Yesterday, Thanksgiving brought my identical twin brother Lefty to the computer to share his thoughts on this traditional American holiday. He did, in a post entitled "Thanks -- and No Thanks." He couldn't face the image traditionally presented about Thanksgiving without pointing to the reality of our history. (You can find his thoughts at Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.*).
Today, I could go on a rant about Black Friday as well. But, I won't --for there is still something beautiful and real always dancing in the stillness of Mindfulness. Although sometimes you have to peer into the shadows to see it, it always brings forth the Attitude of Gratitude. I wrote about Gratitude's saving grace last Thanksgiving, and I'd like to share it with you again today. -- One Love, Lance
and am still receiving.”
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?
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 choosing to consciously connect with feelings of gratitude each day was one of the essential 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 quite awhile. I then thought of the folk wisdom contained in the notion of "counting your blessings." Then, in a blink, 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 "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 am 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 did I come from?"
You can take that all the way back before the individual incarnations lodged in our DNA 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. (He also writes about this in his book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong.) Tracing the course of the indisputably inter-connected Reality of it all throughout all space and time as we know it, 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?