Feeling gratitude is a wonderful habit to cultivate. I’ve heard from many people that having a daily gratitude journal or other form of consciously expressing what you are thankful for is a life changing habit.
This evening I experienced gratitude in a circumstance that I wouldn’t necessarily expect to experience it. I was outside washing the wok after dinner. Outside because the kitchen is currently not usable. I cooked dinner on a portable camp stove on our back porch and in the backyard on the grill. I washed some of the dishes in the bathtub but decided the wok should go outside because I didn’t want to have the clean the bathtub after cleaning it.
Cooking and cleaning outside reminded me of an experience from what seems like a lifetime ago. When I finished college I moved from the north-east to Miami. I spent a month in Jamaica at a farm with very few amenities. We slept in a tent, ate what the locals ate and had a wonderful time. I found out many days into that trip why the young man who was cooking for us wasn’t in school. He couldn’t afford a uniform. We gave him money for a uniform and hoped that he would go back to school. There was no kitchen at the farm and Henry continued to cook simple foods outside for us and for some of the other people who had come to stay. He collected wood and made delicious meals for us with whatever we had on hand. We ate rice and sardines, rice and beans, yam, and one time we had a really special meal of chicken. Remembering that experience and the joy that I felt in Jamaica reminded me of how much good fortune I have in my life and how I take so much for granted. Leaning over the bathtub to wash my dishes I was grateful for hot water. I was grateful that this is a temporary situation while so many people in the world don’t have a regular source of clean running water. I was grateful for being able to wash the wok outside after a delicious meal of sockeye salmon and green beans and bacon. I’m thankful for my health, my family, my home and the love that surrounds me each and every day.
Thank you as always to Courtney Carver of Be More With Less for her inspiration. Her latest post on gratitude is a call to all of us to find what we are grateful for and to express it.
I hope that you find something to be grateful for on this day and every day. Remember what matters to you and be thankful for it too! Thank you for reading this!
Having spent the last week working on kitchen renovations I decided during my morning meditation that it was time to get outside. Outside in Miami in July is a much different experience than outside in the Adirondacks in July. It was a strong pull however and I’m really glad I went. I drove west to the Everglades and walked a couple of miles in Shark Valley. When I first went to the Everglades many years ago I remember feeling a sense of underwhelm. What was the big deal with this river of grass… No mountains, no heart pumping uphill climbs, no tall trees or cliffs.
Now when I go to the Everglades I get it. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, there are mosquitoes and biting flies and other crazy insects buzzing around. However, there’s a subtle beauty to it and if I slow down enough I really enjoy it. Today there were a surprising number of people on the trail (mostly tourists from Germany, I really must ask my friend Rainer what the attraction is). There were also a number of animal sightings; anhingas, bass, pond apple snails, lubber grasshoppers, one lone and battered Monarch butterfly, a huge number of Peacock butterflies, a large turtle on the bank and a medium sized gator. The soundscape was filled with the croaking of pig frogs, splashing alligator gar, birdsong, and thunder.
I always feel so much better when I return from being in nature. I’m continuing to read Martha Beck and one of her suggestions in the Joy Diet is to feast. Today I feasted on solitude in nature.
What is calling to you right now? What will you feast on?
I’m back home in Miami after 5 weeks of vacation in the Adirondack mountains. While my son and I were gone my husband has been hard at work renovating our kitchen. Today I’m doing something I hadn’t anticipated doing during the time that I have off before returning to work. I’m “mudding and taping” (or “taping and mudding”- not really sure what to call it except a mess!) Done in the right frame of mind it’s kind of fun, like working with really messy, sloppy clay. Done in the wrong frame of mind my choice of language goes from G-Rated to R-Parent Advisory.
What does this have to do with Breathe Mom? It goes back to a theme that I’ve noticed cropping up again and again in my life. My expectations and reality are on different wavelengths. I had a (rather optimistic) fantasy that I would return from New York to a beautiful new kitchen! In fact our house is in disarray and I’m going through bins, bags and baskets of stuff that we don’t really need. I’ve been reading Courtney Carver’s blog Be More With Less and realizing that much of what I’ve been carting around through relationships, moves to different houses and changes in lifestyle is not necessary. It doesn’t bring me joy and it’s not useful. So, as I take a break from mudding and taping, I will spend some time looking through spices, dishes, pots and pans, and deciding what to keep. When the new kitchen really is completed I’ll have things in it that are useful and beautiful.
In the meantime if anyone needs a collection of soy sauce dishes be sure to stop by. As a bonus you’ll get a chance to enjoy some mudding and taping 🙂
One important part of mindfulness that I’ve read about and tried repeatedly to practice is detachment. It involves observing what is happening but not becoming caught up in the drama. This has been an ongoing challenge for me, particularly with my son. Today, toward the end of a very pleasant walk along the LaChute River he had a meltdown over what seemed to be a not very significant issue. While in the past I would have become much more involved and even angry about the meltdown, today I was able to detach somewhat and watch the river flow by while listening to my son tantrum in the background. It was definitely not a comfortable position to find myself in and I did feel empathy for my son while he screamed and raged. Realizing that I couldn’t do anything about it except wait for it to be over was freeing. I remained feeling calm even when he brought up the reason he was angry again when we were back in the car and heading home.
Loving detachment doesn’t mean detached from love. It’s about letting others have their emotions and not having to share in them, especially if the emotions are negative. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.
I recently (very recently) joined Facebook. I’ve avoided it for a long time for many reasons. One of the major reasons I avoided it is because I’ve seen what I might describe as dependence on social media and technology and I prefer independence. Today, on the 4th of July, I’ve been thinking about Independence versus Dependence and also about Dependence versus Connection. Facebook and other social media can really be about connection. Connecting to people who might benefit from Breathe Mom makes it the right thing to do. So I’ll be developing a Facebook page and connecting with some old friends and some new friends. Hope to see you there!
During this extended break I’ve been working on solidifying new habits. Some of them are easier than others. I’ve done my short yoga practice every morning since I started vacation and I’m really pleased with that. I’ve also meditated for 15-20 minutes nearly every day and I feel that it’s helping me to explore some of my deeper desires and emotions. I’ve participated in some type of creative endeavor (drawing, painting with watercolors, Zen Tangles, writing poetry) between 4 and 5 days per week and I have a little travel journal full of my creativity to look back on in days to come.
One of my old habits that I’ve found creeping back in is a default to negative thinking. The new habit that I want to form is that when I notice myself thinking in negative patterns to change that to either a neutral thought or to a positive thought. So instead of thinking “my vacation is more than half over” I will instead say to myself “I’ve really enjoyed my vacation so far and I intend to continue to enjoy it”.
One way to decrease negative thinking is simply to notice that it’s happening. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re thinking about that we don’t even realize that the tone has become negative. Setting the “breathe” reminder on your phone can be a trigger to also recognize what you’re feeling and thinking at that moment. If it’s negative, notice it and neutralize or change it. If it’s positive congratulate yourself and celebrate. Celebrating positive behavior is a way to encourage it to continue. What we pay attention to grows.
If you have a new habit that you would like to form how will you do it? Please share here in the comments section. I’d love to hear from some readers!