Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gratitude, the Internet and One-Half Year to Mother’s Day by Cyma Shapiro

My shaman and I are working on my keeping gratitude – living with it as a daily, inherent practice; praying or meditating frequently; keeping the glass ‘half-full’ rather than seeing the glass as ‘half empty.’ For me, the basis for this is to maintain myself as a woman and as a midlife mother. However, in order to do so I must stay grounded, humble and full of gratitude and grace. Some days I can barely breathe.  I must remind myself often of what is most important.

 When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.  --Sam Lefkowitz

As many of you remember, I wrote about this subject nearly six months ago. In “Gratitude is a Nine Letter Word,” I began with this:  “For many years in my yoga classes (pre-children), I had trouble finding the ‘gratitude’ that the teachers requested of us, especially during our parting word, “Namaste” (meaning: the light/spirit in me acknowledges the light/spirit in you).  While I knew that it was necessary to acknowledge the goodness in my life; the people who had sustained me; the loves I had found; and the joys that I experienced, the truth was that I was always just surviving the day only to run home and find solace and peace in the solitude of my home, alone. The truth was that I was rarely happy.

I ended that blog with this:  “Although my childrearing years have come at a later age than most, and there are certainly days that I ponder and sometimes grieve the truth of that, I am now nearly always hopeful about myself, my life and the lifetime of potential for my children.  Having gratitude provides a constant stream of strength and power which I draw from daily in my quest for a good, compassionate and life-affirming existence. I pray often and constantly give thanks. I am now just grateful to be alive, AND to have my children.”

Nearly daily I seek to reinforce my gratitude in a variety of ways. Today, I found it on the Internet – a place I seem to be residing in, lately; a place which is having a profound impact on me. While searching for Gratitude websites, I stumbled on these: gratitudephotoblog; gratitudebook; gratitudelog; barbaraquinnyearofgratitude;;  Opgratitude and the mother of all  of these - the Gratitude Directory. NetworkedBlogs showed me even more: Once a Millionaire’s Daughter; Attitude of Gratitude; Following Your Joy; Gratitude Blog; Still Life With Noise; Without Fear; Gratitude with Attitude; the Power of Gratitude. But, I hadn’t found what I was seeking….

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy - because we will always want to have something else or something more. -Brother David Steindl-Rast

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving .-  Kahlil Gibran.

Then I stumbled on writer Bethany Saltman’s blog post, “Zen for Moms: Letting Your Life Teach You,” and I felt at home.  Here are some excerpts:
1) Let your life be a question
Instead of resigning yourself to everything you encounter—irritating people, sibling rivalry, exhaustion, jealous feelings, diarrhea—approach it all as a question, a puzzle that is worthy of your investigation. Assume you don’t know what’s going on, or the whole story. 
2) Move your awareness in, instead of out
This is simple, but first it’s important to become aware of awareness. When we get upset about anything, bring awareness to our bodies in whatever way we can muster: our racing heart, our streaming tears, clenched jaw. And when we feel happy, hungry, bored, again, move awareness back in. Relax the body. This doesn’t mean we get self-obsessed. It’s one of those great paradoxes and one of the central teachings of Zen: embodying ourselves is the only way to become truly available to everyone else, including our kids.
And, finally:
3) Cultivate gratitude
Easier on some days than others, I know. When kids are screaming, it’s raining out, you’re broke, you haven’t washed your hair in a week, and all you want to do is eat bread and butter. It’s tough to slow down the train of despair and get in touch with gratitude. But since so much of our agony stems from self-concern; if what we really want is to feel some relief, it’s helpful to get some perspective. Take a moment. Look around. Is everyone healthy? Are you able to feed your kids? Do you have a home?  Friends?  Chances are, you’ve got something pretty incredible to be grateful for. Take a deep breath and start over.
I’m breathing better now. The words envelope me; the thoughts resonate deeply. It’s ok to be me and more than ok to be a midlife mom. Six months to Mother’s Day.  I’m grateful and I’m smiling.
Next Week’s Blog: Teaching Gratitude to Our Children

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