Good morning. I live in a community where we grow a lot of our food. We have realized that it is tastier and healthier to eat organic non-sprayed food. Many of us enjoy waking up and greeting the day outside with a purpose to help plants grow, to make good soil, to be a vehicle by which we serve the garden. From seed to meal we love our plants and when we consume a meal we are aware of the life form we are eating. We are filled with gratitude and awe. When we water our plants we are watering more than that; we are saying I love you to each plant and watering the seeds of awe, gratitude, and love.
To be filled with gratitude and awe for the process by which a small seed can become a large plant is to be connected with the processes of life, the rhythms, cycles, the wind, the sun, the rain, the billions of creatures that make soil healthy. Community becomes larger than just people. We are communing with the natural world, building a bridge from nature to us, for there is no separation between nature and us, we are creating beauty and food from the infinite to the finite and back to the infinite.
The practice of gratitude and watering the seeds of compassion and love brings about well-being. We don’t have to be gardeners to create beauty in the world by being who we are, turning metaphorical waste into life giving compost that sustains us. With the practice of gratitude and loving kindness there is less time and inclination to complain, to look at what is lacking, to be negative.
Gratitude is like garlic; it is an elixir that works its magic strongly. Perhaps a practice you may be interested in is to breathe into thoughts and feelings of gratitude when you are going to sleep, when you first go to sleep in the night and when you wake up in the middle of the night. When I first began this sleeping gratitude practice, many of the gratitudes I breathed into were about myself. I was filled with gratitude for a place to sleep, a bed, pillows, a house, my family, my garden, my healthy body, my supportive community. That is a strong practice. I later began to expand my sleeping gratitude practice beyond my ego, mind, and soul towards something larger: giving thanks for all the people who helped others during the day working with those who are handicapped, who are suffering; teachers, doctors, nurses; for all the people who help others. Going to sleep I feel gratitude for all that nature provides, the forces that hold the planet in the air, water, soil, wind, the sun. Giving thanks to all the people who grow food to sustain life for others. To the force of love that is somehow in the universe. To the trillions of cells that make up bodies and know what to do to sustain lifeforms.
And this practice extends in the night when it is sometimes not easy to fall back asleep. Also, in the morning upon awakening, I put a smile of my face and offer similar gratitude. This is a practice while waiting at line at the bank, while riding my bike or in a car. This is a practice that is also mixed with the practice of speaking and thinking positive thoughts. For example, when falling asleep, positive thoughts may be that there are many people who shared love with each other today. There are many people who worked today to make the world a better place. Positive thoughts may be that I have all the money and food and resources I need for today and for tomorrow. I think positive thoughts about my wife or my father or my children.
I find that the practice of thinking positive thoughts and the practice of gratitude makes for easier sleeping and a more pleasant life. In the first agreement of the four agreements, Miguel Ruiz says to be impeccable with your word in speak and with thought.
Some people argue that it is not real to go around in ones life speaking positively as the dark side and what is seen as negative is part of life and that to focus on the positive is to leave out much of what makes up life. Others say that to divide things into positive and negative is to create false dualities in the mind created by the ego. That may be true. There are many truths that may appear to be paradoxes.
However, is it not true that offering your best would be to leave someone feeling better than before they ran into you? Is it true that speaking positively, resisting the temptation to complain, to look for what is wrong, uplifts others?
I belong to a group of men called the Odd Fellows. We meet once a week on Orcas Island. The purpose of our group is to elevate the character of humankind. I find that being around people who speak less of fear, less of violence, less of what is wrong in the news they hear on television and radio, those that offer a smile, a hug, love, a loving connection through the eyes, offering to be helpful, saying something kind, uplifts the character of humankind. It feels good.
We are all creative writers. We are creating the stories of our lives. Do you like to write mysteries, tragedies, comedies, love stories, intrigue, romance, fear-based stories, horror, pain, fairy tales, stories of joy and connection; do you create stories that are uplifting? What is your story that you create with each moment of your life, with each choice of how and who to be? How are you with the second agreement to not take things personally? Do you take the weather personally and what people say and do? Is it all about you or have you observed that moving beyond your mind and ego leads to well being? Can you be the space upon which the essence of now unfolds?
We have a gentle man in our group who enjoys playing games with us of improvisational theater. He has given us one rule. We are not to say no, and we are asked to say yes. Is that a phone or a banana? It looks like a banana phone. Yes, and it’s for you. We learn about yes and, building upon what is said. When we do a lot of improvisational theater it transcends into our lives and we adopt an attitude of yes and, building each other rather than tearing each other down with contradictions, conflict, reactivity, anger, judgment, resentment. It’s an attitude of yes, of being open to opportunities as they present themselves. With a yes attitude we can find ourselves being in the flow, what we call the Tao, open to each moment as it presents itself, accepting and embracing, so that what could be called negative is not labeled as negative. You drop a cup and it breaks; that is what life is offering in this moment. Yes. Mazel tov! To offer no resistance to what is, is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness, to function from a state that is not dependent upon things being a certain way, good or bad. Rather than imposing conditions you create in your mind on circumstance and people, conditions you think you need for your happiness there is less struggle or effort on your part, and you are free to enjoy and appreciate. All those things, of course, will still pass away, cycles will come and go, but with dependency gone there is no fear of loss anymore. Life flows with ease.
You have something strong in you that is asking you to offer a kind word, a loving thought, a hug, a connection with the eyes. Sometimes it is a risk to be friendly to be vulnerable by being open and kind to take a chance and offer kindness. With a yes attitude we can trust that there is love in the universe that has manifested its energy in us. We are embodiments of the energy of love, what some might call God. For some reason, consciousness is created in the universe. Why does the universe create consciousness? What is the driving force to create consciousness? Why is love manifested in nature, in animals, in human beings?
When we live a life of being aligned with the natural intelligence that is us, we trust our deepest part of us. We heed the call from the deepest place within us. For whom do you work? To what part of you do you listen?
Please point to yourself. Please notice that no one is pointing to his or her head. We may think we are our minds, our brains, our thoughts. In fact, we have natural intelligence in every one of our trillions of cells. Rather than denying our nature as some cultures and religions suggest we do, asking us not to think or ourselves as animals, we can trust that the universe has temporarily assembled its cosmic energy to create us. For what purpose? That is up to you and your story? Is it to let love manifest in physical form? Is it to be of service to others and to the planet? In what dream do you do lucid dreaming in the daytime and in the nighttime?
When we water the seeds of compassion and love within us and outside of us, we are encouraging compassion and love to grow. It is a choice. The Dalai Lama says we can have unlimited compassion for everyone, for all beings. Sometimes we unconsciously decide how much compassion we will offer. For your immediate family you may offer a lot of compassion, perhaps unlimited, or somewhat limited depending on what your daughter, son, wife, husband, father, or mother has said to you lately. Perhaps you need certain characteristics for your family to meet your expectations and story to be fully loving and compassionate. Maybe if your wife or girlfriend was skinnier or if your daughter ate more vegetables you could love them more? Perhaps you offer a little less compassion for that man you see in the street or that person you don’t know well that you work with. How do we decide how much we offer? Perhaps the same is true for how much we love our lives and ourselves?
How much money do you need in the bank to be happy? What are the external conditions that must exist in your life for you to be content? What if this is as good as it gets? Is it enough? How do you decide? What if we accept and celebrate that this is as good as it gets? Maybe it’s not going to get any better? Are you waiting for the future to be content? And what of the third agreement by Miguel Ruiz? Do you assume that you know what precise external circumstances will bring you joy?
Do you spend much of your time hoping? Hoping that things will get better? Do you hope that your team will win the game, that it will be sunny? That you will make more money? Do you find yourself hoping for this and that? Do you hope there won’t be traffic? Do you hope that you have a good meditation session? Pema Chodron suggests that we stop hoping, that hoping leads to suffering and disappointment. She suggests that when we have life full of hoping, then we go up and down depending on if life’s circumstances are aligned with your hopes. Perhaps this our natural way of being as humans. Perhaps she is right and that our lives can be more fulfilling when we give up constant hoping and instead accept and embrace reality as it is. We can jump into projects, be active or inactive, passive or proactive, jumping into the flow, being part of the Tao, stepping in and out of the river, without constantly deciding that our thoughts about how things should be are valid.
I wanted to share with you some thoughts from Byron Katie. She asks to look at a repetitive thought you may be having that causes suffering. Perhaps you can think of one now. State the thought clearly in your mind; the one you have repeated so many times before and has not created well-being for yourself. Ask yourself if the thought you are having is true. Can you know absolutely without a doubt that it is true? How do you feel in your body when you have the thought? What would you be without that thought? Is there a reason to continue to hold on to the thought? Is there a reason to not let it go? Next, she proposes you create a turnaround thought. For example, if I many times a day think that I don’t have enough money and that I must have more money. A turnaround would be that I have enough money. If I think there is not enough time in a day, a turnaround statement would be that there is plenty of time in a day.
Perhaps, rather than leaving the house asking what’s in it for me, we can look to be of service to others. You probably already do that. Looking to serve, being open to smiling, laughing, seeing ways you can be helpful, being responsible, responsibility, the ability to respond. What do you respond to? Your fears, your neurosis, your reactivity? Do you respond to the call to love, gratitude, generosity with your resources and your heart?
Rabbi Ted Falcon speaks about freedom. He says you can take the Jew out of Egypt but you can’t always take Egypt out of the Jew. In what ways do we enslave each other? How does your mind enslave yourself? How can we provide freedom for ourselves and for each other. George Clinton of the band Parliament offers: free your mind and your ass will follow, the kingdom of Heaven is within. What truly matters, beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace arise from beyond the mind. When you don't always use labels and words, miracles return to your life that are lost when, instead of using thought we become possessed by thought. When we hold a fruit or vegetable that has grown from a seed, when we perceive the miracle of that, of a flower, of a human being, beyond labels, beyond thoughts and words, when our essence directly meets essence, we are aware in awe of the divinity that is us. When we are no longer enslaved by our own mind, there is a gap between thoughts that is perhaps in lighten ment. Is it possible that much of what you have feared all of these years is make believe, the illusion of the mind? Have you subscribed annually to the fear-based mind, believing that what it says is always true, that you should be afraid? That is like believing the television is telling the truth, that news is necessarily violent and conflictive? What about the good news of the millions of random acts of kindness on the planet each day? Is that worthy of news? Can you cancel your annual subscription of your fearful mind and let those illusions go?
The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. Have you noticed that when you are in nature or passionately involved in something you enjoy such as art, music, perhaps your work, you are immersed beyond words without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out?
Sometimes we have faith in something that we later do not believe. One such belief is that one of the most important things in life is this moment, this valuable moment. Eckhart Tolle suggests that the moment is a false construct of the mind. He suggests there is essence and that we place upon it our concept of time, breaking up essence into moments that lead to preferences such as what you’d rather be doing in this moment, looking for redemption in the past and the future. The past gives you identity and the future offers salvation. Both are illusions. Could it be that enjoying ones life with living in essence offers freedom from breaking that into essence and time?
Thich Nhat Hahn suggests that when we smile, hundreds of muscles in our face are activated and that they are linked to healthy hormones that promote well-being. He suggests that we can make happy chemicals flow through us by smiling. So, smile whether you’re meditating, waking up, driving, doing the dishes. And may we all follow the fourth agreement as much as possible, to do our best.
May you eat well, perhaps supporting local farmers, perhaps growing your own food. May you be able to consistently remember what you already know and have consistency in your life and with your loved ones.
My mother recently died. I learned that I don’t want to have regrets about what I say to my loved ones and how I act in the world. I see that we live our lives for a limited time and that having joie d’vivre, a joyful spirit, being kind, living life fully will lead to not having regrets. Say “yes” to life and life will work for you rather than against you.” Yes and. If not now, then when?
I light this candle for a deep gratitude that awakens now. I am grateful for all that I receive and for all that I am able to contribute to make life better for others. I am grateful.
I light this candle with the understanding that it is more important to be loving than right, to soften the need to be right and speak from our listening place.
I light this candle for the compassion that expresses through daily acts of kindness. Through me, compassion now walks its way into our world.
I light this candle to illuminate and expand a caring community. I welcome opportunities to support others and to know the blessing of their support for me. A spirit of abiding generosity infuses my community now.
I light this candle for love, the love that expresses the truth of being. This is the love that now embraces our world. I am Love.
I light this candle for shalom, the peace that rises from the wholeness of being. This is the peace that now expresses in our world. May the peace that flows through us in this room spread to all the beings that we encounter today.