When my son is upset that something is not going his way (which does not happen often, but he is human), we’ve started a practice of making a list of what he is happy about in his life. At first, this annoys him, but eventually his face lights up as he thinks about what he really likes about his world, and we are often able to move on to a more pleasant state of being.
I’ve decided to make sure I do this too when I start to obsess over something I want but cannot have, or if my day does not go just as I planned. My list of wants includes things that just are not possible right now, and sometimes I want to throw fits of my own to release the emotions that comes with that fact. Sadness and frustration still arise, but, since I started making a list of what is good and beautiful right now, I also feel a deep sense of peace and gratitude.
After writing my last entry, I began to wonder if this practice was leading me to settle for something less and enabling me to not push myself toward a better way of life. I suppose it is possible to use gratitude as a way to settle, but I’m finding that it works as an anchor in my life. I will always want more time to write, draw, organize, read, whatever. I really want to go to graduate school and study theology. While it can be painful, I think that drive will serve me well in eventually accomplishing what I want to accomplish as an individual. Meanwhile, there are some really good things in my world, and it serves me to pause and remember them.
I’m going to define gratitude as the act of acknowledging what is good in one’s life. That does not mean that I ignore or dismiss whatever is bothering me or what I would like to change. It just means that I pause to recognize that which is good.
I think emotions we are quick to condemn can actually serve us. A Friedrich Nietzsche quote I often visit is “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”. Contentment does not prompt change, chaos does, so I do not really wish to be without it. I’ve heard many yoga teachers say to find peace in a position that requires great strength, and I finally realized that is really what so much of life is about. Finding something, it doesn’t have to be peace, in the midst of something that initially seems to be the opposite is something that requires practice, but it can bring a great sense of balance when it is found.
I’m embracing the gratitude and the chaos today. I’m very grateful that my son is beginning a week of a music, art, and dance camp and that, if something happens, I’m only a phone call away and will easily be able to do what must be done. I’m grateful for the two English students I will work with today and am honored to be a part of their academic lives. I’m grateful that I can pick my son up from camp and learn about his day. I’m grateful that my spouse values what I do. I also wish that I totally had the day to myself to write out several ideas that came up last week, and (I’m not going to lie) I’d like to watch “The Queen” before practicing yoga. Finally, I’d like to spend the entire night designing cards. Actually, I’ve already written about one thought, and the little chickadee and I can do our warrior poses together. Maybe, if I’m not exhausted, I’ll be able to sketch while watching “The Queen” after tucking my little fellow in.
I really do love my present, and I’m excited about the future.
Wishing you peace… with a healthy dose of chaos,
Free Range Al
Climbing Mount Pisgah in Oregon