How about a gratitude buddy?

Last fall, when life seemed to be deep in pressures of all kind and I seemed to be lost in others suffering, I reached out to a dear friend to inquire about being a gratitude buddy?  We have known each other through studying spiritual disciplines together over the years, share a common thread of our work and raising children about the same age.  I said, ‘what the heck’ she can say no.  But that is not what turned out to be the case.  This daily practice of sending an email to one another to say just what we are grateful for and about has proven to be a bedrock practice that reminds both of us to see to good in our lives and that of others.

It really is simple, I heard the suggestion on a pod cast of one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Tara Brach and it hit home or my heart.  It is rather simple, just say yes to someone, write as often as you can (cuz life happens).  It takes about five minutes really, just say one or two things that you are grateful about, even if it seems like nothing…find one little thing.  And send it off!

Here is a favorite poem of mine that I believe inspired me to just keep going, to find just one thing, one good thing, one thing to be grateful about, to say ‘Thank you’ and mean it!

Arms Full of Wildflowers

Gratitude means showing up on life’s doorstep,

love’s threshold, dressed in a clown suit,

rubber-nosed, gunboat shoes flapping.

Gratitude shows up with arms full of wildflowers,

reciting McKuen or the worst of Neruda.

To talk of gratitude is to be

the fool in a cynic’s world.

Gratitude is pride’s nightmare,

the admission of humility before something

given without expectation or attachment.

Gratitude tears open the shirt

of self importance, scatters buttons

across the polished floors of feigned indifference,

ignores the obvious and laughs out loud.

Even more, gratitude bares her breasts, rips open

her ribs to show the naked heart, the holy heart.

What if that sacred heart is not, after all, about sacrifice?

Imagine it is about joy, barefoot and foolhardy,

something unasked for, something unearned.

What if the beat we hear, when we are finally quiet

is simply this:

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

– Rebecca del Rio

It’s Good For Your Health: Forgiveness

Heart Stone by Paula Sager

IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH: FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.

Sidney And Suzanne Simon

Now that the holidays have passed and we’ve made it through the beginning of the year, I’d like to focus on letting go of grievances.  Let’s start out the year with how we can resolve those obstacles that hold us back from truly giving and receiving love, what I see as the last frontier in the healing process: forgiveness. In my work with individuals who have experienced trauma, abuse and challenging life events, I find that forgiveness is vital to the process of moving on, to releasing ourselves from the restraints of regret, past hurts and perceived injustices. It represents a commitment to an ongoing healing process.

It is impossible to live a life that does not offer us lessons in adversity. Bad things happen, both to us and because of us; this is part of the human condition. Good and bad, right and wrong, love and hate are a small list of conflicting ethical and emotional issues with which we struggle every day. Stresses arise in multiple aspects of our lives: at home and at work, within extended family or blended-family situations, in problems relating to our health and that of others, and from worry arising from economic strains.

Maybe you know someone who challenges your sense of well being. Holding feelings of resentment and refusing to forgive can actually create a physical stress response that can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems. If you focus on this person who arouses conflict and anger in you, your heart rate increases and blood pressure rises.

A simple yet profound way to begin lessening this tension is to imagine you and this individual as worthy of happiness, love and freedom from the restraints of conflict. Try switching your focus to feelings of forgiveness, both for that person and yourself. This may be a stretch in some instances, but when this can occur even in the smallest measure, these tiny steps can start you toward relief and healing and shift your neurotransmitters to a more healthful state. Light, spaciousness, acceptance and tolerance begin to flood your body and soul. You are on your way to becoming a forgiving person.

We must recognize that forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation; it does not wipe out memory or turn a wrong into a right. We may have to find a way to forgive others, if not their actions. We may need to forgive ourselves for our own wrong actions, let go of regrets and loosen the grip of guilt and shame that can keep us trapped in negative states of mind. You can’t expect relief to be achieved all at once, but a gradual shifting of awareness can begin to release you and even the others around you from this inner tightness.

As we move through regrets and hurts and take concrete steps toward changing our emotional relation to past events, we must acknowledge the critical role forgiveness plays in creating connection, community, and life-sustaining choices. We are meant to love and be loved. I urge you to chance removing that barrier from around your heart, and begin again—through forgiveness.