Bees sip honey from flowers and hum their thanks when they leave.
The gaudy butterfly is sure that the flowers owe thanks to him.
– Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)
May you live in interesting times.
That phrase, of assumed Chinese proverbial origin, is considered by many a curse to be wished upon an enemy.
There is no doubt we are living in very interesting times indeed. So to endlessly mourn that our trip through this life may be fraught with inequities, confusion, hardship and disasters? Or be grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this era of great change on this rapidly evolving – even swiftly tilting – planet?
Many spiritual philosophies, including Taoism, teach to “surf the wave” you’ve got, so to speak, the best Way you can. The more massive the Wave, the more rewarding our ride will be in the long run. And in order to connect as it rolls towards us with both promises of untapped potential as well as possibilities of certain destruction, one needs to be in a grateful, receiving and balanced state of mind. Gratitude begets greatness. Talk to any surfer.
Perhaps like many growing up in middle America during the 70s and 80s, I had a lot of things I took for granted. I was doted upon, encouraged and supported as so many others around the world were not, but didn’t really realize it at the time. So the first place I owe thanks is to my parents. Fortunately I can tell them that now. But I never consciously thought about gratitude on this level until my 30s, when I experienced my own radical transformation of spirit, as many have by now. It left me literally gasping with love and gratitude for the immense scope and beauty of the Multiverse I now realized I was a part of. It was a powerful and heady time, which eventually led to a book, and then a blog. We are part of a Greater Whole, with a Greater Plan, and if you’re lucky enough to have grokked that too by now, I can skip the next part. If not – sorry, I’m skipping the next part. I can’t give that experience away, even if I wanted to.
Coming out the other end of that, one of the lessons that has stuck with me is something Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “he who knows enough is enough will always have enough.” Having been born into a materialistic society which seems to congratulate selfishness and immediate gratification, it’s not an easy statement to understand. Of all its possible interpretations, I believe the most powerful is that what we really need, is already within us. If we view life in the simplest of ways, with thanks for all things great and small, we will realize what abundance there really is. We don’t need fancy cars or even a refrigerator full of food to be grateful for life. Often, it’s those of the poorest of circumstances, or poorest of health, who have the sunniest dispositions. They appreciate the little joys of life, and choose to rejoice regardless of their circumstances. They are choosing love and passing it on in the world. On the other hand, the guy made miserable by a scratch on his new Jaguar will not – he will moan and complain and make his family and friends suffer as well by his state of mind. Jesus Himself taught, it’s not things, but our spirits that bring truth and enlightenment, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
So is it possible to be grateful during bad times? To mourn the losses, and still hope for the future? I can only answer for myself, and the answer is, yes. I am grateful for the world, even in its present state: through all the war, confusion, evil people, hard times and disasters, there is still compassion, beauty, and love, not to mention the promise of Something Greater. In these most uncertain times, it is even more vitally important that we focus in such a manner. It could be our saving grace. It could be what enables us to see a Doorway into our Future, when it appears.
Don’t get me wrong – simple things are not always easy. This is a conscious choice which requires constant practice. A skill to be developed. As far away as we’ve gotten as a civilization from the understanding that we are All One, is about as far away we are from a planet in complete harmony. Gratitude is no longer a natural state of being. Perhaps long ago, ancient cultures praised that simple yet profound understanding, rather than wealth, power and ego. My husband, for example, wakes every single morning with the words, “Lord, thank you for this beautiful life, and thank you for my wonderful wife, and thank you for this day and all the blessings you pour upon me,” upon his tongue, no matter what, and he is the sunniest and most blessed person I have ever known, despite hardships he has suffered. So for some people, gratitude seems to come so easily, as if they were throwbacks to a mysterious time.
But for others, it can be challenging. Especially when much of what I research and write about – that information which I have always felt is incredibly important to pass on, to whoever is listening out there in these uncertain times – is so seemingly full of doom. It would be easy to say I never experience feelings of foreboding, or great sadness, as I bear witness to the daily news. I do. And yet, in the next moment, I am reminded that we still have an opportunity to recreate our world, one person at a time, or suddenly, as the case may be in terms of our future. Destruction is a Pathway to Creation. I often link back to that old post I wrote, It’s All Good, because – it really is.
A friend asked me the other day, as we were talking about emergency supplies, why I would want to survive if the world was ending. I thought, that was a very good question. But if you ask, I’ll tell you; I don’t believe in the end of the world. Maybe, “the end of the world as we know it”, but that’s not the end of the planet, or even our existence as a species, and on this point I stand firm. If the “worst” happens, I don’t imagine only surviving, but thriving. I see opportunity, not doom. This is the message I hope to pass on, even as the news of the day seems to center around the negative.
Yes, it’s possible that earth changes or economic upheaval could come to your town, and ours. And yes, I am concerned that people are woefully unprepared for this transition. And it is never easy to witness terrible destruction and loss of life and livelihood. But, it doesn’t stop me from being hopeful, or prepared for a better future, both physically and spiritually. I suppose, I don’t have proof; it’s just my own inner barometer of what I believe is possible for our world. And I might not have that appreciation, if I were not aware of what it means to be truly grateful for the incredible diversity of wonder and possibility, and the love and joy which is sitting right here in front of us, waiting to be chosen. But we cannot expect to participate in such a future world, if we don’t prepare ourselves now. Yes, have extra provisions nearby…but as important is our psychological, emotional and spiritual state of readiness. We can’t get to the next level in a state of panic, fear, or even doubt.
And we cannot do this alone. In Hawaii, when surfing the huge 50-75 ft waves on the North Shore, Oahu and at Jaws on Maui, you need someone to tow you in on a jet ski; to watch over you, and rescue you if you get pummeled. Fortunately there are others out there to share support and wisdom in trying times, each with their own specialties. I am fortunate enough to have a profound faith, a loving family, and an extended network of like minds. This post is the result of encouragement from friend and fellow blogger, Daniel Brenton, whose work continues to uplift and inspire, even in trying times. So I give credit to Daniel for recharging my gratitude batteries, and my thanks for his long-standing support in this strange online world. It’s nice to know there are real people out there, practicing real, useful and tangible skills, and I am happy to pay it forward.
May we all appreciate the interesting times in which we live, humming our Way to the next flower.
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