copy of original work by Jennifer Bothast
What does it mean to live with gratitude? What does it mean to be present? Does it mean I don’t still complain about perceived problems or global injustice? Does it mean I just flit and float, happy all the time? Does it mean I don’t worry about losing my job and not having health insurance?
It is a nice concept to think I might graciously accept every circumstance, to never be emotionally hijacked or become anxious or impatient, but that isn’t my truth.
I used to go to various websites and read stories of enlightened teachers and think yes, someday I will reach that height and I won’t be wallowing in this place anymore. I used to think peace was a destination and that someday I would finally arrive. Like ascending out of Dante’s Inferno, I would climb my way out through treacherous locked doorways, and then, finally then, I would be happy.
Well at this point of my journey I will share with you some truths I have come to know and feel. Peace isn’t the destination. It is the grateful acceptance of where you are now. Just understanding the lessons learned from previous experiences doesn’t guarantee you won’t repeat the same mistakes at least to some degree. Knowing there is a better way to handle or accept any given situation doesn’t necessarily mean you will make the right choice every time. It does mean, however, that you might more easily recognize your misstep after the fact.
I am just a human being. I still make mistakes..daily. I still get frustrated. I still can become anxious or fearful or overwhelmed. But I do find that I am grateful for the lessons inherent in each situation, even if it is only after I have gotten to the other side of the problem. I’m not just grateful for the solution, I’m grateful for the problem because without it, I might have missed the lesson. It does mean too, that I don’t as easily identify so completely with the problem that I am unable to see the bigger picture. Even at my lowest point, I am rarely drowning in it. I have become much better aware of the perspective in it all. Maybe that, in itself, is part of some transcendence.
I work primarily with sick and frail older adults in a long term care facility. Sometimes I can walk down the hall and I swear I can feel their perceived pain, how lost in their own private hells they have become. I can almost see them in a cyclone of misery, spinning in a perceived isolated pattern. I reach out, but sometimes people are so comfortable with their pain that any assistance offered is a threat to their identity and it is rejected summarily. And so I have to keep walking, help when and who I can and then keep moving. I can live by example, I can lend a hand to help someone else climb out, but I won’t go into that hell with them, I won’t completely surround myself with the darkness.
Maybe that is what is meant by the song lyric in Amazing Grace.. “I was blind but now I see.” Another way to say it might be, “I have been lost in darkness but now I can recognize and accept the light.” I have known that place and I won’t crawl back in there. Perhaps I am only strong enough at this point so as to expect to meet at the halfway point. I expect the person I am trying to help actually wants to be helped; otherwise we both just end up frustrated. The physical pain might be masked with a pill, but the emotional pain is a much heavier weight and being locked in the mind is a prison the victim has to want to be freed from.
I saw something the other day on the internet explaining the amazing electrical and magnetic power of the heart. It described the heart as having thousands of times the power of the mind. The mind can be a great tool, but left unchecked, it is the most vicious prison guard.
I find it easier to be grateful to explore with feelings rather than analyzing options. You have to not just think outside the box, but unlock yourself from the box entirely and take a deep breath on the other side. Being quiet in nature is an absolutely amazing key to do this. I have taken many a patient outside in their wheelchairs to just listen to the birds, to see all the green life, to smell the sunshine and feel the warmth of it on their face. There is so much healing power in realizing our connectedness with that!
Being grateful and being present isn’t hard at all to do, even if it is only accomplished in spurts. The opportunity to choose light is around us each moment every day, regardless of the circumstance. It’s all perceived illusion anyway. You choose whether you want to be imprisoned or not. I absolutely believe we make that choice. And if a person can simply choose to be happy, to be grateful, to be present, in any and every moment, regardless of physical circumstance, why would they choose otherwise?
Remember we are all connected, just a single drop in a wellspring. If each of us can choose to love instead of being ruled by fear, imagine what an amazing illusion this existence would be! I can’t go around like some sort of mythic superhero trying to change the world. I can’t reach in and exhaust myself trying to pull every soul out of each imprisoned mind. But I can, to the best of my current ability, be the change I want to see by consciously choosing love over fear with each encounter.
I may not yet be a steady lit candle in the darkness, but I am like the lightning bug on a warm, summer evening, pulsing light seen and unseen. I’m working on it. I’m not lost. I am just doing my best to breathe in the fragrance of the magnolia tree and float along without being too attached to the problem or the outcome. I have learned to trust, to reach out with my heart, to others as well as to myself. And I am ever so grateful for the opportunity.
There is no great secret, no special formula to follow, strict diet to eat or religious dogma to follow. That stuff might help, but it isn’t the end all be all. Don’t get caught up in reaching some mythical destination. Be patient and forgiving of yourself as well as others. Just be here right now. Take a deep breath in stillness and be here.
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I am a 42 year old mother of 3, living in Florida with my partner and youngest child. Like the mythological phoenix, I have been reborn out of the ashes of my former way of life and have, for the last several years, set out on an exploration of self expression through visual art and creative writing. I am immensely grateful to feel a part of every living thing in existence and the emergence of a growing evolution of consciousness within and throughout. I am interested in all aspects of energy healing and spiritual transformation and have just recently become a student of Reiki. I understand there is always a choice and I try to choose love over fear at every turn. I am grateful for all of the other women in this group and for their ever present support and guidance. Jennifer Bothast