Some kind of Thank You

Wednesday was one of those designed specifically to help me check myself.  If you looked in the Encyclopedia Britannica under "shit that is likely to give Derek and embolism" you would find a list of things... all of which happened.  And, the Alanis Morissette irony of it is that I started writing a thank you note in the morning.  My plan was to send a mid-Wanderlust Festival Tour thank you, out to you all who I've met along the way.  You who enthusiastically dove down my favorite rabbit holes.  You who have served as brilliant examples and reminders of why I do what I do.  

So when the first little flight delay came I was ready.  Bolstered by my good mood and optimism.  Six hours later when I called my mom, I was not in the same place.  


Ram Das used to say, if your think you're enlightened, call your mother.  Works on so many levels.  But today my mom didn't press my buttons (which she is usually so ready and willing to do).  

She just illuminated the mirror.


After hour two of delays, missing my first connection, and scores of phone calls to an unnamed airline - that, I'll just say, could be made great again - cause it can't get much worse... I was rerouted to Dallas where I'd get a red eye and just make it to the mountain.  Okay.  Plan B... not my favorite plan but workable. 

 

By the time my mom called we were into plan 17.  I had in my passport a stack of boarding passes.  Like, literally a stack.  At this point I'm not even sure where I'm headed.  From Dallas to LA then Chicago and Toronto.  If you believe the pieces of paper I had, I'd done quite the North American tour today.  

And after listening to my remarkably calm telling of this harrowing tale, my mother simply asks if I'd rather be in her shoes.  In some pretty legit pain, something about peeing blood clots and reeling from the effects of today's chemo.  

 

Well.

 

When you put it like that. 

 

I was simply sitting (kind of comfortably) on a dirty La Guardia floor, watching my flights get canceled one after another.  People yelling, and crying... and that's just me (but seriously;  Those who have known me for years would be shocked to the point of concern for how even keeled and mild I managed to remain... that part of the story: My excitement over my own growth on this front can be left to the next installment) In the midst of what is objectively a rather trying and challenging situation, I'm reminded... 

 

I'm safe.  I'm alive. I'm okay.  

I'm not enjoying this.  I'm letting people down. 

But it's not tragic.  

And I really do have so much to celebrate and be thankful for.  Not American Airlines... but so many other things.  That thank you note would be well supported.  Just because the current situation is a challenge, the underlying truth remains.

A fellow teacher I'm growing to really dig these days recently wrote about the bullshit idea that 'happiness is a choice' - I like the unpacking, and boy do I agree that pretending like all you have to do is 'decide to be happy' is a sophomoric and dangerous bit of life advice.  A meme put up on social media that at its best promotes the spiritual bypassing of this epoch and at its worse belittles real struggle and pain; and leads the casual observer to deduce that one's experience of discomfort is simply a choice not to be free from it.   Even when examined through the lens of one of the more equanimous spiritual practices of Buddhism - we are encouraged to see the noble truth that - as many translate it

"Life is Suffering"  

I prefer a more nuanced translation that might call life ephemeral, changing, and uncomfortable.  The 'choice' isn't therefore to 'chose' differently.

 

And - there is always an and.  

 

I can promise this.  When shit hits the fan you've got options.  

Wallow in it.  Sit there in the mess and let it ruin everything.  Historically this was MY tactic.  Both when I was a veritable powder keg ready to blow at anything as slight as the misplacing of my keys, or later in life when on this side of my decision to get clean when I would spiral into despair after one missed step on the road to recovery.   I was quite talented at making my small problems into life ending tragedy.

The other tactic is to stand up.  Have a little faith.  And start where you are.  There is an entire universe between falling into a pit of despair and just taking a deep breath because everything is just as it should be.  This existence is one of work.  We are action.  Even when not taking action we are doing something.  We are actively choosing not to act.  

On the next installment we may discuss the Shiva and Shakti of it... but for now 

Show up. 

Do your work.

Have faith.

And take action.

And decide if the action you take is truly in service to your desired outcome.  

 

My choice was to make my challenging, no fun, difficult 36 hours of travel MORE egregious, or take the actions needed to not add to the strife; mine or my fellow stranded, war ravaged compatriots.  And to put even this honestly minor (though at the time all consuming) crucible in perspective.  

So to finish what I stared - back when the sun was shining and airplanes seemed like wonderful magical machines:

Thank you.  Thank you all for giving me something that makes me happy to sit in NYC's third world airport for 16 hours so that I can come and be with you, teaching and getting lost in this that lights my soul on fire.  

Thanks mom for pulling the cancer card.

Thanks American Airlines for the metaphysical workout. 

The Right way to do Things...

We come from Mystery and we return to Mystery and the ONLY thing that we can act on is the time in between..

So let's do that 

Really, really well...

The minute I hear about 'the right way' I feel the very cells in my body close up shop.  I have a visceral reaction to someone who KNOWS... Its borderline pathological.  And that trigger has, I'm quite sure, gotten me into pretty much every scuffle with every teacher I've come across.  It has shut down relationships before they've begun. This certainty I hold so dear has certainly made my path a narrow and often lonely one.  

Yet, as often as I examine the premise, and as muddy as I know it's origins to be... If there is one thing I know to be true, it is that there is no one answer, the is not some big-T  truth... There are truths, there are points of view, there are perspectives, there are paths.  

There are 7 billion people on this rock alone and there is truth in every one.  

Every path, at least I believe, leads to god... How long it takes isn't up to me.

Every perspective is valid, if for no other reason than it has been seen that way by someone.  

The irony of my conviction comes from a life largely spent believing that I happened to have this answer or that one. Having stores of data, and facts; having spent time with learned and experienced ones, I knew that if only I could get you to listen, actually hear me, I could set the whole world right.

The dark side of my belief was the underlying truth that if others agreed with me, I was worthy.  If I’m right, I’m valuable.  If I could make you wrong, I was more valuable.  If I knew the big-T truth then I mattered.

 

Another thing I know is how exhausting it is to be right.  I see it in the eyes of the street corner proselytists - who's compulsion to edify others keeps them up at night.  I know, intimately, the energy required to take on the world… 

 

On the flip side, it's untold how much ease comes with sitting back in your experience. Experience is an undeniable truth.  When we start assigning rights and wrongs to it, is where we go wrong.  There is some quote I can’t quite remember along the lines of:

 

Something happens that means nothing… we assign a meaning.  Thats when the problem starts. 

What if - instead - we shared our experience?

As just that?

Here is what I’ve seen… what I’ve done, what’s worked for me. Let me offer you this perspective for you to put into yours.  Where the facts mesh, take on new tools and ideas, where the conflict take the opportunity to look deeper.  

What if our desire was simply to share?

What if our value wasn’t tied to us being right? 

That’s what I’ve been working with lately.  

So here is my offer. 

Here is what I’ve seen.  

Do your work, your thing, your best… Do what you love and in a way that shows that love.  

Let the way that plays out be proof enough.  

Those who see it, will believe.  

Those who don’t, won’t be convinced. 

What I’ve found?  

When I’m spending my energy being me, It feels right.  It works.  When I’m spending that energy being right… I’m shown, time and time again how much work that is.  

2015 Is About Something....

I’ve just decided that, for me, 2015 is The Year of Dissolving Barriers…

It is the year of - brick by brick - tearing down walls.

I’ve never started the year with an concept… BAM - first barrier dissolved like bath salts in a warm tub (a current obsession).  Don’t get me wrong, in hindsight, most years have had themes;  and there were some doozies:


The Year I Almost Didn’t Make it

The Year of Other Options

The Year of Wild Adventures

The Year of Relapses


Those aren't all of them by any stretch… just some memorable examples.

This past year will go into the books as

The Year of What it Means to Matter

2014 packed a record number of days into the allotted 360-something... I saw an exponential growth in grey hairs AND smile lines, I lost big, and in doing so learned to have faith in abundance.  

Knowing all that, and having heard tell of so much more, I chose to start this year with a plan.  One that takes the 2014 that mattered, and keeps going.

I guess that’s what happens at the end, you start thinking about the beginning
 

In 2014 I remembered that the biggest thing standing in my way, is this crazy idea that I’m separated from the divine.  

That there IS an ‘other than’ and that I’m somehow it.  

That there is an ounce of lack, an inch of land to traverse between me and God - more interestingly, that there is even a breath of air between you and me.  

So this year… I plan to work - Burn the candle at both ends; Spend every waking moment, not even letting time in dreams go to waste - on tearing down the walls i’ve so diligently built.  The walls of doubt, and fear piled high with brick made of story, held together by beliefs and reinforced with assumptions forged in the past…

So this year… I plan to work - Burn the candle at both ends; Spend every waking moment, not even letting time in dreams go to waste - on tearing down the walls i’ve so diligently built.  The walls of doubt, and fear piled high with brick made of story, held together by beliefs and reinforced with assumptions forged in the past…

In 2015 the colossal weight of assumption and perception gets lighter, brick by brick…

Gratitude Changes Everything

Gratitude changes everything... 

Focusing on what we're thankful for literally creates a shift in the structure of our grey matter, it teaches us to reorder our priorities, it lifts our mood, helps change our perspective.  In a 2003 Study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, McCullough and Emmons found that, even infrequent, gratitude journaling had a handful of positive effects on participants overall quality of life, they exercised 40 minutes more a week, they had an almost 10% increase in general perception of quality of life, and had a 5% increase in optimism.   Other studies have shown that having a practice in which participants focus in one way or another on things they are grateful for leads to stronger immune systems, more and better sleep and exercise; the same people are more alert and awake, more generous, forgiving, outgoing and compassionate.

pigeonpraying.jpg

I've found that the more time I spend acknowledging my blessings, the more blessings I find... The more blessings I have to count, the more I love counting them... Its a vicious spiral - of the best kind.  Its not some bullshit Pollyanna rose colored glasses with my head in the sand kind of thing... Its a decision of perspective.  Its a choice in point of view... Its just about creating and cultivating the life I desire.  Thats our job, and gratitude - with a dash of accountability - is the best way I know to do exactly that.  

The Real Key is in Getting Specific... 

So Here is the Plan

Over the next month, I challenge you to get clear on what it is you are grateful for, and why... 

Here's How.

 

Every Morning pick ONE thing you have to be grateful for.

Why One thing?  Gratitude can be overwhelming.  Big, open-ended ideas lack focus.  Without focus, there is no direction.  Energy needs direction.  Picking just one thing, helps to clarify and clear out the background noise.  

Make a list of 5 REASONS you have to be grateful for this 1 Thing

Its one thing to be vaguely grateful.  Its another to know why.  That takes some thought, and care.  Thats real gratitude.  Its important to know why something matters to you.  That kind of specificity helps you cultivate the core feelings, and the core energies behind the myriad of things - all of which, ultimately boil down to a few, crucial, beautiful, and attainable feelings.

Finally... Make a Plan to Show Support

Its one thing to be thankful... Its another to proactive and work to engender more and more of just what makes us grateful.  So, after figuring out why you are thankful for something, think of three ways you can show that thing, that person, that concept just how grateful you are... Whats would it take to grow a little more?  What can you do to prove that feeling of gratitude?  Write it down, and make a plan for that day.  

Take a little time to focus on the things in your life you have to celebrate... 
See if you can keep that smile off your face for long.

Lets do this Together... Feel Free to Share some of your thoughts, or daily journal entries in the comments below, or on Facebook with Sensei Derek... As a community, we can create a REAL shift in the world around us... Simply by creating a Shift in ourselves... 

I couldn't be more excited to start this process with you guys.  

I couldn't be more Thankful...