Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pictures with Burnt Edges - Gratitude in the Aftermath of Southern California Wildfires

Blessings Among the Devastation - Sincerest GRATITUDE

Last night I happened to catch the last half of a show on PBS, "So Cal Connected". People that once lived in the mobile home park in Sylmar California were interviewed as they searched through the charred ashes of what used to be their homes.

Tears welled up in my eyes, as I reflected on so much I take for granted. When I arrive home from work every day, my home is still standing. One hundred years worth of family photographs are still intact. My computer is still here. My clothes are still hanging in the closet, along with my shoes and drawers filled with other items. And, all the "stuff" and "junk" that is so unnecessary. Things - just things - just material "stuff" that is kept - just because. Why do we keep so much? Why do we feel we need "stuff" to compliment and complete our lives?

These victims of the Sylmar fire were such an inspiration. Imagine, after all they've been through, going back to the devastation - the site where their homes once stood that now looks like a war zone - simply in hopes of finding even one special memory amongst the rubble.

Seeing it on the news is tragic enough. But, I drive by it each morning on my way to work. Trust me when I say it's much more upsetting to actually see it.

And, yet, as painful and sad as it was for them, their spirits were admirable. Yes, they were heartbroken, but they maintained a sense of gratitude that shone brightly beyond their unhappiness.

"I found my grandfather's rings", cried one woman, with such appreciation in her voice.

Another man was amazed at his discovery. He held up his burnt photo albums with a huge smile on his face. As he opened the albums, tears streamed down his cheeks and you could just feel the joy that filled his heart. The photos inside the albums had been saved. Some had burnt edges, but the pictures were in
good condition. "Look at this", he exclaimed, "the color is still in the pictures!"

Each person I saw was incredibly filled with gratitude for each tiny memory they had been able to find. Instead of being angry for their huge losses, they were thankful for the little bit they still had. It wasn't much. But, as insignificant as one might imagine, when these items are hidden between the layers of "stuff" in our homes and in our lives, these finds were genuine treasures to these people.

Then the host of this documentary explained that fires are nature's way of cleaning the earth. This is just something that happens. In urban America we've managed to cram ourselves into neighborhoods without allowing room for these natural fires to occur, without horrific loss.

Just as many of these fire victims said, "We cannot focus on what WAS or what we HAD, but we must move forward and go on with our lives."

We all have frustrating days. We become annoyed or angry with others who get in our way. We easily manage to find things to complain about. We allow such trivial situations to invade our serenity. We become offended at what others do or say, rather than shake it off. Anger sometimes fills our thoughts, just because something didn't go exactly as we wanted it to. And, often, we gripe and grumble because we WANT MORE. Sometimes it seems we never have enough. But, in reality, we have so much - much more than these people now have - much more than we need - and so much for which to be thankful.

What is something that bothered you today? If nothing bothered you today, that's great! But, what is the last thing that caused you distress? Was it truly as significant as the illusion in your mind? Or was it inconsequential in the big scheme of things. How important was it - REALLY?

Society has conditioned us to believe that we must find perpetual happiness. Think about the messages that are being sent to our subconscious with TV commercials and magazine ads. But, that's just not reality. Nothing is perfect. And, everything is temporary. While we will experience happiness, we must also experience unpleasant events and feelings.

When we understand and accept this concept, our lives will have less suffering and more contentment.

We will discover "the photo with the burnt edges", secretly hidden within the displeasure, irritation or annoyance - or even deep within tragedy, depression or misery.

What are you grateful for in this one

NOW temporary moment?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Gift of Gratitude

Sharing GRATITUDE and helping others learn how to discover it is the purpose of my blog - it's the purpose of my life.

There are blessings in everyone's life, regardless of any difficulties you face. Even amongst the most severe adversities, blessings can be discovered. They are there - always - but sometimes hiding. All you must do is become aware and you will find GRATITUDE - I promise you that!

The more your mindfulness blossoms, your radar for finding GRATITUDE will strengthen. With a dash of committment and a sprinkle of effort, before you realize what's happening, you will be grateful to count your blessings each day - each moment.

To begin - only a little action to help you become aware of what you already have for which to be grateful..........................

1. Purchase a journal book - or any lined bound pad of paper - or dedicate a file on your computer for this.

2. Beginning immediately - today - write 5 things about today for which you are grateful.

3. Each and every day - write 5 things about your day or your life at that moment for which you are grateful.

4. Understand that this may be a little difficult at first, especially if you're experiencing challenging times right now. But, don't give up - this is the best time to begin. You will notice a transformation in your life - you will witness a miracle - all within you, which will manifest all around you.

When I began my first Gratitude Journal, I was at one of the lowest points (in almost every way) in my life. I had read about keeping a Gratitude Journal in a book that was given to me as a gift.

The first evening, I pondered for a very long time. All I could focus on was what I had been dwelling on for such a long time - all the crap that was in my life. I used to have pity parties for myself, asking "why me?". But, finally, my first entry was made in my new journal. It seemed silly, but it pushed me into motion, progressing forward each day - from sadness, depression and feeling sorry for myself - to becoming mindful that my life was filled with blessings and benefits I had been neglecting to notice.

Once my new attitude kicked into high gear, I realized my life was overflowing with so much for which to be thankful. All that I was missing and "thought" I wanted or needed, no longer seemed important.

I maintained my first Gratitude Journal for more than a year and it changed my life forever. There are not enough words to explain how effective this simple practice is and yet how huge the rewards can be! It simply must be tried.

Won't you please just give it a try?

After learning the simplicity of counting my blessings, I am able to discover blessings mixed in with even the big huge challenges in my life. I prefer to call them challenges, because it sounds a lot better to me than problems. It's possible to turn an adversity into a blessing. But, I'll share that on another day.

For right now, please just give a Gratitude Journal a try...............

But, I must warn you - it can become addictive. Can you think of any other addiction more rewarding?

I look forward to sharing more about GRATITUDE and how it has changed my life. I believe I've finally found my purpose in life - to share what I've discovered about GRATITUDE and to help others learn to be fulfilled with this simple act.