"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about progressively opening your heart and calming your mind enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Attitude of Gratitude

"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”  
-- Albert Einstein

 "Be grateful to everyone."
-- The 13th slogan of the Lojong Trainings

I'm sometimes amazed -- and often amused -- as I observe my heart/mind floating down the stream of consciousness as I sit here at the keyboard in the attempt to write something helpful for the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call each week.  Today, I sat for a few moments facing the relatively blank New Post screen, then wandered around a bit on the web tracing the word "gratitude" along various strands of thought, trying all the while not to get too far afield.

Now I'm sitting here with my chest heaving, tears rolling down my cheeks,with images of Bing Crosby as freakin' Father O'Malley playing across the screen at Memory Lane Theater.   
 
WTF? How in the world did I end up here?
(CONTINUED)

I guess that question can be approached a couple of different ways.

First, I can trace the sequence of thoughts: I had tied together the suggestions of several teachers (including Oprah Winfrey-- which shows you what can happen in web surfing) and was recalling that a person consciously connecting with feelings of gratitude was one of the most of important ingredients of Naikan, a contemporary Japanese Self Help/Therapy modality developed by a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist practitioner who had actually sat, fasting, in a completely dark cave for awhile.  I then thought of the folk wisdom contained in the notion of "counting your blessings."  Then it was Irving Berlin and Bing musically proclaiming that notion as strains of  "Count Your Blessings" streamed through my head.  Then there was Father O'Malley in "Going my Way?"--and I was a goner.

But, where, exactly,  did I go to?

In the depths of the tears I again encountered a fathomless pool of gratitude in the deepest core of my being.  Image after image emerged from that pool including the simple purity of a childlike faith that there really are simple "religious" folk who serve up their lives with incredible dedication, courage and compassion -- and memories of witnessing both that dimension of deep kindnesss and experiencing the blind ignorance of its opposite in myself and others.  The tears embrace it all.   Life,  this mysterious mish-mosh of devas and dragons, saints and sinners-- inside and out -- spins through each moment as it is with incredible beauty and depth. I'm utterly grateful for the opportunity to flow gently down stream when I can, to row when I need to.

If I enlarge the focus and take a peek the question "how did I end up here?" in a different way,   it implies the question, "where the hell did I come from?"  You can take that all the way back before our individual incarnations to the birth of the Universe!  In an article, Gratitude on Brother David Stendl-Rast's Gratitude.org website, Zen teacher Norman Fischer  offers an amazing rendition of the Big Bang Theory.  Tracing the course of the indisputably inter-connected Reality of It All, peering at the ultimately inexplicable but nonetheless obvious Existence of Life itself, he goes on to say something that rings true to me:

"It seems to me that gratitude then isn't so much an emotion or a feeling as an actual fact, maybe even the primary fact, of our being at all. If we are, in other words, we belong, radically belong, are possessed by, embraced by, all that is, and gratitude is literally what we are when we are most attuned to what we are, when we plunge deeply into our nature, and stop complaining."

That sounds about right.  Counting your blessings instead of sheep is maybe a good start?

Happy Thanksgiving.

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