self help

Practicing Gratitude, Welcoming Miracles

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. -Rumi

Yoga is a practice. Wholehearted living is a practice. Just like learning a new instrument, these things are a practice. There is always room for growth. In the last year, I have been practicing meditation. For years I have met the “do you meditate?” question with resistance and “I’ve tried but I’m terrible at it.” But that is perfection talking. Since learning to let go of perfectionism, meditation has become accessible to me.

Some days are easier than others. Though I can sit down by myself for a few minutes and focus on my breath, I prefer guided meditation. While my husband might disagree, I take direction well. There are days when I get to the end of a twelve-minute session and realize I may not have breathed the entire time, but I remember everything I forgot to pick up at Costco three days ago.

I have been using the Calm app for about five months now and I love it. So many meditations to choose from; a daily calm meditation, sleep guidance, everything I need. I am also working through a “Course in Miracles” Challenge right now (more on that later). Today the two came together beautifully.

After reading through my morning “Miracles” reflection and reciting today’s daily affirmation, “I believe in miracles,” I settled in for my daily calm. The title was “The Guest House” which didn’t provide much guidance as to what I was about to tackle. I thought “Oh dear, we’re going to talk about welcoming strangers and neighbors and yadda yadda.” This made me anxious. I have no energy to welcome strangers right now and my house is beyond help, inside and out. I’m currently overwhelmed by abundance: an abundance of toys, an abundance of ill-fitting clothes, an abundance of weeds, you name it.

So, I settled into my “meditation space,” which right now is simply an extra pillow under my bum on my bed, and let Tamara guide me. I was aware of the first cup of coffee sitting on the side table getting cold, I was aware of the pain in my right shoulder making it impossible to turn my head, and I became hyper-aware of the back neighbor mowing his lawn. I considered closing the window, but the breeze was too lovely, so I closed my eyes and tried to drown out the noise.

Two minutes in, the noise stopped and I could only hear crickets chirping and my breath. This brought a smile to my otherwise still face. It didn’t last long. Steve started with the weedwhacker. Shortly after, the neighbor across the street turned on the weedwhacker in the other direction, followed by the leaf blower. I was surrounded by noise!

My knee-jerk reaction was to get mad, which at one point would have involved giving up on my meditation and probably yelling out the window to no one who could hear me. But I stayed. My body remained still. Practice. And as I stayed and practiced nonreactivity a thought of gratitude washed over me. Gratitude for my practical German husband who cuts the grass with an old-fashioned mechanical mower that doesn’t make noise and my smile returned. I believe in miracles.

Then came “The Guest House” which turns out to be a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet/theologian/mystic, popular in mindfulness studies. It has nothing to do with entertaining strangers. Who knew? It’s a beautiful reflection on the human experience and accepting all the miracles that come your way. In the “Course” I am learning to release my fears, which are many, and when you do you are able to accept the many gifts the Universe has to offer.

My life has been ridden with trauma, and there have been times that I have wanted to surrender to the pain and the anger that has come with it. Sometimes I have given in, numbing my mind and body with alcohol, sex, shopping, over-working, but I have continued to move forward. As I learn and grow in my practice of accepting myself without expectation, in letting go of fear, I am also learning to accept the gifts that have come to me through even the toughest of times. Through adversity, I’ve found strength I didn’t know I had. Through a disastrous custody schedule, I’ve been given time to heal and build new relationships. I’ve learned to have fun again, #poorpussy, (just seeing if my best friends are paying attention).

Today as I welcome the miracles I will try to also practice gratitude for this human experience. Last week we had a guest minister in our pulpit and something Rev. Jason Shelton said stuck with me. “Let us try to remember, every time we say ‘WOW!’ to also say ‘thank you.’” A new practice.

translation by Coleman Barks

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