Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Missive on Gratitude

At the beginning of this year I commenced keeping a gratitude journal. Our mind and perceptions within are reflected in our attitude toward life – positive or negative. Part of my resolution for this year was to endeavour to create a more optimistic, positive view of daily matters. There are volumes written on the benefits of cultivating such a perspective ranging from the power of positive thinking attracting positive things ("The Secret" has sold millions based on this simple notion), to overall better health and improved relationships with others. The journal is easy enough to get going: buy a nice little book, and each day write down five things for which you are grateful. In the early days one finds little difficulty finding things for which to be thankful. As one persists, however, finding things causes you to really examine your life and all that you have going for you. I try never to repeat anything and, no matter how my day has been going, I can always find something to fill in each of the five daily things. The result is a volume full of things, large and small, for which I am grateful and is representative of my life overall.

Exercises like this are important steps in one's personal growth and self-knowledge. Personally, I feel humbled by it all. In fact, this, combined with my personal spiritual journey, has opened my eyes to how ego and arrogance has permeated my worldview. Rarely have I ever felt content in my life. Continually I am wanting to do more – especially in the areas of travel, retreats, getting my Yoga teaching certification, read... As enlightening as these pursuits may be, they are really excessive to one's true basic needs. I have had the good fortune to travel to some 25 countries in my life, study in many different forms and have a career, beautiful home, family… How can it be that I am discontented while there are many people in this world whose reality is extreme poverty, illness or living against the background of totalitarian governments or armed conflict? Much of my thinking is a direct by-product of being raised in a First World country. By nature, this lends to very self-absorbed individuals such as my self. Mine is a culture where we can hear a news report of a hundred deaths in a car bombing in Iraq on the radio, and then complain that our tax dollars are being used to build a new arena for our local professional hockey team. It is a culture where we don't think twice about dropping $50 on a designer t-shirt while in other countries babies are dying of starvation.

Part of me realises that I needed to have the experiences that I have had – the books that I have read, the places I've been – to develop into the person that I have become. I have become awakened to many of these issues and, as a teacher, am able to increase the awareness of others. Perhaps there is a dichotomy of nobleness and selfishness that causes me to want to travel more, become a Yoga teacher, etc., so that I can then teach others and become a greater force for positive change in the world. Or is this a manifestation of ego? I don't know. I don't believe that we should live in self-imposed poverty or force suffering for the sake of identifying with the world's less fortunate. Perhaps it is through using my position in the world to effect greater change. It is truly difficult to say.

Much of what I read in the volumes about Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. all speak to how one's journey does not truly become ugly until one begins in earnest. This alludes not only to the pain in the legs suffered through seated meditation, or the challenge of a yoga asana, but rather to what begins to illuminate when you begin shining the light inward. I can see a road to nirvana when I truly become homogeneous with those things that I am reading of. The difficulty is moving beyond the intellectual concepts into a state of mindfulness being. For example, I completely embrace the idea of death as explained through these perspectives – that life is a constant cycle of life and death. Still, there is part of me that wonders, when my "mortality" is on the line, will I be at peace with this idea as I am at present with the intellectual concept? I suppose mindfulness training tells me not to look that far into the future and to concern myself only with the present. After all, worry, though seeming at times like action, is in fact nothing in affecting change, and thus pointless. Again, balance or finding nirvana is when these notions are no longer intellectualisations, and simple are that which they are.

For this moment I am grateful.


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