#11
July, 2005

Amazing Results, Gratitude

As you recall, in the last issue I asked to hear from you about changes in your life in the past six months, how you feel about the Breath and Water practice, if you want to continue and deepen the practice, and if you want the newsletters to continue. I have heard from many of you, and over and over this is what you say: it's amazing what an impact such a seemingly simple practice has had on your lives.

What can I say? I'm so in the middle of being on another level. Yeah, I haven't wanted to admit it to myself or to you that the seemingly simple addition of this Breath and Water practice to my living has transfused it. There are many specific changes and ongoing there's a kind heightening of all I've been knowing/doing/being. I do not have any sense of what next step this group might take. I'd like to be included. Thanks so much, Nancy for initiating and guiding these 6 months.

I had no idea this would make such a significant difference in my life. When I was a teenager I had terrible acne. It continued to crop up from time to time. It is the water? Is it the breath? I don't know, but my face is clearer now than it has been in 25 years.

I never knew I was thirsty! It never occurred to me to drink water. I drink coffee and diet pop, but I never drank water. Never. Well, sometimes in a restaurant. Two things happened once I'd started the Breath and Water practice. I became thirsty. Now I don't have to remind myself to drink water, I naturally get thirsty for it. And the other thing is personal, but I'll say it. Others may benefit from my experience. I've always been more or less constipated. My entire adult life. Now I have regular bowel movements and good stools, soft but well-formed. Not the little deer pellets I'm used to pushing out! (God, be sure you don't use my name!) And the third thing, I'm happier. Maybe that's from the breathing, maybe from not being constipated. Who knows? All I know is I'm going to keep doing this. And thank you, Nancy.

Your consistent checking in and keeping us all connected has been a very good thing. Your messages have helped me to move along the path I'm following. If you decide to continue this it would be a welcome thing in my life.

So we will continue on. I’m glad.

Let's add this

You're breathing for 15 minutes twice a day. Just breathing, just enjoying the benefits of your breath. Sometimes you may be practicing the hug your heart breath, sometimes alternating nostril breathing, sometimes reverse breathing. So far so good. Now here's something new to try. Divide your breathing minutes into three segments. If you're breathing for 15 minutes, divide the time into three five minutes segments. Use your timer. For the first two segments of minutes, or 10 minutes, just breathe as you have been. Then for the last segment, 5 minutes, practice feeling gratitude. Do this both morning and evening.

Now, I know you're not all breathing for 15 minutes twice a day every day, so just add this gratitude piece to your practice as it is. Then reset your intent to breathe 15 minutes twice a day. Reset your intent and your determination.

Let me say something about GRATITUDE. Gratitude doesn't include comparing. In other words, it isn't exactly gratitude to say, "I'm grateful I'm not sick like so and so is." Or, "I'm grateful I don't have ugly hair." Or anything of that nature. See if you can feel gratitude for who you are, without having to compare to who you're glad you aren't. See if you can feel gratitude for your life. As it is.

Feel free to prime the gratitude pump. When I'm looking for a sense of gratitude I always dwell on my partner Deb, and there it is. Then I can let go of the specific person or thing and just luxuriate in the feeling of gratitude. Practice feeling gratitude for the last 5 minutes of your morning and evening breathing. After a while, you'll just be able to feel gratitude without it having to be about anything. Gratitude for your existence. Gratitude for the unfathomable mystery of life.

We were house-sitting for a friend last week. She had a sign in her bathroom that said something like, "We must always remember that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."

As always, let me know how you like this practice. We'll be building on it.

I'm including two newsletters I wrote about gratitude some time ago.

From Signal Fire February 2003

360º of Gratitude

For years, I’ve been observing people, including myself, as they attempt to create what they desire. From this observation, I have learned that desire and gratitude share an essential partnership. I’ve seen teachings that tell us to practice gratitude for what we desire to bring into our lives — to be grateful for what we are hoping to manifest, as though it is already manifest. And while that is certainly a good practice, it is incomplete.

Try this: focus on one object. Do it now — look around the room, see one thing, and focus on it. What happens to your peripheral vision? It all but disappears, doesn't it? Well, focusing your intent on what you desire, even with the inclusion of gratitude for its manifestation, has a similar effect of narrowing your vision.

You cannot get anyplace except from where you are. And to be fully where you are requires acceptance, and even appreciation. Stand in present time and look all around you ― all the way back to the beginning of life. Look at where you’ve been and who’ve you’ve been, look at what you’ve done and not done, at what you’ve learned, at who you’ve become and who you’ve not become. Look ahead, into the mystery of who you may become. Look at now. Look all around you and experience gratitude for it all. 360º of gratitude.

Try it. See yourself at the center of your entire life — past, present, and future — and fill the entire 360º of your life with gratitude. Can you see how gratitude brings light and air and movement into the circle of who you are? See how different that is from the narrowed vision of focus on a particular desired future? But recognize that the 360º includes you. Gratitude for your life is inseparable from gratitude for yourself — all 360º of self.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t have desires, that we shouldn’t make plans, or set goals. I am saying that to do so within the energy of 360º of gratitude brings movement, flexibility, and openness to your desires.

When I returned to my private practice as psychic/healer/teacher, I found myself impatient for my income from my practice to increase. Faced with that impatience, I realized that my primary challenge was to appreciate my life as it was, appreciate my practice as it was. My main job was to practice 360º of gratitude. This was not an easy task for me, and it took months of facing the same lesson over and over again before I was able to really dwell in gratitude. Little did I know that gratitude was an apprenticeship for an even more challenging occupation.

Love

No sooner did I begin to master gratitude and appreciation, than I found myself assailed by love. Surrounded by love. Corralled by it. Everywhere I turned, there it was in my face. I went into a store I never shop at, just to keep Deb company, and there on the bookshelves I saw one book light up. So, as I have learned to do, I bought it. What was it about? Love. Again and again, when I turned on the radio, I heard some variation on "all you need it love." I played the Transformation Game, and love was after me the whole time. The final straw was when I turned on the radio and there was none other than Garrison Keillor, talking about love.

Stop, I screamed! I can’t take it! I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to love in the face of my despair about the world. I don’t know how to love Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney. Don’t make me do it. Leave me alone. Let me rage, let me rant, let me despair. But do not ask me to love. Damn.

An Aside About Equations

It has actually been clear to me for some years that my primary learning in this life has to do with love. Which reminds me of a question I am often asked. "Is it true that we choose our parents? If so, why did I choose mine?"

Rather than choosing your parents, you choose your learning. And once you choose your learning, all the rest falls into place. Consider this: you choose what you want to learn in a particular lifetime, and that which you have chosen is the solution, or answer, to an equation. Once you have the solution, you build the equation. Your parents are a part of that equation.

So don’t get down on yourself for "choosing" your parents. They are simply part of the equation you came here to solve. An equation you solve by living it.

For example, I came here to live an equation that brings me to know more about love. To that end, I was born into a family that had no practice of love and no experience of love, except with its absence. I have, as a result, learned quite a bit about love!

I realize that what I am about to say runs the risk of turning a complex aspect of the equation into a simplistic one, so please understand that the process of arriving at the following sentence was long and arduous, with many side equations to solve as I moved forward.

But now, from my perspective a goodly way along on my equation, I can appreciate and have gratitude for what was a tortuous childhood. And of course, my appreciation and gratitude are part of the equation, and lead me further along in its solution.

Now Back to Love

So there I was, being assailed by love at every turn, and not a bit happy about it. I was too sunk in hopelessness about the world to want anything to do with love. Then I turned on the radio again, and love made its final assault on me.

It is Martin Luther King, Jr. talking. Perhaps you can hear the timbre of his voice and the cadence of his speech:

"We are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us. [This new way is] an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft-misunderstood, this oft-misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man."

"When I speak of love, I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of a force which is just emotional bosh. I’m speaking of that force which all the great religions of the world have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life."

"Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day."

Finally love had my full attention, and I saw that love is fierce. I saw that the real challenge isn’t just to practice love in the face of Dick Cheney’s greed or Jerry Falwell’s hatred, but to practice love in the face of my greed and my hatred.

I may sweat blood in the process, but I am fierce in my determination to meet all demons, internal and external, with the energy of love — that all-embracing and unconditional force which is the unifying principle of life. I am determined to be fiercely on the side of love in the face of judgement — my own and others, fiercely on the side of love in the face of rage — my own and others, and fiercely on the side of love in the face of despair — my own and others.

What does that mean, though? What does it look like to be fiercely on the side of love? For one thing, it means that I embrace all my defenses that keep me less than I am. I embrace them and accept them, whether they be a criticizing inner voice, a fear of my own inadequacy, a judgmental attitude that keeps others at a distance, or a belief in my victimtude. I say yes, yes, no doubt there is some truth in you, Ms. Defense, but what does it matter? I am fiercely on the side of love, and love sends me out in the world to be myself, warts and all.

When Dr. King says "…nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom," I see that the enemy is within, as is the savior. And I must know them both with compassion, acceptance, and gratitude.

So what about despair?

One does not easily give up the habit of despair. But as I embrace love, I see that there is a shift in the quality and quantity of despair. Love does not so much obviate despair as it understands it.

Think of love as awareness, an accepting awareness. Love sees despair, and acknowledges its truth. And love, like gratitude, opens one’s perspective. Love’s awareness of despair is contained in its awareness of a "bigger picture" perspective. With love, despair becomes one truth of many in my worldview.

Remember Ray Charles

Several years ago, I heard a radio interview with Ray Charles. It was on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of performing and recording. The interviewer asked him if he still practices the piano. Of course, he answered, he tries to get into the studio every day to practice. Then she asked him if he practices the songs he will be playing in concert. He laughed, long and hearty and deep, and said, "No. No, no. no, no, no. No, no, no." He practices the scales. Every day he practices the scales, so that when he gets on stage his body, his fingers, will do what he asks of them.

Everyday I practice love. Everyday I practice loving acceptance of myself and others. In meditation I run the energy of love. I direct it inward towards all aspects of who I am, and outward to the planet and all her life forms. Out in the world, I consciously call on the energy of love. What perspective does love bring to this or that situation? That way, when I am in a spot that challenges my ability to love, my practice will put me in good stead — my heart will do what I ask it to.

From Signal Fire December 2003

I was teaching about gratitude at a recent class. It was not what I had intended to teach, but it arose naturally from our discussion so I focused on it. And it’s a good thing I did!

Introduction

I’d been talking about fantasy, about how we use fantasy to make ourselves feel as though we are getting some need met. I was using an example most people can relate to, that of winning the lottery. I bet you know it, "If I won the lottery I’d…" This is certainly a fantasy I’m familiar with. If my teaching is accurate, I use this fantasy to allow myself to feel like I am getting some need met. What is the need? (It’s useful to note that the need that drives my lottery fantasy is not necessarily the same need that drives your lottery fantasy.)

To identify the need I reenter the fantasy. How do I feel in this fantasy of winning the lottery? I close my eyes and imagine myself the winner. I feel content, I feel excited, I feel thrilled – but none of those feelings creates a zing of recognition in my body. And it’s that zing that will let me know when I’ve identified the specific need I’m attempting to have met through fantasy.

So I close my eyes again and feel my way back into the fantasy. I feel relieved – that’s close, relieved is close to the desire I’m trying to get met. I feel some more and then I hit it – bingo! I feel grateful. I am so grateful that I have won the lottery, so grateful that all my problems are solved! That’s it, I have identified the need that I’m trying to trick myself into feeling is met.

Backtrack a bit

One thing Tuesday night’s class already knows is that once you have identified the need you’ve also identified the means to use to get that need met. This brings us to a newsletter I was going to work on one of these days, the means and ends newsletter. So let me just say here that the need we want to have met, whether it be in a fantasy or a present time relationship or situation, is the end we are desiring to achieve. Mahatma Gandhi taught us that the end we desire determines the means we use to get there. Do we want a peaceful society? We must become peaceful people. It’s the same within ourselves. Do you want more love from your relationships? Then you must become the embodiment of love.

The identified need

Back to Tuesday night’s class, I had identified gratitude as the end desire in my fantasy. This was no surprise. For two years I have regularly been given the instruction to embody gratitude. What I’d learned up to now is that gratitude gives me the perspective to really love my life as it is. It allows me to realize that my life actually is a won lottery!

Yet here it is again, in a demonstration in Tuesday’s class. Gratitude. I must embody the essence of gratitude. So I suggested that we all practice filling ourselves with the energy of gratitude. And remember, this is 360º of gratitude — gratitude that includes the self, gratitude that flows out from the self to encompass all of life. Gratitude about yourself and your life right now.

A student said she didn’t know what the energy of gratitude should feel like. I said, pretend. Make it up. Experiment. It’s all practice. You can prime the pump, so to speak, by thinking of something outside yourself that you’re grateful for. Let yourself feel that gratitude, then transfer that feeling to yourself. Have gratitude for who you and where you’re at in your life. So we all practiced "running the energy" of gratitude. It felt great.

Then Anita asked a question. Gratitude came up in relation to winning the lottery. Does that mean that there a cause and effect relationship between gratitude and abundance? If I feel gratitude will I then have abundance?

Remember, this is a true story

I took a breath, ready to respond to her question. I didn’t know what I was going to say. Probably something along the lines of "I don’t know about that, but I do know that gratitude allows us to become aware of the abundance we already have in our lives." But clearly, whatever I was going to say wasn’t good enough, because exactly as I finished inhaling and opened my mouth to speak, the doorbell rang.

Now remember, this is 8:45 on a dark, windy, cold winter night. Who could it possibly be? As I went to the door I remarked that it was probably a canvasser from Clean Water Action — they like our generous, progressive neighborhood. I was not even close.

At the door stood my next-door neighbor (and former student) with large, round, tin box. She’d stayed home from work that day and baked Christmas cookies. She thought I’d like some. Once she realized she’d interrupted a class, she thrust the tin into my hands and dashed off, calling happy holidays over her shoulder.

I took the box to the class and opened it to find a beautiful array of cookies. Look, I said, my neighbor brought us cookies. One of my students exclaimed, "It’s because we were running gratitude!"

Abundance is attracted to gratitude

Yes, it’s true. We were working with gratitude, feeling it in our bodies, feeling it towards ourselves, feeling it for life itself, and abundance came knocking on the door! Wow. I guess Anita’s question got answered! We looked around at each other with our mouths hanging open, delighted with the teaching we’d just been given and amazed at the way it’d been delivered. As an added bonus, the cookies were delicious! We ate cookies while we talked about the fact that an embodied teaching had sought us out.

It is not unusual for me to receive inspiration while I’m teaching. It’s true that I know a lot, but it’s also true that I sometimes find myself saying something in class that I didn’t know I knew, and I readily acknowledge that as inspiration. But never before have I had a teaching actually show up knocking on the front door! That’s for sure a teaching to pay attention to. Abundance comes to gratitude’s door.

Gratitude is a beacon for abundance. 360º of gratitude puts you in the position to experience and appreciate the abundance you already have in your everyday life. And 360º of gratitude opens the door to new and unexpected abundance. Thanks to Anita for asking the right question.

May the living spirit of gratitude imbue your life this coming year.