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A Study in Gratitudes

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

As I said this morning to the thanksgiving community with whom I shared this...Rob Brezsny's piece SCREAMS to be shared...and shared...and shared. And I like it having a permanent residence in my *blog home:*


Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don’t fully understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you’ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that’s just right for your body’s needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect. The interesting gift of these vivid hues comes to you courtesy of an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Did you know that the sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? If it were any closer, you’d fry, and if it were any further away, you’d freeze. Here’s another one of the sun’s benedictions: It appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule every day, as it has since long before you were born.

Do you remember when you were born, by the way? It was a difficult miracle that involved many people who worked hard on your behalf. No less miraculous is the fact that you have continued to grow since then, with millions of new cells being born inside you to replace the old ones that die. All of this happens whether or not you ever think about it.

On this day, like almost every other, you have awoken inside a temperature-controlled shelter. You have a home! Your bed and pillow are soft and you’re covered by comfortable blankets. The electricity is turned on, as usual. Somehow, in ways you’re barely aware of, a massive power plant at an unknown distance from your home is transforming fuel into currents of electricity that reach you through mostly hidden conduits in the exact amounts you need, and all you have to do to control the flow is flick small switches with your fingers.

You can walk! Your legs work wonderfully well. Your heart circulates your blood all the way down to replenish the energy of the muscles in your feet and calves and thighs, and when the blood is depleted it finds its way back to your heart to be refreshed. This blessing recurs over and over again without stopping every hour of your life.

Your home is perhaps not a million-dollar palace, but it’s sturdy and gigantic compared to the typical domicile in every culture that has preceded you. The floors aren’t crumbling, and the walls and ceilings are holding up well, too. Doors open and close without trouble, and so do the windows. What skillful geniuses built this sanctuary for you? How and where did they learn their craft?

In your bathroom, the toilet is functioning perfectly, as are several other convenient devices. You have at your disposal soaps, creams, razors, clippers, tooth-cleaning accessories: a host of products that enhance your hygiene and appearance. You trust that unidentified scientists somewhere tested them to be sure they’re safe for you to use.

Amazingly, the water you need so much of comes out of your faucets in an even flow, with the volume you want, and either cold or hot as you desire. It’s pure and clean; you’re confident no parasites are lurking in it. There is someone somewhere making sure these boons will continue to arrive for you without interruption for as long as you require them.

Look at your hands. They’re astounding creations that allow you to carry out hundreds of tasks with great force and intricate grace. They relish the pleasure and privilege of touching thousands of different textures, and they’re beautiful.

In your closet are many clothes you like to wear. Who gathered the materials to make the fabrics they’re made of? Who imbued them with colors, and how did they do it? Who sewed them for you?

In your kitchen, appetizing food in secure packaging is waiting for you. Many people you’ve never met worked hard to grow it, process it, and get it to the store where you bought it. The bounty of tasty nourishment you get to choose from is unprecedented in the history of the world.

Your many appliances are working flawlessly. Despite the fact that they feed on electricity, which could kill you instantly if you touched it directly, you feel no fear that you’re in danger. Why? Your faith in the people who invented, designed, and produced these machines is impressive.

It’s as if there’s a benevolent conspiracy of unknown people that is tirelessly creating hundreds of useful things you like and need.

There’s more. Gravity is working exactly the way it always has, neither pulling on you with too much or too little force. How did that marvel ever come to be? By some prodigious, long-running accident? It doesn’t really matter, since it will continue to function with astounding efficiency whether or not you understand it.

Meanwhile, a trillion other elements of nature’s miraculous design are expressing themselves perfectly. Plants are growing, rivers are flowing, clouds are drifting, winds are blowing, animals are reproducing. The weather is an interesting blend of elements you’ve never before experienced in quite this combination. Though you may take it for granted, you relish the ever-shifting sensations of light and temperature as they interact with your body.

There’s more. You can smell odors and hear sounds and taste tastes, many of which are quite pleasing. You can think! You’re in possession of the extraordinary gift of self-awareness. You can feel feelings! Do you realize how improbably stupendous it is for you to have been blessed with that mysterious capacity? And get this: You can visualize an inexhaustible array of images, some of which represent things that don’t actually exist. How did you acquire this magical talent?

By some improbable series of coincidences or long-term divine plan, language has come into existence. Millions of people have collaborated for many centuries to cultivate a system for communication that you understand well. Speaking and reading give you great pleasure and a tremendous sense of power.

Do you want to go someplace that’s at a distance? You have a number of choices about what machines to use in order to get there. Whatever you decide—car, plane, bus, train, subway, ship, helicopter, or bike—you have confidence that it will work efficiently. Multitudes of people who are now dead devoted themselves to perfecting these modes of travel. Multitudes who are still alive devote themselves to ensuring that these benefits keep serving you.

Maybe you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people in the world who has the extraordinary privilege of owning a car. It’s a brilliant invention made by highly competent workers. Other skilled laborers put in long hours to extract oil from the ground or sea and turn it into fuel so you can use your car conveniently. The roads are drivable. Who paved them for you? The bridges you cross are potent feats of engineering. Do you realize how hard it was to fabricate them from scratch?

You’re aware that in the future shrinking oil reserves and global warming may impose limitations on your ability to use cars and planes and other machines to travel. But you also know that many smart and idealistic people are diligently striving to develop alternative fuels and protect the environment. And compared to how slow societies have been to understand their macrocosmic problems in the past, your culture is moving with unprecedented speed to recognize and respond to the crises spawned by its technologies.

As you travel, you might listen to music. Maybe you’ve got an MP3 player, a fantastic invention that has dramatically enhanced your ability to hear a stunning variety of engaging sounds at a low cost. Or maybe you have a radio. Through a process you can’t fathom, music and voices that originate at a distance from you have been converted into invisible waves that bounce off the ionosphere and down into your little machine, where they are transformed back into music and voices for you to enjoy.

Let’s say it’s 9:30 a.m. You’ve been awake for two hours, and a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right—your toaster was broken, the hot water wasn’t hot enough, there was a stain on the pants you wanted to wear—you might feel that today the universe is against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing’s going right. And yet the fact is that the vast majority of everything is working with breathtaking efficiency and consistency. You would clearly be deluded to imagine that life is primarily an ordeal.

-- from the book PRONOIA IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR PARANOIA: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings_, by Rob Brezsny

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SAVOY1 10/9/2008 10:01AM

    Take nothing for granted - Amen.

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ANGELBELIEVER 10/8/2008 8:45PM

    Absolutely wonderful. So much to think about and to be grateful for. Thanks for helping me remember to have and Atutude of Gratitude today and every day. emoticon

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We need the gift of starting over....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

How these gifted beings bring me joy and food for the soul and so much to contemplate beyond my mundane reality....Please listen with me now:

Because We Spill Not Only Milk

Because we spill not only milk
Knocking it over with an elbow
When we reach to wipe a small face
But also spill seed on soil we thought was fertile but isn't,
And also spill whole lives, and only later see in fading light
How much is gone and we hadn't intended it
Because we tear not only cloth
Thinking to find a true edge and instead making only a hole
But also tear friendships when we grow
And whole mountainsides because we are so many
And we want to live right where black oaks lived,
Once very quietly and still
Because we forget not only what we are doing in the kitchen
And have to go back to the room we were in before,
Remember why it was we left
But also forget entire lexicons of joy
And how we lost ourselves for hours
Yet all that time were clearly found and held
And also forget the hungry not at our table
Because we weep not only at jade plants caught in freeze
And precious papers left in rain
But also at legs that no longer walk
Or never did, although from the outside they look like most others
And also weep at words said once as though
They might be rearranged but which
Once loose, refuse to return and we are helpless
Because we are imperfect and love so
Deeply we will never have enough days,
We need the gift of starting over, beginning
Again: just this constant good, this
Saving hope.

-- Nancy Shaffer
(Instructions in Joy)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VAL503 10/8/2008 7:02PM

That was beautiful, just beautiful.. brought me to tears!
I am on a road trip, and am in California right now, thought of you when I was in San Francisco :)
Thanks for sharing such yummy, thoughtful stuff with us!

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PEACEFULONE 10/7/2008 11:16PM

    So much said in between the lines and each line bringing so many memories. Poetry makes such wonderful connections. Thank you Maha for sharing. emoticon

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SAVOY1 10/7/2008 9:41PM

    Lovely! Perhaps it's a message from our friend the Universe, but the name Walt Whitman has popped up to me several times recently. I am only familiar with snippets of his work, ..all of the poetry you've posted recently has inspired me to visit the library in the near future and look for some volumes where I can read more Walt Whitman. Thank you for taking the time to share all of these little jewels.

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ANGELBELIEVER 10/7/2008 11:50AM

    These last two blogs are absolutely wonderful as well as beautiful. So much to think about and savor. Thank you so much for you inspiration.

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Are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches
of other lives --
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey,
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning,
feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over
the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left --
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one's foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one's foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird's pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,

and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what's coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn't ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean's edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

-- Mary Oliver

Do yourself a favor and go to this link to read and listen:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PEACEFULONE 10/1/2008 7:17PM

    What a wonderful piece! I will copy it to savor again. This has so many facets, but most of all it reminds me to say YES to life everyday!

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    I'll miss you and the beautiful poetry you post....

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SPARKTACULAR 10/1/2008 8:42AM

    This reading was such a meditation. I feell so good and peaceful right now. And yes, I'll go to the link. Nancy

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How universal is gratefulness?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sometimes I hunker down, mired in the more distressing mundane aspects of everyday reality, or the in-the-face awareness of the old age-sickness-death cycle...and where I am in said cycle, or my loneliness and feelings of isolation, etc., and then I shake myself and straighten up, realizing that all of that is true...AND SO MUCH MORE.

For instance I have heard the *good news* of the Buddha's instruction of how to go beyond suffering, I have the good fortune of having encountered teachers who provide guidance about reaching that *place,* I have a comfortable living space and enough money, I have knowledge about how to eat healthfully for optimal health, I can afford natural and organic food, I have friends, I have rewarding work, I have dependable vehicles, and the list goes on! So I say *Blessed be!* and understand how REALLY blessed I am as I read, from , the gratitudes below and muse about:


Gratefulness – the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness – goes beyond boundaries of creed, age, vocation, gender, and nation. J. Robert Moskin, former foreign editor for Look magazine and senior editor for Collier's, writes that “thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings.”

Grateful living offers a universal ethic for our times because:
• The universal sentiment of gratefulness is shared by all cultures and religious traditions
• Gratefulness lies at the mystical core of all religions, and can provide a point of agreement between people from different traditions that transcends the divisive dogmas of each religion or sect.
• In the same way, it provides a common language for dialogue between religious people and non-religious people, since both groups share this sentiment fully.
• It teaches us to appreciate what we have, automatically relieving the fear of scarcity that drives our unsustainable consumption patterns.
• One cannot be grateful and feel oneself to be a victim at the same time, instantly diminishing the anger that can lead to war.
• It teaches us to appreciate the gratuitous, which for many people includes the non-human natural world with its many plants and animals.
• It causes us to regard other peoples and cultures as blessings and not as threats to our way of life.
• It offers a spirit of generosity and trust to replace the suspicion and resentment that stands in the way of achieving a peaceful transition to a more just sharing of the world's bounty.*

The following diverse array of quotes reflects this universality as a representative sample. A comprehensive list, we are happy to say, would take years to compile.


Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.
– Hausa proverb from Nigeria

The happy heart gives away the best. To know how to receive is also a most important gift, which cultivates generosity in others and keeps strong the cycle of life.
– Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, speaker, author, musician and spiritual leader in the Eastern Tsalagi (Cherokee) tradition

Whenever feeling downcast, each person should vitally remember, "For my sake, the entire world was created."
– Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, Baal Shem Tov,
founder of Hasidic Judaism

Under affliction in the very depths, stop and contemplate what you have to be grateful for.
– Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science

A thankful person is thankful under all circumstances. A complaining soul complains even in paradise.
– Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i Faith

There's a self-expansive aspect of gratitude. Very possibly it's a little known law of nature: the more gratitude you have, the more you have to be grateful for.
– Elaine St. James, author, leader of the simplicity movement

Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.
– Nkosi Johnson, twelve-year-old Zulu boy, living with AIDS

Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.
– Yoko Ono, Japanese-American artist and musician

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman stoic

As life becomes harder and more threatening, it also becomes richer, because the fewer expectations we have, the more good things of life become unexpected gifts that we accept with gratitude.
– Etty Hillesum, Dutch Jewish writer known for her diaries and correspondence from Westerbork concentration camp

Grateful living: an alchemic operation of onverting "disgraceful" things into grateful events.
– Raimundo Panikkar, Roman Catholic priest from Spain specializing in comparative philosophy of religion

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
– Native American prayer

Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art....It is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the self-healing of our world.
– Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher and scholar of Buddhism

Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
– G.K. Chesterton, writer and Christian apologist

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable...but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
– Agatha Christi, crime-fiction writer

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.
– Jacques Maritain, French philosopher and political thinker

Thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives.
– Jalaluddin Rumi, Persian Sufi poet, from Camille and Kabir Helminski's Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance

Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning and plotting. That kind of let go is fiercely threatening. I mean, where might such gratitude end?
– Regina Sara Ryan, former Roman Catholic nun now aligned with the Bauls of Bengal, India


* Our thanks to Chris Wilson, a member of the Board of Directors for A Network for Grateful Living, for his insightful description of grateful living as a universal ethic for our time.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 10/1/2008 6:19AM

    Good morning -- thanks everyone for the comments! Savoy, you may be referring to the J. Robert Moskin quote above, in the papagraph after HOW UNIVERSAL IS GRATEFULNESS? which says,

“Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings.”

So right and juicy and *right on!*


Comment edited on: 10/1/2008 6:17:15 AM

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PEACEFULONE 9/30/2008 10:25PM

    This is a great blog! Thank you for sharing!


Comment edited on: 9/30/2008 10:23:08 PM

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SAVOY1 9/30/2008 10:03PM

    There is a quote of the day on essentially saying the idea or emotion of gratitude goes back to prehistoric times - it really is an innately simple thing and so beautiful and gives back in real time.

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ANGELBELIEVER 9/28/2008 1:10PM

    What a beautiful post on gratefulness. I like to live with an Attitude of Gratitude every day. I have so much to be grateful for. I try not to waste my life complaining. Thank you again for your words of wisdom for us t o learn and grow. emoticon

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MOMMA_GRIZZ 9/28/2008 1:03PM

    How very true - thank you for sharing that very inspirational post.

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Speaking of shame....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's about 11:40pm and within the last hour I consumed an entire 4.15 oz. box of Ak-mak Crackers with peanut butter and jelly. AK! is right...sMAK me back into mindfulness, pl-EASE.

I'm getting jittery because I'm still in the thoes of organizing and unpacking from the move and we leave on Wed. for the first show, which means organizing and packing everything for that. Then I drank strong coffee this afternoon. Big mistake. That's why I'm bouncing around like a tight spring and thus, part of why I'm eating at this time of night. I'm also an emotional eater. Put these two pieces together and WHAMO! I crumble.

Well, I'm not going to cave in and go on a self-hate campaign. I'm running a bath with Bath Therapy. Soaking will help relax this tired ol' bod. I'll read something to lift my spirits (like Rumi), to help elevate my mind.

And I'll sleep without the alarm, getting up ready to be totally focused until the 2:00pm departure for a weekend visit (not the best timing, but unavoidable). Upon the Sun. pm return, I vow to return to the basics of preparation without panic, but with clarity of vision and energy, without conditioned thinking that will limit me in doing my best.

Oh, and I publically vow to be online 15 minutes in the morning to post gratitudes...AND NO MORE. Can I get a witness?

Blessed be!

May it be so,
*** *** *** *** *** ***
And now it is 1:40am and I am readying myself for sleep.

Out beyond ideas of
There is a field
I'll meet you there

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase
"each other"

doesn't make any sense.



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