go for a walk? I’d stoke the fire, close the glass stove doors, turn back to the living room and there he is watching me from his bed, and I smile. Sometimes I’d move on to my next step in the day, or the evening, or sometimes I’d drop to all fours, crawl to lie down beside him, stroke his luxurious living coat, and notice, really notice, the feel of his scruff, rolling the folds of his neck flesh in my fingers, his thick silky fur… the pliability of his white chest star… the specific warmth of the breath from his nostrils across my skin, the hairs on my own forearm… I savored every living moment with him. I’m grateful for how much I learned during this extended interaction, this meditation with death.

Stellar and Topaz, equals and skeptical friends, last March, when we were all still walking the driveway. Topaz continues to improve gradually.

I may have made mistakes, made some choices based on less than accurate understandings of reality, but I believe I did the best that I could: stretching, giving, surrendering, loving with less and less condition… What I did next always involved him, whatever choice I made, to go in or outside, a short or long walk, watch TV or read, what I ate sometimes, where I was at every waking instant always involved him. I’m grateful to be able to recall vividly now, because I paid attention at the time, how he slowly settled when I stroked his shoulder, his back, how he relaxed onto his side and lay down his sweet head; how I held those acupressure pulses in his feet til he stretched his back legs with a big sigh. Later, that last month, how it soothed him when I whispered the mantra. And my attention was riveted on him even in my sleep, waking and analyzing the slightest sound from downstairs. Living in dedication to him brought out the best in me. He made it easy to embody my highest values. He was an inspiration, a Buddha dog.

May Stellar enjoy positive conditions,

High rebirth, happiness and peace,

May he meet the perfect teacher,

And quickly attain perfect enlightenment

For the benefit of all living beings without exception.

Another Day

I’m grateful for these spectacular flowers whose delivery midday from the Paonia florist startled me. My cousins in Charleston sent them in hopes they “might make you smile and know you are loved,” which they certainly do. I’m grateful for the love that keeps pouring in from friends and relations these past few days, soothing my sorrow, making me smile, reminding me that I am loved. I’m grateful to remember that everything changes, that this loss will soften over time. I’m grateful for ongoing support, and grateful for the opportunity to help a neighbor. I’m grateful for a long, close talk with my dear friend whose dear mother also died last week.

Topaz as a kitten in the bathroom sink.

I’m grateful that little Topaz seems much improved this evening. Her pupils have unfrozen, and she’s moving at a more natural pace, though still seems to be investigating everything as if seeing it for the first time. I’m grateful for rain, and homemade vichyssoise, and roasted root vegetables. I’m grateful for another day of living, feeling a rich range of sensations and emotions, joy and sadness, empathy and wonder. I’m grateful for memories, and for not clinging to them; grateful for letting things arise, and letting things go.

Stellar one year ago, looking kind of silly.

A Live Cat

I’m grateful for cactus blossoms indoors. I’m grateful that Topaz is alive after a complicated tumble, though she may have suffered a concussion. If it’s not one thing, it’s another… so went the joke while I was ‘growing up.’ Now, grown up, it doesn’t seem so funny, yet sometimes you just have to chuckle.

Yesterday evening she took a complicated spill from the sunroom table in her felt nest bed, and she hasn’t been quite right since. First, hiding upstairs. Not coming for treats. Staying way too still. Then, this morning, slow-motion creeping down the stairs one at a time, tiptoeing, as if feeling her way. It occurred to me she couldn’t see. Her eyes didn’t track the vet’s fingers, nor blink as I thought they should, nor her pupils contract with his flashlight. Yet when he put her on the floor and nudged her to walk, she leapt with certainty to the high silver table, landing like a feather. This impressed him and seemed diagnostic: to do that she must be fine. I thought, Maybe she’s not dying, but she could do that blindfolded. Her carrier was up there, the smell of it, the hard edge of the table. She could be less than blind and very compromised, and still make that leap.

Anyway, he let her go with a steroid shot and an oral antibiotic and instructions for me to give her pills for 3 days. That’ll be a trial. Or, at least, that’s my expectation. She could surprise me and be docile. Then the car battery was dead. There was someone there to give me a jump. I was grateful. Then I left the clinic, after waiting in the claustrophobic exam room for 45 minutes, in a pandemic, in the county in the state with the worst infection rate, in a state with the most increasing cases in the nation. The wise thing to do for myself and my cat was walk out unattended.

Then the car battery was dead. There was someone to give me a jump. I was grateful. I hightailed it home, surrendered. Grateful for a live cat, a live battery, getting home, kindling already split, a hot shower, soft pants, a warm fire, a zoom meeting, a single ice-cold martini. Accepting what is. Get me to my bed on time! If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Or so it seemed in that moment, that refractory period where emotions cloud perspective. Remember yesterday, and the cosmos? Chill out.

Perspective

A section of the California Nebula, as photographed by George Dunham at Singing Mountain Observatory, Crawford.

Today, I’m grateful for many things, including friendship, food, a solid little washing machine, and fresh water. I’m also grateful for the dark skies above at night, and for the amazing astro-photography of my neighbor George Dunham a few miles down the road. I’m grateful to have been invited to attend his Zoom presentation to the Coal Creek Canyon Sky Watchers this evening, which included nature photos by his wife Kim, and a brief state-of-space report from the Watchers, catching us up on some of the latest developments in space exploration. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours when I was feeling the unfamiliar space in the house profoundly. I’m always grateful for a fresh perspective on my own insignificance.