Week 16: Express Gratitude On A Daily Basis

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures” ~ Thornton Wilder

I have to say I definitely turned a corner this week on understanding what raising consciousness is really all about. Up until now, I have looked at all of these different ‘assignments’ for my project as a means to an end. That if I meditate, or re-connect with true friends, or practice forgiveness, or any of the other 100 things on my Official List, then I am eventually going to get myself to a better place. To a better me.

What I realized, though, as I tried to ‘express gratitude’ this week, is that there really is no end point. Raising my consciousness is not at all about the future me, it is about the me right now. In this moment. It’s about being the best me I can be today, not 100 weeks from now.

So what was the turning point? Well, having heard over the years about the benefits of keeping a ‘gratitude journal’, I decided that would be the perfect way for me to ‘express gratitude’ this week. I found an old notebook and committed to writing down 5 new things every night that I was grateful for. Why 5? Because I’d read somewhere that that’s how Oprah does it. Plus, it seemed pretty simple.

Well, the first night was simple…in fact it was so simple that I didn’t stop at just 5, I wrote down every single thing I could think of. I fell asleep in a haze of gratitude – it was awesome. The next night, though, was a little trickier and I had to dig a little deeper to come up with 5 more things to be grateful about. It wasn’t actually that hard, but it did make me realize that if I was going to come up with enough new things every night, then I was really going to have to start paying a little more attention while I was awake!

The next few days were pretty fun as I started noticing things that I might have overlooked, or forgotten about, in the past. Like finding the perfect parking place on a rainy day. And getting the last box of my favorite cereal at the grocery store. Seeing hundreds of dragon flies flying around the field below our house. Certainly nothing life-altering, but I found myself feeling grateful about them nonetheless. I was definitely looking at my world through a whole new light.

And that’s when I realized that all of this consciousness raising I was doing was not just a way to a better life, it was the better life.

Now some might say that it’s easy to find things to be grateful for when life is good, but what if I were hungry, or poor, or sick? What if I was hungry, poor and sick? Well, according to a lot of the books I’ve read (and believe me, I’ve read a lot!) that’s when it’s the most important to find something, anything, to be grateful about. Even if it’s just that the sky is blue, or my heart is beating…it doesn’t matter what it is at all. What matters is that I’m making the choice to see something positive rather than negative. Because it is in that choice, that decision to stop saying ‘woe is me’, even if I have every reason in the world to say it, that life can start to change for the better.

One of my most favorite spiritual gurus, Eckhart Tolle, put it this way:

“Gratitude is very important.  It transforms your whole life, if you can remember the importance of being grateful for life.  As you go through your day, every day, you can even have little reminders – of the importance of being appreciative of life. Every person has to verify for themselves, what can I be grateful for at this moment? Sense the being that you are – not just the physical, but the sense of your own presence.  That’s a great source of joy, to feel your own presence, it cannot really be defined.  That’s the ultimate gratitude.”

It is so easy, at least for me, to take life for granted. To get so caught up in my day-to-day worries and problems that I fail to remember what an incredible gift it is to just be alive. Even after being jolted out of my complacency a few times with health scares, I still find myself coasting along on auto-pilot every so often, not paying any attention at all.

I read a story this week that my niece had sent out to our family, about a social experiment, organized by The Washington Post, on how people perceive certain things. Back in January, 2007, they arranged for a very famous violinist, Joshua Bell, to play incognito in a DC Metro station, during the morning rush hour. He played music written by Bach on his $3,500,000 violin for an hour, and during that time about 2000 people passed through the station. Of those 2000, only 6 people actually stopped to listen. The question asked at the end of the story was this:

“If we don’t have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…how many other things are we missing?”

Well, if I learned anything this week, it’s that if I want to be the kind of person who stops and listens to the music, I am going to have to slow down every now and then so I can hear it.

WEEK 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~ C.S. Lewis

Well, I guess when I started my project back in March I should have given a little more thought to how I would keep up with it during the summer, since I am away (and unplugged) for a lot of it. So rather than spend my vacation fretting about how far behind I was getting, I decided to simply add another guideline to my list:

Number 11: Don’t take myself too seriously – it’s just a blog!

So, in the spirit of that guideline, I enjoyed a very relaxing summer, and now I’m ready to pick up where I left off back in July…Week 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals.

I’m pretty sure that if I had actually given any thought beforehand to how I was going to go about finding a ‘like-minded individual’ to befriend, I might have panicked a little bit. I mean, it’s not like meeting new friends is the easiest thing to do, like-minded or not. Luckily, though, I didn’t have to think about it. It was almost as though someone led me on a treasure hunt, and the prize at the end was the perfect ‘like-minded individual’!

What’s amazing though, especially in hindsight, is how easily I could have not met this person, because a lot of the decisions I made along the way were pretty out of character for me. I’m not sure if it was fate, or the universe, or just dumb luck that led me down the right path, but I am incredibly grateful that something kept pointing me in the right direction. Otherwise, I might still be out there looking for a like-minded person, and be even further behind than I already am!

So here’s what happened:

A friend read my blog on Facebook and thought I might be interested in going to hear Gabrielle Bernstein, a young spiritual author, speak at a local playhouse. Now, I don’t usually like to go out during the week if I can help it, so it would have been much more like me not to make the effort. But for some reason I went. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #1

When we got to the event, some vendors were set up in the lobby, and there was a long line in front of one of them. When I found out that everyone was waiting for a free ‘angel reading’ I was pretty intrigued, so I got in line. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #2, because I really hate standing in long lines.

The reading itself was brief, but amazingly accurate given the circumstances, and so I took one of her cards, thinking an ‘Angel Reader’ might come in handy when I got to #70 on my Official List: Connect with Your Spirit Guides. So a couple of days later I checked out her website, and ended up sending her an email to get a few more details about what she did. At the last-minute, I decided to include a little bit about my project, and added the link to my blog. Now, I have to tell you, I have never shared my blog with anyone I haven’t met before, so this was definitely Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #3.

We started a little email exchange and she suggested that maybe we could meet for coffee sometime and talk more about my project. I was so excited…someone I didn’t even know actually liked my blog! So I sent her a quick reply saying that I was getting ready to leave on vacation, but I would love to have coffee as soon as I got back. I had no sooner pushed the send button, though, than I turned the page on my calendar and saw that my next week’s ‘assignment’ was to ‘Befriend Like-Minded Individuals’! It seemed too good to be true!

So, at the risk of her thinking I was completely nuts, I quickly sent another email asking if she would possibly help me out by being my like-minded friend for a week, and she agreed to get together before I left. Now, for some people, meeting with a complete stranger may be no big deal, but for me it is just not something I do every day. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d never done anything like it before…so Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #4!

We met a couple of days later, and luckily, despite my worry that it might be totally awkward, it was just really, really fun. Talking to someone who is on the same path is so energizing – especially when that someone is a little further along that path. I felt like I’d known her forever! And believe it or not, even though she and I had never really met, I actually knew her husband. In fact, I was going to be seeing him later that morning! It really can be a crazy, small world, can’t it?

Of course, I’m sure there are people out there who might read this and say that it was all just coincidence, and that I am making way too much out of what happened. But the week after all of this took place, I randomly picked up a book called The Celestine Prophesy, by James Redfield, and to my utter amazement the whole first chapter was about experiences such as mine. According to Redfield:

“…these coincidences are happening more and more frequently and, when they do, they strike us as beyond what would be expected by pure chance. They feel destined, as though our lives had been guided by some unexplained force. The experience induces a feeling of mystery and excitement and, as a result, we feel more alive.”

Redfield refers to such experiences as ‘meaningful coincidences’ that lead one in a particular direction, and he believes they happen a lot more often than we realize. We just miss recognizing them because we are moving so fast through our lives. Perhaps if we could slow down and take ourselves off autopilot once in a while, we would notice more often when we actually have a choice to make that could point us in the right direction.

Looking back on all of the ‘coincidences’ that led me to my new like-minded friend last week, I have to say that the experience left me with an incredible sense of possibility. That if I would just step out of my comfort zone a little more often, and perhaps try some new ways of thinking (and doing), it would be much more possible for me to experience the limitless opportunities (and friends!) that are out there, waiting for me to find them.

I just need to slow down so I’ll notice the clues.