Count Your Blessings Day 3

Counting your blessings makes you better at noticing and appreciating the blessings already in your life, converting you from a mindset of survival to one of abundance.

This morning my son noticed a branch of a local bank as we drove by. “That bank is everywhere!” he exclaimed.

I told him that when we pay attention to something, we easily find more of it, whether it was already there, or newly coming into our experience.

Today’s count begins with last night, taking my daughter for a walk around the block again. She quickly fell asleep and slept well for several hours!

I slept well too, and though it seemed today would be empty of activities, I ended up taking the kids to visit friends for a lovely catch-up!

The friends gave my kids some Easter eggs, and also us some packets of Malaysian instant noodles to take home 😍

The weather was perfect today, just like the last three!

The friend we visited is also my kung fu teacher, and we chatted briefly about concepts in training. I’m looking forward to our next session!

I spent half an hour sitting on my front porch sipping a delicious coffee and working on my blog as the cool breeze rustled the leaves of our plants right in front of me. The sound of the road was like all the busyness of life passing by while I relaxed in the shade. What a feeling of peace!

Going out each day helps me appreciate coming home. I used to want to be home all the time, but it’s even more fun when there’s activity and energy and interactions with other people away from home. I’m feeling more engaged by life!

I think it relates to openness. It’s not that blessings can’t flow to us alone at home, but what is the motivation keeping us out of circulation? Is it resistance? If so, then it is necessary to go out and be open, not for the sake of what is “out there” but for the spirit of allowing and receptivity.

I spent a couple of hours playing minecraft with my son, and then I cooked dinner while my wife took the kids out for a walk!

Sipping delicious home brew and listening to an Abraham recording while the air filled with delicious smells…I took a minute to sit on the couch and just revel in the beautiful ambience.

A neighbour dropped by during dinner with an Easter gift for the kids and we gave her some pasta to take home.

An old friend and walking-buddy got back from holiday and we went for a late night walk followed by a catch-up on the past week.

Reflection

I’m currently lying on the couch, legs draped across my wife’s lap as she plays games on her phone. I’m really sleepy but wanted to finish this post before I get to bed. Both kids are asleep; it’s been an excellent day and I’m completely worn out.

What I really want to reflect on is how my days increasingly feel like a series of good things. Counting my blessings like this makes each day seem full of activity.

And the effect is translating into real-time; I’m looking for what each day will bring as I live it. Instead of being at home and avoiding interruptions, I’m actively opening myself to new activities and experiences with an attitude of expectation because I know I’m going to be writing it all down at the end of the day!

It’s like being a character in a movie and knowing that the plot must be about to start, or playing a game and just taking for granted that there’s an npc who will set the ball rolling for you.

I can easily and happily envisage my life becoming a series of activities and events, like a string of pearls or a montage in a movie where the in-between bits barely register.

Or alternatively, my sense of what a blessing is and my power of appreciation might expand until doing the dishes is a blessing, folding the laundry is a blessing.

I mean, lying on the couch right now is a blessing for sure, and there are other things personal or prosaic that don’t make it into the list.

Imagine, then, a life of continual blessings and constant appreciation from morning til night. Imagine how good that would feel! Imagine the kind of person you would be, to find happiness and appreciation your whole life through!

The feeling of freedom

I saw some kid sitting against a fence by the bus stop waiting for his bus.

Seeing him there alone and waiting, somewhere to go but no hurry to be there, reminded me of a feeling I used to have.

The feeling of freedom. The freedom of no cares and no worries, walking out into the world and feeling existence surround me.

Feeling my own solitude against the world. The isolation and potential of nothing I need to be doing.

Having kids, a home, a wife; people and things to come back to. Yes, they tether me. But they don’t have to.

Freedom is a mental condition. Driving a car can feel like freedom, or it can be a tense, white-knuckle experience.

You can relax behind the wheel and hit some kind of zen-like trance where everything feels connected and flowy.

So why not relax behind life? Loosen your grip on the reins or the wheel, take your foot off the brake. Trust your instincts, trust the journey, trust the flow.

The world is still completely free. It never changed from when I was young and solitary.

I’m still alone, but I also have people I care about, and do you think that’s not part of the flow too?

It’s not my efforts or worry that keep the world going. My heart won’t stop beating if I let go nor will I forget to take my next breath.

If I’m tied down, let the ties do their work! Relax and know that nothing I want will drift away or be lost.

I’m just another ingredient in this beautiful medley. Counting heart beats or following my breath, I’m free to be just a piece of this grand composition that is living me.

That’s what freedom means. Life is loving me and not an atom of my whole experience needs my work to hold it in place.

And on the contrary there are many many wonderful things waiting to join in if I just give them the space to enter, and my willingness to appreciate what they bring.

Happiness Day 19

If you want to effect substantial change in your life experience, you must think thoughts that feel different as you think them. — Abraham-Hicks

I came across this quote today in perfect timing for me, as I’ve been wondering what the next step is in my work to change my life.

The Abraham teachings focus alternately on thoughts and on feelings. The two are inextricable, but people tend by temperament to be more thinking or more feeling oriented.

So for me it makes sense to focus on different feelings, like feelings of ease.

Ease is a new feeling and I’m really enjoying it.

But what truly excites me is recognising this morning that instead of pushing, or striving, or impatiently and frustratedly reaching for major change, I’m feeling ease instead.

And that is truly a major change!

This is one of the paradoxes of the Abraham teachings but it actually makes perfect sense because if the goal is ease, then impatient efforts take us farther from the goal than contented acceptance!

It’s like the famous Zen koan of Banzo the sword master and his student Matajuro:

“If I become your devoted servant, how long might it be?”

“Oh, maybe ten years,” Banzo relented.

“My father is getting old, and soon I must take care of him,” continued Matajuro. “If I work far more intensively, how long would it take me?”

“Oh, maybe thirty years,” said Banzo.

“Why is that?” asked Matajuro. “First you say ten and now thirty years. I will undergo any hardship to master this art in the shortest time!”

“Well,” said Banzo, “in that case you will have to remain with me for seventy years. A man in such a hurry as you are to get results seldom learns quickly.”

Happiness Day 18

I had a whole post prepared on bad memories come good, explaining how we can change the past by how we feel right now.

But it didn’t feel good, and I couldn’t justify continuing it, when I’d much rather write something that does feel good to me.

Writing these posts has become an opportunity to focus on how good I’m feeling and how much I’m appreciating this journey.

Focusing on happiness and feeling better is lifting up every corner of my life, and exceptions are becoming untenable.

I keep noticing subjects where I haven’t yet gone to work, and immediately looking for ways to soften and soothe those thoughts, steering gently toward less negative and then more positive feelings.

I may have further to go, but I’m enjoying the path. Each day I’m busy, and I’m learning to enjoy the busyness and energy that comes with it.

I have this feeling of anticipation, that soon there are going to be more things I enjoy each day than things I don’t enjoy.

Soon good feelings are going to outnumber negative ones. Soon allowing is going to outweigh resistance.

And then it will be just a clean-up operation, an easy victory over any remaining pockets of resistance.

I’m optimistic. I might even be more than optimistic, because I have a sense of knowing of certitude that the happiness I seek is on its way.

And this knowing is itself a source of happiness, joy at the further unfolding of my path.

Count Your Blessings Day 2

I’m really impressed that this “count your blessings” series has already proven to be much more than just a list of good things.

It’s already prompted a serious rethink of what constitutes a “blessing” in my life, and reinforced my need to affirm and endorse my personal perspective against the crowd.

Things got meta real quick, and if that’s not a persona form of blessing, I don’t know what is.

So let’s start today’s count with this very idea:

First, I was inspired to start counting my blessings on the blog!

Last night I was inspired to go for a walk around our big block carrying my daughter in her sleeping bag. She fell asleep ten minutes in, and I brought her home and put her straight to bed!

Afterwards I had a great conversation with my wife about things that had been troubling her. It was very positive and significant and great to share.

I slept well!

It’s another beautiful autumn day with the sun shining, birds singing, and a cool refreshing breeze reassuring us that colder weather is on its way.

I had a good phone conversation with my brother about temperaments and family and religion and lifestyle stuff. Par for the course of our interesting discussions.

My wife misplaced her glasses and we haven’t yet found them. This might not sound like a blessing but I love omens and she’s definitely having to see the world differently for a bit 😜

We all went for a walk around the neighbourhood for an hour or so and bought some pies from a local bakery that turned out to be the most delicious we’ve had in years!

I found my wife’s glasses…acting on intuition, it turned out our daughter had hidden them away in a toy box.

Tonight we visited friends at their beautiful new home and stayed for dinner. Much beer was enjoyed, the kids had a great time playing together, and it was a lovely night (made all the better by a growler of home brew IPA to take home).

Reflection

This discipline of counting my blessings has changed how I relate to events in my day.

Previously, visiting friends would have been fun…BUT I would have been preoccupied by worries.

Are we bringing enough? Is it too much, will they be insulted? Should we have brought something for the kids? How long should we stay?

If I wasn’t actively looking for blessings to count, I would have been too caught up in worries to appreciate how good it is to catch up with friends for the evening.

This practice of counting blessings prompts me to put things into categories: either blessings or not. And if they are, I should appreciate them fully.

Yesterday I reflected on the deeply personal things that could count as blessings…even if the crowd has no use for them. Today I’m at the other extreme, appreciating things that are obviously blessings (duh!) notwithstanding my old neurotic worries about them.

I don’t need to spell out that this is all a blessing too, but I will because it’s just the sort of insight I appreciate! Thank you!

Happiness Day 17

When s*** hits the fan.

I focus on feeling good. I make headway, my mood rises, I appreciate subtle and obvious changes around me.

And then something unwanted shows up. A bad mood hits me from “out of nowhere”, or an issue arises that sparks bad feelings and inner turmoil.

But over time I adapt and adjust and the conflict is resolved and…looking back, I’m changed by it.

I’m growing by facing these unwanted things and allowing the wanted instead.

And though at first it was dire and stomach-churning and dramatic and full of fear, over time and with practice the process has gotten easier.

Abraham describes it as “learning to handle contrast better”.

Not only can we learn to allow better-feeling thoughts on contrast-rich subjects, but we can also allow greater ease and comfort in the process.

We can even get to the point of appreciating contrast because it inspires the expansion and growth that is the whole point of our life here.

Let it be easy!

At first I wanted to make rapid, powerful changes to my mood and my life.

But people who have done this advise against it. Don’t be in a hurry, take it easy.

The whole point of life is to enjoy the journey. And while we might tell ourselves we are ready to go straight from utterly depressed to profoundly joyful in an instant, there’s actually a desperation and a denial of enjoyment in that pledge.

The harder you push, the more it hurts, not least because you’re used to feeling bad and so your efforts to “try harder” tend to be instinctively geared to more pain and struggle.

“Feel good” really is too easy an answer for most of us. It takes time to accept that there’s no benefit to pushing and no merit to hurting along the way.

So let it be easy! Don’t worry! The path of greatest ease is the path of least resistance and of most allowing.

There’s no rush. Don’t make it an uphill climb; the point after all is to learn how to feel better, and you can’t struggle to make that happen, earn it through suffering, or make it come faster by gritting your teeth in bitterness.

Count Your Blessings Day 1

Today I was inspired to start focusing on all the good things happening to me each day.

The whole point of feeling better is to feel better, but our progress can also be measured in the circumstances of life.

Better yet, appreciating the good things we already have is an excellent way to feel better about life right now.

So I thought it a good idea to begin adding up and appreciating these good things in life and posting them here to help me focus.

First up: I slept really well last night! I woke up feeling relaxed and rested.

My wife’s plans for the day changed, and instead of cleaning up the house for guests she’s gone out to a cafe and the baby is asleep so I have unexpected alone-time to relax and think about things and feel good!

I had an insight into my planned Four Temperaments book. I realised that trying to be methodical and exhaustively detached just didn’t suit me. I don’t just want to rehash what others have said; I want to share my own experiences and reflections and that means taking an unapologetically melancholic perspective for a determinedly melancholic audience!

My wife spontaneously did a couple of chores around the house that we’ve both been meaning to do for ages but never got around to!

It’s delightfully cool and windy today – the autumn weather I love most!

I roasted my last batch of coffee and ordered twenty kilos more of green beans!

We had a great Easter with a big family lunch yesterday and it all went really well!

This morning I heard an excerpt from an Abraham-Hicks talk, and it inspired me to write a blog post that really homes in on my spiritual perspective. I was really pleased with that post, and it even drew together a poem by Kabir, a passage from the Dao De Jing, an excerpt from Samuel and a bit of Theology of sacrifice and atonement. Suitably eclectic, interior and mystical!

I took my daughter for a walk this afternoon and met up with my wife. We enjoyed looking at beautiful and interesting houses on the way home.

My wife saved me some delicious churros. I don’t think I’ve had them before.

We had enough ingredients for a tasty salad for dinner, drank a beer brewed by a friend, and watched one of my favourite tv shows.

An easy, pleasant day full of enjoyment and peaceful relaxation!

A reflection

Counting blessings is an interesting process because it begs the question prompts me to wonder: what are blessings to me?

Something prosaic like my wife spontaneously finishing an old chore is meaningful to me in my life.

And it’s translatable to others in the form of: a lingering domestic burden suddenly and easily taken care of. Nice!

But more personal to me are things like: being inspired to write a post that hits all the right notes for my spiritual beliefs and experiences.

It doesn’t need to be translated to others, but perhaps I need to translate it for myself? Because things like money and property and relationships are often easier to assign value to, since their value is widely accepted (though still variable and subjective).

We can “count our blessings” financially and familially and in terms of health and relationships. But ultimately blessings are for us as individuals to appreciate, and what I appreciate as an individual needn’t have currency to others more broadly.

Like finding an article in Chinese about the martial art i practice. It’s a rare art and resources are scarce, so even a humble newspaper article means a lot to me. Count my blessings!

But even that can be translated to others.

Let me then consider a blessing the ease with which I thought of, and found online, the quotations I used in my blog post.

Let me consider it a blessing the ease with which I put into words my experience of finding God within me, and the work of soothing and reconciling worldly thoughts that take me away from that inner peace and knowing.

Let me count as a blessing how I managed to soften and soothe a painful thought, rather than digging into it looking for resolution.

If we rely on others’ real or imagined criteria for what a blessing is, we might think we are hard done by.

But laying claim to the things that I value, the things that are blessings to me, I can appreciate more fully the abundance at my disposal.

After all, I’ve been wanting and asking for unusual things like deeper understanding of prayer and mediation, greater familiarity with sacred texts, and an instinctive sureness in finding my own answers.

If I count them all they will add up to a great deal, regardless of how much store others place in them. I’m the one who values them, so let me value them properly and feel the appreciation of being so blessed!

The garden within you

There’s a place of peace and clarity within us. You can go there if you retreat just a little from all your worries and cares.

Don’t go outside your house to see the flowers.
My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.
– Kabir

Getting there is easy. Staying there is harder, because we’ve spent all our lives investing in stories of “out there”.

Stories of how important it is to worry, strive, prove yourself, accomplish something.

Stories that began with us accepting there was something wrong or broken or inadequate about our own existence.

Stories where it’s a mean world out there and your success is a measure of your worthiness and your happiness is a reflection of your success.

Guard your heart

Guarding your heart means not allowing your thoughts about life to force you out of the peace and happiness within you.

After all, we have God’s own assurance that nothing can go wrong for us.

Christ didn’t let himself be killed to pay a price required of us by his own Father. His was a sacrifice to end all sacrifice, not because God requires or demands sacrifice but because we humans had got it into our heads that sacrifice was necessary.

Sacrifice was never necessary.

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

To obey originally meant “to listen”. The Hebrew for “obey” likewise means “to hear”.

We tend to interpret this verse as saying “enough with the sacrifices, just do as you’re told!”

Because obedience conjures images of dutifully following commandments. Listening and hearing God’s guidance is conflated with following orders.

Yet the whole point of the Bible is that God desires a genuine relationship with us.

Or rather, God has never ceased pouring out His love and blessings upon us. We are the ones hiding, refusing, and rejecting the grace available to us.

The garden within

It’s easy to find the quiet place within you where God dwells. But to carry that peace and love out into life requires us to let go of the worries and cares that have accrued around our external circumstances.

I can close my eyes and feel close to God, but open them and feel the tie of thoughts about everything I see before me: house, belongings, family, YouTube, chores, plans, worries and fears and hopes and wishes.

The work before us is to let our thoughts be changed by the peace and love we find within.

Bit by bit, soothe and soften and ease the story of our lives until we can remain in this love always.

The Way is like an empty vessel
That yet may be drawn from
Without ever needing to be filled.
It is bottomless; the very progenitor of all things in the world.
In it all sharpness is blunted,
All tangles untied,
All glare tempered,
All dust soothed.

It is like a deep pool that never dries.
Was it too the child of something else? We cannot tell.
But as a substanceless image it existed before the Ancestor.

– DDJ 4. Waley

Happiness Day 16

Happiness flow chart (sorta).

I had the idea just now to make a flow chart about feeling good that covers all the general possibilities.

How do I feel right now?

Good! -> appreciate it!

Not good.

Can I find a better feeling?

Yes! -> appreciate it!

No.

Can I accept/make peace with where I am right now?

Yes. -> appreciate it.

No.

Can I soothe myself?

Yes. -> keep soothing.

No. -> go have a nap, find a simple distraction, change the subject, get your mind off what is bothering you.

A more positive approach?

But this flow chart feels like it could be more positive. I mean, it’s good to demonstrate what to do when you feel bad, but it doesn’t really develop a good feeling.

For all intents and purposes, good feeling is the grace, spirit, divine presence, whatever you want to call it, that we seek to cultivate by prayer or meditation.

When people visualise a pure white light surrounding and infusing them, the whole point is that this visualisation feels good.

If it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t working for you.

I can visualise all sorts of things and have no effect whatsoever.

That’s where I went wrong in the past: not by visualising per se but by thinking the point of all the different spiritual practices was something other than feeling good.

Meditation should feel good. Prayer should feel good. Sometimes it’s difficult, sure. But it mostly should feel good.

If you’re accustomed to feeling bad and distrusting ordinary good feelings, you might make the mistake of thinking spiritual practices should not feel good.

You might overemphasise stories of struggle and effort and how “different” spiritual practice is from everything else in life.

But the bottom line is that it should feel good. And for my purposes I should treat good feeling as a direct sign of the spiritual substance I’m seeking to connect with.

The presence of God feels good. Divine love feels good. Our hearts’ desire is to feel good.

Feeling good is the path and the destination. Accept it, embrace it, and be changed by it until everything feels good for you.

Happiness Day 15

Dealing with contrast.

Physical pain, a screaming baby, a dozen minor annoyances.

It’s a pretty good place to be, to be feeling like ****, dealing with a bunch of small gripes and irritations, and knowing inside out that this is exactly where you are meant to be.

Not lashing out or exploding or spiralling downward. Not making things worse or losing hope or giving up entirely – though you may have done all that plenty of times in the past.

But knowing that things only feel bad because they have to get better. Knowing because you’ve seen this pattern repeat six or seven times in the past half-year alone.

Knowing, thank God, that these are questions calling forth answers by the mere fact we notice them and want an answer.

We don’t have to have the answer at hand or know what it will look like, because the question itself is what brings the answer to us.

And all we need to do is not cling so tight to the contrast, and not keep focusing so much on how difficult or troubling or impossible the situation feels.

In other words we need to have a little bit of faith in the process.

I’ve been around long enough to know that these small everyday burdens can feel excruciating in the moment, but they are not forever. And in their passage we are raised up and brought to a higher perspective.

They’re questions! Our struggle with them is a question! Our inability to cope with them is a question!

And in time we may go from struggle and frustration to eagerness and excitement when we see a new question form and wonder what the answer is going to be.

My pain is going to subside, my baby is going to sleep well, and the other nuisances are barely worth mentioning and will shortly be forgotten and submerged in the rising tide as I get better and better at feeling good.

This is the worst I’ve felt in fifteen days of focusing on happiness. That alone is a sign of how far I’ve come. If this is the worst I’ve felt, then that alone is something to appreciate.

My happiness work is going so well I even feel good about feeling bad right now!

That’s a suitable paradox as I wish you all a Happy Easter.