One of my favorite apps on my phone is a daily self awareness practice based on a book by Cheri Huber called “Transform Your Life, A Year of Awareness Practice”. As Cheri describes and explains in the Introduction, “Awareness practice is practicing living in conscious compassionate awareness rather than identifying the antics of conditioned mind as yourself. As a child, when you were being socialized, you learned to think, feel, say and do specific things relative to circumstances. ‘Conditioned mind’ is the endless stream of habitual thoughts that go through your head as a result of being socialized.”
This is the first app I open in the morning, and sometimes the only one I look at before rising from my cozy bed and starting my daily routine. Each day I am gifted with a quote and an accompanying “assignment” that helps me to practice awareness in each day. Today was the following American Indian Proverb: “If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself”. The assignment suggested I make a list of ten things I’m thankful for.
I do this on a fairly regular basis, in the form of the gratitude journal I began shortly before losing my grandmother, at a time when I had a lot of amazing things going on. After her tragic exit from this earth, it was tough to pick it up again, but I did, and it helped. When we lost my father three short months later I stopped again. “Tough” didn’t begin to describe what a struggle it was to continue to see beauty in the world that had been crumbling down all around me.
But eventually I found it again, and it truly does make a difference. Many days I am tempted to do what many other people seem to do on a regular basis. Complain. About any number of things, and occasionally I do succumb to it. But what I’ve found with my gratitude practice is that it does, indeed, change your awareness. I typically stick to around five things, but it’s never hard to come up with them, and I often find myself going beyond five. Today, I may even go past ten.
In no specific order, I am thankful for.
- The many feathers I find, and always at the times that I need to be reminded that I have some really special people watching over me from wherever they are. Not just my father or my grandmother, but many of those who were here before me.
- My home. The list of grievances I could throw out here is long, but it’s a home that my great, great, great (great?) grandparents built with their own hands. I’m sure anyone living within a reasonable walking distance most likely helped too (as that is how it was back in those days). The majority of my maternal ancestors spent time living here. I was raised right up the hill. The roots run deep and there are many stories and traditions that my grandmother passed down to me that I am able to pass down to my own children within the same walls. That is priceless.
- The humongous and most likely oldest tree in my yard. I could never really climb it as a child. The branches were always higher than I could reach, but it is an enormous maple, and covers a large portion of my yard in shade, with limbs that hang down all around its edges like a beach umbrella. It is currently my favorite tree.
- My cast-iron skillets. I have not used anything else (other than my wok) since finding these in the attic. I’m pretty sure they are a hundred years old, quite possibly older, and I reckon they will last a hundred years more. Quite unlike the cheap and toxic cookware of today.
- My friends. I have many of them. And I can honestly say that the majority of them are more than just acquaintances. Each of them (you!) have, and continue to!, brighten my life in many ways. Offering companionship, support, comfort, laughter (even when I may not ask for it…especially when I don’t deserve it), and just all around positive energy. If you are reading this, I do mean you. Yes, YOU. I love you all deeply and hope that you know how important you are to me, and to my children, who most of you have been blessed to also know J
- Yes, you knew I would get to this part! My children. They nearly died when they were born. Less than two pounds each, I am so very lucky beyond measure to have them. Every day they remind me of the beauty in this world. Even when they are practically pulling out each others hair and causing me to want to yank out my own, they are the most beautiful and amazing creatures, full of love and joy (if you’re reading this, my friend, thank you, for that much needed compliment!). Although I can’t take all the credit for the people my children are and continue to become. That goes to number seven.
- My family. My parents never divorced, and were more in love with each other than anyone I’ve known until the day my father died. Both sets of grandparents remained married until separated by death (50 and more than 60 years). I grew up spending all of my time with them, my many aunts, uncles and cousins. I was an only child, but I didn’t need siblings. I had the perfect childhood. I had the love, guidance and nurturing of an entire extended family on both my mother and fathers sides to mold me into who I am today. And it is that which I guide my own children with. Even those who passed before me have graced me with many things (more on this in my upcoming book which you can read when it’s published).
- Strength. I don’t always feel like I have it, but there are times that it appears and I have no idea how. Sometimes I wish I had more of it, but I wouldn’t really have it if I never had to struggle.
- Struggle. This is what creates number eight, and what makes a person humble, empathetic, non-judgmental, patient, kind, and compassionate. One cannot possibly understand pain if they have never experienced it personally. Sympathy is not the same as empathy.
- Today. The reasons are endless. We should all be thankful for today.