Three Thoughts for Thursday – November 2020

Photo by JuniperPhoton on Unsplash

The leaves have fallen, and the trees are bare. While some may find this sad, or see the trees as barren, I find I can now see the individual trees in the forest.  I can also see through the forest.  The view has opened up before me and the path through the trees is more evident. My view is no longer obscured.  As the end of the year approaches, I have been considering this season and time of harvest, the clearing of the view, and the ability to look ahead.
In the spring, as Covid began shutting things down, I wrote of planting, of sowing seeds with the reckless abandon and low expectations of a child that lead to celebration when one plant springs forth and one bloom appears. I noted the figurative mud of the mess of challenges we had begun to encounter and the necessity of water and mud for germination and growth.  Now here we are in the season of harvest.  I have found myself challenged often to see the good, to see the blooms and growth of this year. In light of this challenging year, I have chosen to try to see the beauty in the mess, to see the growth and bounty, and to find the good, particularly in this season of harvest. 
I know I have received a few harsh comments and push back in seeking to see the light, the lessons, and the good.  Having experienced moments of despair and hopelessness myself, I know seeking and reframing challenges with positivity can be hard. I understand this will not resonate with everyone, and yet in this season I put forth what I have harvested and hope you will consider even in your struggles, the strength and resilience you have earned and built. I have been inspired by the podcasts and book I feature below, and in the ability of others to find gratitude in times of overwhelming struggle. I hope you will lean into the hardships you have faced and overcome, not just in this past year but over the course of your life, that have served to make you stronger and more able to conquer.  I have been inspired this year in seeing the resilience, kindness, and adaptability of my fellow human beings, and the triumphs of others have in turn been a great reminder to dig deep and continue forward. In reflecting upon this year and past challenges, too, I have found both strength and hope.

Rather than becoming bitter, how might you leverage your past triumphs to remind yourself that this too shall pass, that you will again overcome?  Despite the hardships, or rather in light of the hardships of this year, what have you learned, what are you harvesting in this season of fall? Where have you found hope and inspiration to persevere? How have you been inspired by others? What have you learned about yourself?  What will you carry forward from this challenging year that will serve you in facing future hardships?

Quote or Passage I am sitting with, pondering and finding inspiration in:

“Give more.
Give what you didn’t get.
Love more.
Drop the old story.”
Garry Shandling ~

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
~ William Shakespeare ~

Photo by carolyn christine on Unsplash

Podcast I’m Listening to:

In striving to find the positive, to seek gratitude, I found these podcasts enlightening and uplifting, and both fitting with the theme of harvest I have been contemplating.

Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, #295: How to Be Grateful When Everything Sucks with DaRa Williams

In the face of the seemingly unremitting horrors of 2020, is it possible – or wise – to generate gratitude? Guest DaRa argues yes!  A longtime practitioner and teacher of meditation, she is one of the guiding teachers at the Insight Meditation Society. She’s also had a clinical mental health private practice in Manhattan for many years. DaRa Williams says, only semi-facetiously, that she believes gratitude can be considered the fifth Brahma Vihara.  As you know, we’ve just wrapped up the special Election Sanity series here on the podcast where we explored the ancient Buddhist list called the Four Brahma Viharas: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

A key takeaway for me was the affirmation of my own observations in life – you can’t have joy and happiness without struggling and suffering.  The idea being that without knowing hardship you wouldn’t be able to recognize and appreciate joy.

Another key takeaway was the idea that joy and gratitude will sustain you in a time of struggle.  I think of this as a mindset tool – if you look for the good you’ll find it, and if you look for the bad or negative, you’ll find that, too.  I also think of the idea of positive inquiry and in times of struggle, I find it is helpful to remember the hardships I’ve walked through before and the strength and learning that has come.  There are always things to be grateful for and by focusing on those things, we can forge our way forward rather than getting stuck in the mud.

Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, #249: Don’t Let This Crisis Go to Waste with Roshi Joan Halifax

Roshi Joan Halifax is definitely not arguing the pandemic is a good thing, but she also believes we shouldn’t let this crisis go to waste.  It’s a very real wake-up call, she says – a chance for us to really take a beat and ask ourselves what actually matters, both individually and as a culture. Roshi Joan Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care.  She is the founder, abbot, and headteacher of Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Her motto for this crisis, as you will hear, is strong back, soft front.An offering I appreciated from this podcast is the idea of grit and grace in this time of uncertainty.  I often have a hard time maintaining grace when I’ve set my mind on grit, and this seems particularly important in the world right now, to dig deep to find the grit to carry on while also having grace for ourselves and our fellow humans.  This is an intention I would like to set for myself, to be mindful, and to strive to embody both grit and grace on my journey. This was a great reminder that outlook and gratitude are a choice.

Photo by Alfred Schrock on Unsplash

Book I am Reading and Reflecting Upon:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I just finished listening to the Audible version of this New York Times, #1 Best Seller from Elizabeth Gilbert.  I found myself appreciating the idea of having the courage to make your visions and dreams come true now, rather than making excuses for postponing the future you desire.  If this year has taught me anything, it is to plant, grow, and harvest in the now rather than waiting for optimal conditions.

Here’s what Amazon has to say:

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now, this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

And finally, my apologies for this edition of Three Thoughts for Thursday coming to you on the last day of November.  I was delayed by another little something ready for harvest.  On November 18th, we welcomed our daughter, Sally Olivia, to our family.  The joy that has come from her arrival has truly been a gift!  I have not only found joy in her arrival but have felt astounding joy in seeing the happiness of my boys in welcoming their sister.  We are reveling in deep gratitude for this little blessing of 2020!

I wish you all a bountiful harvest from this muddy, messy year!  May you reap great rewards for your perseverance and from choosing to see the gifts and lessons.  May gratitude and light, peace and hope be yours!

Please check out my latest blog posts onLessons of the Run, Part 3: Restas well as my blog post, See and Be the Light – Hope and Resilience. If you missed my October edition of Three Thoughts for Thursday, you can find it here, on my blog as well. As always, thank you for your continued support and readership! Stay strong, stay brave, stay true to you!