Boundless Gratitude

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Thank you for this sage.

Thank you for this moment.

Thank you for this life.

Thank you for the birdsong.

Thank you for the lake.

Thank you for this breath.

Thank you for the sky.

Thank you for the volcanoes.

Thank you for the flowers, fruits and food.

Thank you for love, and the moon.

Thank you for friendship and family.

Thank you for yoga.

Thank you for music, art, being, gratitude.

Thank you for seeing and looking, listening and hearing.

Thank you for the trees.

Thank you for the cats and dogs.

Thank you for all the animals.

Thank you for the ocean and all the water.

Thank you for the world and the universe and stars.

Thank you for my body.

Thank you for my mind,

Thank you for my soul.

Thank you for my heart.

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A New Story of Thanksgiving

Once upon a time, last week, the people of a great and vast nation elected a morally bankrupt billionaire TV star as their government leader.

Nothing has changed, yet everything has.

Is it worse than we think, or should we give the guy a chance?

Reactions are as unique and diverse as our personalities, and largely dependent on our demographics. Lots of old white people are afraid of losing their “freedom”, in other words, their long-held privilege. A multitude of privileges, really, that the brown/POC have never known.

According to the New York Times, the “failing” publication Mr. Trump so despises, 85% of the land area of the United States of America is “Trump’s America,” versus just 15% of the coastal regions and urban centers which make up “Clinton’s America.” However, Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote by 1 million at last count. Regardless, the rural areas pushed Trump over the top and he won the 270 electoral votes necessary…. in theory, at least.

The official Electoral College vote is on December 19th. There is a movement to persuade electoral college votes in each state to “vote their conscience,” in other words NOT to vote for Donald Trump. It isn’t probable, but it is possible.

And in this case, it really would be the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton may be a corrupt, establishment politician but at least she is experienced in world and domestic affairs, at least she is not full of the hatred and bile of Trump and his die-hard fans. Bernie Sanders would have been a better candidate, and probably would be the President-elect today if the DNC hadn’t nominated Hillary.

People are either happy, relieved and triumphant (if they voted for Trump); complacent, curious and concerned (if they did not vote for Trump and are white and middle-class or wealthy); or fearful, devastated and confused (if they did not vote for Trump and are not white, not male, not Christian, not straight).

In the middle of the American Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. Of course, the “First Thanksgiving” had been celebrated 242 years earlier by the Pilgrims and Native Americans after the immigrants’ first harvest in the New World.

Naturally, the subsequent genocide of Native Americans by whites led to a souring of the original feelings of community celebration. University of Texas professor Robert Jensen says, “One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.” He certainly has a point.

Nonetheless, Thanksgiving is a time to come together with family and friends, to bask in gratitude, to feast, to celebrate life and love. This year’s political drama is taking its toll on families divided by liberal and conservative belief systems. Many will not come together at the dinner table due to these ideological differences, and those who do will probably want to avoid the subject altogether, if that is possible.

What if, despite feeling fearful, devastated, confused, depressed and/or anxious about the present and the future, we choose to sit down at the table together, anyway: black, white, red and yellow?

What if we choose to make peace?

What if we look and see the fear underneath the hate?

What if we choose to celebrate?

What if we choose to open our hearts and minds to other points of view, to new horizons, to gratitude?

May the spirit of thanksgiving dwell in all of our hearts, today and every day.

There is so much to be grateful for, and we are here on Earth for a purpose.

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I WON’T let it slide if a friend makes degrading comments about a minority or women. Even if it’s over Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll push back and say something like: “Come on! You really think that?!” ~ Nicholas Kristof, A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect TrumpThe New York Times

5 Simple Ways to Infuse Our Daily Lives with Love

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Wake Up with Love

It’s a new day. It’s a blessing to be alive. Listen to the sounds. Listen to your breath. Do a  bit of stretching and moving. Mindfully brush your teeth (and/or swish coconut oil), brew a cup of tea, enjoy some fresh fruit. Sit quietly with gratitude for a moment before diving into your daily tasks.

Blessed Be the Food

Sit with your plate before you. Place your palms over the food. Thank you, sun, moon, rain, wind, and soil. Thank you, farmers, distributors, market sellers, cooks and servers. Thank you self, friends and family for sharing this meal. Eat slowly, taste fully, with appreciation. This style of mindful eating leads naturally to a desire for wholesome, natural, local and delicious foods.

Find Your Balance

“Do not hurry; do not rest.” ~ Goethe

Listen to your intuition. It is a day for much action and productivity? Is it a day for reflection and rejuvenation? Are you more alert and energetic in the mornings, afternoons or evenings? It’s okay to feel however you feel. Notice, accept and embrace the flavor of the moment.

Do Gazing Meditation

At the sky; into the eyes of your dog, partner, baby, best friend; at the leaves on the trees; at a flower; at the river flowing. Spend a few moments gazing into nature. The sky is always there. Even if it’s not blue today, gaze upward, feel small and touch the sky with your heart.

Give Love

Look within and ask yourself: “Do I need to give love to myself and/or others today?” Soon enough it will be mutual, boundless exchange. Write a sweet note to an old or new friend… or to yourself in your journal. Have a meaningful conversation. Pick a bouquet of wildflowers to give someone. Smile and make eye contact with a stranger. Prepare food with love. Speak with love. Write emails with love. Breathe love.

 

Thankful for Spiders

“We are living in an extraordinary moment. It’s extraordinarily extreme. It’s extraordinarily painful. It’s extraordinarily complex. It’s extraordinarily nuanced. It’s extraordinarily full of potential.” ~ Chani Nicholas

I got bitten by a spider (we think) about a month ago. I didn’t see it or feel the bite at the moment, but the next day my ankle swelled up and I had a fever. The lingering joint pain comes and goes.

I was stung by a scorpion about a year ago. On my fingertip! That, I felt right away. It was an intense pain that lasted for about four hours.

This is a time to appreciate not only the good people, plentiful things and pleasurable experiences in our lives—but also to be grateful for the difficult people, emotions and passages that we encounter. A plethora of amazing things have happened in this, my personal “year of the scorpion.”

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I am grateful for the love and friendship I share every day with my family

and family of friends, near and far. I am grateful for our little house and to always have enough food and water. I am grateful for my body and breath and life.

I am also grateful for pain, both physical and emotional, because pain is a sign of growth and healing.

I am grateful for having been fired from my job as a school teacher earlier this year, because that has paved the way for major improvements in both my career and my quality of life.

I am grateful for the difficult people in my life, because they force me to see my areas of weakness and resistance. They hold up a mirror to teach me valuable lessons.

I am grateful for impermanence, also known as change, which keeps things fresh and lively. I am grateful for where I now live and what I now do with my time.

I am grateful for the lake, the sky, the volcanoes, the trees, the flowers, the incessant glory of nature.

I am grateful for my fellow writers, my editors and my readers. Thank you for reading!

Happy holidaze!

Grandpa Gratitude

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I’ve been thinking lately about ancestral spirits, particularly my two grandpas in this lifetime, who’ve both passed away. Or rather, their energy has transformed from this earthly realm into whatever is next.

Both of them served as soldiers in World War II.

My paternal grandpa, Bennie, was born on April 6, 1918, a Czech-American in rural Texas. I know sadly little about his life. He was extremely reticent and died when I was 16.

I remember always wishing I could get closer to him. He had a sweet spirit.

I found out years after his death (which occurred in a nursing home in 1996; he went way downhill physically in the end) that he’d been given electroshock therapy treatment.

So that explained a lot and makes me profoundly sad—and mad.

Did you know Ernest Hemingway also was given electroshock treatment for “mental illness,” which was certainly a factor in his suicide?

As I’ve been studying the Mayan calendar of late, I recently discovered that my Grandpa Fajkus’ Mayan astrological sign is the same as mine, Deer. He was a 4 Deer, and I am a 6.

My maternal grandpa, Norbert Gonzales, was born on June 6, 1922 in San Antonio, Texas, the first of six kids in a poor Mexican family. He and my grandma were high school sweethearts.

He joined the military after graduating from high school and served with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China.

War is an experience I cannot fathom. A terrible tragedy. Humans inflicting violence upon one another. Men killing men with weapons. Cultures clashing violently against “other” cultures.

My grandpa Gonzales rose up the ranks in the U.S. Air Force and eventually became a full Colonel. He was retired by the time I was born, so he and Grandma would go traveling around the world on cruises to exotic locations. They would play bridge and Mah Jong with their friends when they were home in San Antonio.

He died at 82 in 2004. I flew home to Texas for the funeral from the San Francisco Bay area, where I was living at the time. I was 24; I remember not wanting to look at his body, but I did. I wished I hadn’t, because now I would remember him dead, not alive.

Unlike Bennie, he had been a lively, outgoing man. A jokester, stubborn, sharp, funny, charismatic and loving, he could sometimes be stern and rigid. When my grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1995, almost 10 years before he died, he was still strong and healthy.

His decline was steep at the end; he also died in a nursing home. It was incredibly difficult to witness.

Both my grandfathers, like many of yours, fought in at least one major war. And even though I disagree completely with war, brutality, weaponry and violence, I can still honor and remember them on Veteran’s Day, because they were humans doing what they thought they needed to do, doing what they thought was best for “our country.”

Now, we (some of us, more of us) have realized that it isn’t our country that matters, it’s our Earth. The planet is in danger if we don’t stop with the incessant warfare and destruction of Mother Earth via excessive production and consumption, depletion of animal resources, extinction of animal species and the many other major challenges facing us as a global society.

Still, I am grateful to my grandfathers for who they were and what they did in their lives. I am grateful to my grandmothers for who they were and what they did in my life. For the way they supported the men who went off to fight. The way they raised the next generation.

I feel their spirits in me, and the spirits of their fathers and forefathers, as well as those of my grandmothers and-great grandmothers, all the way back down the line.

Ode to My Dad

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My dad is awesome.

I appreciate him more with each passing year.

My dad is a sailor. He has owned one sailboat or another as long as I have lived. We have had the joy of drifting over the water, gazing at the sunset and moving with the wind.

My dad is a classic rock aficionado. He instilled in me an early love for good music.

My dad is an engineer. He worked for the same company for nearly 40 years.

My dad is retired. My dad and mom have been to the beaches in Belize and Hawaii this year. I’m so happy for them.

My dad is kind and generous.

My dad is grounded and balanced. A Libra.

My dad is subtle. He is not the life of the party, but he has a quiet humor you have to pay attention to get.

My dad is patient. Unbelievably patient. Miraculously patient.

My dad is understanding and open-minded.

My dad is simply wonderful. And today is his 63rd birthday. So I thought I’d write this in lieu of sending him a coffee mug via Amazon.com that says World’s Best Dad. (Even though he is.)

Happy birthday, Dad! Thanks for being you.

Love,
Michelle

You Are Already A Buddha

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Good morning, enlightened ones. Good news! Did you know? You are already a Buddha.

Even if you’re working for the weekend, even if you’re struggling with an addiction or three, even if you’re angry or sad or lonely or moody or joyful, even if you’re overconfident, and even if you are suffering from an utter lack of hope.

The moment you can drop the you from your storyline, you can tap into your Buddha self. The glorious moment when you embrace the duality, the paradoxical nature of being a being on this amazing planet Earth, the form and emptiness coexisting in everything, including you… that is an enlightened moment.

“The true task of a spiritual life is not found in faraway places or unusual states of consciousness. It is here in the present.” ~Jack Kornfield

So why is life so difficult, so full of pain and troubles? Well, for however many years you’ve been alive (or however many lifetimes, if you’re into the reincarnation thing), you’ve been practicing living in the world of form and running from emptiness. You’ve been given your name, your demographics, your genetics and since you were a little child putting together words and concepts, your ego has been growing stronger and stronger. Your personality does not want to acknowledge that it is ultimately unimportant. That what matters is what’s behind your eyes, your mouth, your heart. Kindness. Truth. Simplicity.

So just a gentle reminder for your Friday, for your weekend, for you anytime: Breathe and look around. Appreciate this, here, now.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing for Two

Not to be annoyingly gushingly grateful, but today I feel I have so much to be grateful for. (And I am sitting at the Atlanta airport in the middle of a 5-hour layover to boot… but happy because I’m on the way back to my beloved Guatemala.) I am grateful for family, friends, love, and new beginnings, among other things.

During my month in the USA, I got the chance to visit extended family and old pals, to be visited by three dear out-of-state friends from California, Louisiana and Nebraska, to hang out in gorgeous Santa Fe for a long weekend, to go sailing with my dad — and to load up on TV (mainly The Daily ShowThe Colbert Report and I Love Lucy and Friends reruns), Mexican food, and quality yoga classes.

I got an unlimited month pass to my adored studio, Dharma Yoga, which is located at Guadalupe and 31st Street in Austin, Texas. Dharma Yoga does not offer prenatal yoga classes, but knowing that I am in my second trimester, my teachers Keith and Camilla would always give me modifications in their hatha and all-levels classes, saying, “If you’re breathin’ for two, [do this] instead…” I used to teach prenatal yoga myself, in 2004 in San Mateo, California, back when motherhood was a distant and unlikely possibility (side note: it still feels that way a lot of the time, with just five months to go).

Prenatal yoga is almost just like regular yoga, only you don’t do intense core work, deep twists or backbends, nor any poses lying on the stomach. Also, women over 28 weeks pregnant are advised not to lie on their backs for any pose, including final relaxation (savasana). Instead, we should lie on our left sides and use whatever blankets or bolsters necessary for maximum comfort. At 18 weeks, I am still able to practice fairly easily, even headstands and forearm stands. But those are not advisable unless you already had a strong yoga practice pre-pregnancy.

I like breathing for two. (Eating for two isn’t so bad either.) It is a rare and special opportunity. By breathing deeply and practicing yoga and mindfulness, I’m not only helping myself, I’m benefitting the baby. Que bendición! What a blessing!