From Gratitude to Joy

“It is easy to be grateful for what you have in abundance and for what you like,” continued the lecturer.  “It is harder to be grateful for what is not yet perceived as having arrived or for what we may not find pleasant.”  I was watching a virtual presentation on the topic of the joy of gratitude.  That sentence remained forefront in my mind.   Most of us find it relatively easy to, if not feeling deep gratitude, at least say “thank you” for what we consider to be a benefit.  Giving thanks for what we perceive we do not actually possess, what has not yet manifested in material form, or for a difficult situation or event is more likely to be relegated to the category of complaint.

Most of us are seeking happiness, which happiness we believe will appear if we have a particular thing or if this, that, or the other situation occurs.  Sadly, the specific condition usually remains a will-o-the-wisp, or, once arrived, is swiftly followed by another condition to be met. The truth is that gratitude does not follow simply as a result of receiving what we think we want, or of our fleeting joy at getting our way; gratitude is actually the precursor of happiness.  Whether we are grateful for receiving what we want, or whether we are grateful for receiving what we do not find enjoyable or for what we are still anticipating, the happiness will not be there until the gratitude has arrived.  It is said that the happiest among us are the most grateful.

If we find ourselves not as facile as we wish at achieving a state of gratitude, despite frequent affirmations to that effect, perhaps it is because we are approaching the situation backwards.  Waiting on the manifestation of a particular condition for gratitude to appear brings us just that – more waiting, rather than the appearance of either the condition or the feeling of being grateful.  Perhaps if we were to develop the practice of being grateful for what we don’t seem to have or for what we don’t want or find appealing, we might find happiness even though our particular conditions do not appear.   Still more, our very embrace of gratitude for itself just might facilitate the manifestation of what we thought would never appear.

When the husband of one of my friends lost his job, it was to him as if his very identity had been snatched from him.  Fear and anger dominated his days – fear that he would not be able to provide for himself and family, fear that he would cease to exist as a valuable person, anger that he might need to be provided for by others.  Slowly, he began to open to the hidden benefits of being unemployed.  He began to appreciate the added time with his family, especially his children.  He began to enjoy being able to go for a walk in the wooded areas near his home.  He read more.  The disadvantages did not go away and were still difficult.  Yet, they were eased by his appreciation of what he had begun to enjoy.  The appreciation turned to gratitude, and he began to give thanks that his former job had disappeared, and for the benefits that loss had brought him.  Surprise – within a month of his embrace of gratitude for his difficult situation, he received a job offer that he had not expected.  

Even harder is the concept of being grateful for what has not been achieved or for what is not yet manifest.  The vision of what needs to be done, of what “has” to happen, or of what needs to come is massively powerful, and the nagging question remains of why the vision has been given if the opportunity has not accompanied it.  Inspirational speakers on gratitude, such as, for example, the late Wayne Dyer, explain how the position of believing that one already has that which one wishes, envisioning it and being grateful for it, brings that very vision into manifestation – if not exactly, then very closely.  The wisdom of the gratitude coming first is clear; when we complain about what we do not have we are actually in the process of affirming that lack.  Our words have power.  If we can see, hear, and feel that which we wish, and be grateful for it, we are emitting a positive creative energy, which can draw to us that which we wish.  (How quickly is not promised; patience is a virtue, too.)  At the very least, we can focus more attention on being grateful for what we have in front of us, instead of complaining about what is not before us.

Gratitude is a powerful change agent.  There is an even better reason, though, for practicing the feeling of gratitude.  Gratitude presupposes a feeling of satisfaction.  When one feels satisfied, there is no perception of lack.  One is satisfied with the conditions that are and with the physical good one has.  That does not mean that there are not goals for later, or that the present moment is static and that what is present in the moment is all there will ever be.  It simply means that satisfaction is now, and that with satisfaction comes content or joy and an openness or non-resistance to what is.   Gratitude practiced simply for itself, without the expectation that a desired change will indeed follow, is the underpinning of being happy.  It is a connection to the creative essence from which we all emerge and to which we all return.  It returns us to what we are, unsullied by the stories and desires we weave around us.  Gratitude is a form of love.

During these times when we are surrounded by so much that we feel we do not want, by difficulties that sometimes seem too much to bear, by fears of loss, lack and deprivation, let us find the things for which we can be grateful.   Let us practice gratitude for those, and through practice, gratitude for what is and for life in general.    Let us practice becoming genuinely happy.  

Peace, Diane

A New Decade

“There is no proof whatsoever for the story of three wise men, presumably astrologers, following a star to find a baby born in a stable and bedded in the cattle feed in a manger,” the speaker was saying in response to a mention of the New Testament account of that event.  “They could not have followed a star, because all stars – and planets, for that matter – rise and set like the sun, except for the North star.  The rising and setting stars are not always visible, and the North star always leads north, not into the Middle East.  It is constant and does not move to lead people.  That story was written by someone who hadn’t looked at the sky very much.”

The speaker had totally missed the point.  The important part of that recounting is deeper than the provability of its details.  Among other things, it tells of the ongoing search of humanity for that which is greater than humankind (called God by many), even though sometimes that longing is manifested in the denial that a greater aspect or entity exists.  It also shows the need to leave the focus on habitual, surface life in order to find the Infinite, and the dedication of one’s gifts (and each of us has a gift to offer) to that which is beyond self.

We are again at the beginning of a new year, and this time, a new decade as well.   It is easy, as we listen to the news and read the online feed on our phones or computers, to be aware of the innumerable chaotic, destructive, cruel and scary goings-on around us.  It is easy to understand, if we look at these happenings, that if we continue on these paths, the ultimate end is possibly our destruction – or at least the destruction of our civilizations and planetary support systems.  It is also easy to deny what we see and hear, and reassure ourselves that there is no proof of the certainty of these predictions and that of course, technology will save us and shield us from any ill effect that may – or may not – come.

The truth is that it is our reaction to events rather than the events themselves that makes the difference.  I would prefer to look on 2020 with eyes of hope.  That is not to say that I am blind or oblivious to the challenges of the times.  I am fully aware of the possibility of various kinds of disasters that may happen.  I do not deny the probability of some of these disasters if things continue as is.  I simply believe that these are not cast in stone, and that enough of us can hold the vision of a positive outcome to allow such a positive outcome to manifest.  It is said that one purpose of prophecy is to make people enough aware of current patterns that the patterns can be changed and the prophecy thus not occur.

However, to believe that things will improve, that all will be well, that the Earth will be saved from climate disaster, that people will live together in peace, respect and justice does not excuse anyone from the responsibility to act.  We are all one, and change, whether positive or negative, affects us all.    Each of us contributes, by action or even inaction, to the direction and quality of change.  The key is that our thoughts and actions must be in alignment with the change we wish to see.  If we wish to see more conflict between people, we will act towards others in hostile ways.  If we wish to see an Earth healed of the fever of climate change and extinctions, we will make sustainability an underpinning of our choices and speak for the value of renewable energy.  Our task is to hold the vision and act in alignment with it.

It is also important to recognize and respect the underlying Infinite reality from which our human story proceeds.  Put differently, we need to be aware when it occurs of the arrogance which says that humans are all powerful and control nature and living outcomes, that we need nothing but ourselves.  We need to set aside that arrogance, because it is only through connection with that primal energy which existed before the Big Bang that we derive our power.  When we deny it, we cut ourselves off from the Source of our strength.

As we enter 2020, let us each examine what it is we wish to create in the coming decade.  It is a complex question and requires complex answers.  Our answers in one way or another will support continued life, peace and joy or will support ongoing destruction and diminishment.  The choices of each of us matter, not in a legalistic sense, but in an artistic one, as a brush wielded to make a painting or a tool that helps to carve a sculpture.  What vision will we hold, and can we act in alignment with that vision?

Happy New Year!

Peace, Diane

Two Worlds and Energy: Manifesting the Positive

“Focus on the positive,” my friend tells me.  “Envision the results you want, not the problems you have getting there.  Completely accept where you are, and you might move ahead.”   I had been discussing some of my frustrations – something I might not do at work, but which I like to be able to do with friends.  Stomping on frustrations and burying them does not make them go away.   On the other hand, complaining does not make them go away, either.  My friend was not telling me something I did not know already, but something I am habitually too busy to work with.

The advice my friend was giving me is certainly not new advice.  It sounds easier to do than it is, though, including for me.  Focusing on results instead of issues is something with which I have difficulty, even though I understand the instructions.   How can I focus on a solution if I haven’t understood the problem and dealt with what’s holding my solution back?   How can I bring anything about if I haven’t first removed what’s in the way?

Although it seems logical to identify and remove obstacles before paying a similar attention to creating positive results in the vacated space, that reasonable stance is in fact a trap, keeping me – and others – repeatedly focused on obstacles.   Those obstacles seem to obediently keep popping up when one is focused on them, much as in the legend of Sisyphus, who had to forever roll a stone up a hill.

Our minds are creative, even if we believe that there is not an ounce of creativity in us.  They will unfailingly create that which we focus upon.  Often that focus is inadvertent, including the imbedded stories we run repeatedly beneath the level of our consciousness.  Focus can also be purposeful, such as contemplation by choice, as when we are doing a math problem or painting a picture.  Or, focus can be habitual.  We may know what we do, but withdraw our thinking mind from our action, as in riding a bicycle, brushing our teeth, or reacting to a stimulus.  This focus, subconscious, purposeful or habitual, is what draws to us and creates either a desired outcome or a roadblock to that outcome or, sometimes, even a nightmare.

The solution to achieving a goal, be it a personal goal such as a new job, or a more overarching goal, such as bringing healing to the Earth, is theoretically quite simple: focus purposeful, subconscious and habitual attention on the goal to be achieved.  Avoid being distracted by attention- diverting thought-entities with the message of “You can’t”, “It won’t work”, “It can’t happen,” or any other thought or action contrary to steady focus on the goal.  The challenge comes in actually focusing the attention by choice, especially the powerful subconscious and habitual processes.

There is a wealth of information in books, on the Internet, and in various webinars, seminars and presentations on how to identify subconscious thoughts and habitual reactions.  Psychiatrists delve into the past in the hopes of uncovering the particularly powerful occurrence that gave us our negative thoughts, resentful and angry feelings, or stubborn resistance to change;  therapists work with people to help them overcome their fears and anxieties and visions of what might happen in the future.   To some extent, these can be quite helpful.  However, once these techniques and processes are exhausted, there remains what perhaps was being avoided in the first place: what is going on now.  What we focused on in the past or fear in the future have a limited influence on our ability to create because they are nonexistent.  Yesterday has passed away into memory, and tomorrow is not yet born.  Only what is now really exists.  If we are to focus on a result, it must be now, in the present.  We must see, feel, taste, smell, hear and believe the existence of our goal in this very moment.

For most of us, that seems impossible, like believing lies or inhabiting illusions.  Its basis lies in the essential oneness of everything, the connections between all that exists.   We live surrounded at every moment by an invisible energy (an ‘ether’, to use a very old word), directly inaccessible via our five material senses.  Some of us can perceive this energy via non-material senses; others cannot.  Whether or not a given individual can perceive it, this energy is very real.  It surrounds us, sustains us, connects us, and of it is formed the material world, including our material bodies.  This energy exists independently of the concept of time, which is a concept formed in materiality, and by which humans, who can grasp the concept, bind themselves.  Because this energy, of which we are composed, is independent of time, it contains the past and the future, melded into an infinite now.  It is past, present and future, wrapped in one.  It contains all that was, all that is, and all that will be.   Because we are composed of this energy, we, too, when we can identify with it, are able to move in time.  Most of us do not identify to that extent; a few, who prefer to remain unnoticed, do.  It is in this way that we can perceive our goals, sense them as if they were already here, in our concept of time, and focus our attention upon them in the present moment.

I understand the concepts and the explanations.  I can recognize the feelings in music, dance and nature.   I have yet to develop skill in bringing into material manifestation – actually doing – what I think I understand and feel.  I cannot tell anyone HOW to do that about which I write or which I feel in song and movement.  I am still figuring that out.  Rather, I think I am still growing into it, which is not a figuring out, but a process over time.  In an infinite world, I am skillful now; in our material world, I still need patience.  Patience can be hard when one has been traveling for a while. 

I wish for us all, especially me, the ability to perceive myself as whole, and the ability to draw to myself what is needed and desired.  I wish for us all the ability to heal ourselves, each other and the Earth.

Peace, Diane