Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

Amazingly, surgeons replaced a woman’s larynx allowing her to independently speak, breathe and smell after more than a decade. Her gratitude in the story inspired me. She said, "It's just been a really, really unbelievable experience smelling freshly cut grass. The air, breathing the air. Taking your garbage out—that's a real good smell."

I can totally relate. Back in July I had a painful eye injury that left me blind for 2 weeks. The ordeal made me realize: 
  • How I had taken my vision (and my whole health) for granted
  • The amazing capabilities of the human body
  • That medical science is the bomb
  • My friends  and family are amazing, and how dependent I am upon their love and support
  • That it's not the end of the world if I were to lose my vision. Sure, I would have to re-learn how to live and function, but I could and would readjust. 
Talk about a reset—any other little worries or anxieties I had before the accident instantly disappeared with new context. And even now just being able to see the words I write at this very moment overwhelms me. It’s amazing to stop taking things for granted.

All of this reminds me of another article on how time speeds up as we get older for the very same reason—we start taking things for granted. As a kid, when things happen for the first time, they are new and novel and we pause to soak in the magnificence. As desensitized adults, we allow things to start passing us by.

My favorite philosopher Krishnamurti touches on this topic very nicely in one of his speeches. He said, “Awaken all your senses to their highest degree so that you look at the world with all your senses… Man has become dull through repetition, through tradition, through the oppression…You have gradually lost all sensitivity, all energy to create…[To have] the drive, the beauty, one must have great sensitivity. You cannot have great sensitivity if every sense is not fully functioning, fully aware.”

So just how would waking all of your senses affect you? How would looking at everything around you with renewed appreciation change your life? For me, I’ve found a lot of benefit in re-evaluating my world…and it’s simply added perspective that brings positivity and energy.  

The challenge is just how to stop taking the things for granted. When I asked myself how can I personally become fully conscious, I remembered that song lyric, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” So for those of you blessed with the following, here’s an exercise to help cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
  • Vision: What would your life be like without eyes? Who would you miss seeing among your family or friends? What visual treats—art, sunsets, movies, puppies, would you miss most?
  • Speech: What if you couldn't say "I love you?"
  • Smell: What smells of people, food, or nature would you yearn for?
  • Hearing: What sounds/music/voices would you miss most?
  • Mobility: How would not having hands or legs affect you?
And remember that if any of these things were to happen, your life wouldn’t be over, you would be reborn. You would view the world with new perspective.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Planning for a Rainy Day

I heard a story on the radio today. To summarize for you:

After two miscarriages and a severely complicated pregnancy that ended in abortion, a woman gave up.  It was a devastating experience to share with her husband.  One minute filled with hope as a mother-to-be, the next…overwhelmed with empty grief. And she couldn’t take it anymore. So she and her husband decided to accept life sans children.
With time, they began to focus on their new life as a childless couple—going to happy hours, hosting dinner parties, planning exotic vacations.
And then totally unplanned (even on the pill)…she got pregnant.
You’d think she’d be happy, right? No. She was angry.
She went to a therapist to dissect the anger and said, “I’m upset because this pregnancy wasn’t in the plan.”
To which her therapist replied, “What are plans really, but figments of our imagination? People make plans to give themselves the illusion that they can control the unknown. But each moment unravels regardless of your plans.”
This made her think of her past plans. All the past plans that she had made for her deceased children never came to fruition and she couldn’t handle it. It was hard to let go. In the end, she did give birth and before I turned off the radio she said, “Loss makes you appreciate what you have.”
For me, this story perfectly captures pain’s complex power.

People make plans to avoid pain and become happy. I acknowledge that planning is a survival skill that works in my favor—it helps me prepare for the winter or plan for my future.

But can planning also work against me? If I get lost in planning and define my life in terms of milestones, how could I ever truly enjoy the present? There’s got to be balance between planning for success and then letting go of expectations.

Now switch it up.  Say I undergo great loss and am suffering like the woman in the radio segment. The last thing I would ever want to do is fully embrace the moment. I mean, if the moment is painful who wants to fully absorb that?

But when you deny the moment and the pain, those feelings don’t just go away….they end up manifesting in other areas of your life.  They affect your relationships, your health, your sleep, your well-being.  

Frankly, I became a lot happier the moment I decided to live day by day. Whether that day is peaceful or painful, that doesn’t matter to me because it just IS. And there’s always beauty to be seen.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Go to the corner

Remember when taking timeout used to be a punishment? In third grade, fun resulted in a frown, a demerit, and a lonely corner. 

Now at 28, I revel in a simple timeout. Sometimes after work, I take 10 minutes to sit on a pillow on the floor in my room's corner. It’s a strange form of punishment—to sit there and do nothing. It's almost like I'm back in the third grade. 

But those timeouts make the rest of my day better. My mood better. 


Sure, there are MANY factors at play... having to do with psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, biology, wellness, consciousness. 

But almost none of the logical explanations really matter to me, because it just IS. 

And thus the inspiration for this blog. I feel extremely lucky because I am uncovering for myself what "living in the moment", "authentic living," "being present" exactly means to me. And I'm realizing the more I make the time—to timeout—the more I feel at peace with myself and my life. 

My friends describe me as an optimist, a happy-go-lucky gal.  My boss Joe once said, "If we could just bottle up whatever is in your brain and sell it, we could be very rich people." I take those as huge compliments.

I just learned the more love I put out, the more love I get back. It's been life changing to have so many amazing, interesting and inspiring people around me in support. So I’m embarking on a journey to learn more about the art of living life. And I want to share it with the people around me—not to support me, but maybe to offer support outward.

Interconnectedness through joie de vivre? Sounds possible to me.