Love is not earned

Children lack insight into the minds and motives of adults, so as children we tend to take other people’s behaviour at face value.

I could never understand why things were often bleak and unpleasant at home. It didn’t make sense to me; but over time I concluded that I must have done something wrong, or failed to do something right and thereby earned these unhappy interactions.

Those thoughts stayed with me for a long time. In my interactions with new people I would be mindful of their possible expectations and my own “performance” according to those mysterious criteria.

I worried about making mistakes or doing something wrong in other people’s eyes. I would often second-guess people’s words and my own actions, trying to predict possible offences and conflict.

All that anxiety and effort stemmed from the false childhood premise that I was being treated according to my worth or desert, and these were lacking. I brought these thoughts to new interactions and looked for evidence to confirm them.

A new premise

With the benefit of knowing how I create my reality with my thoughts and focus, I can look back and see that things were not as bleak as I make out. If I hadn’t taken to heart the bad moods and cruel comments, there was plenty of room to manoeuvre.

If I had applied the Abraham-Hicks principles I would have had a much happier childhood.

It’s okay that I didn’t. My unhappiness has given me a correspondingly magnificent desire for joy, freedom, and expansion.

But looking back is helpful in this moment because I don’t want to keep those old thought patterns going anymore.

My new premise is that instead of getting the treatment I deserve, I get the reality I allow. God wants me to be happy, His love and blessings have never stopped flowing into me. It’s up to me to enjoy the flow instead of resisting it, to look to where the blessings are instead of where they aren’t.

There is no stream of bad things raining down on me because of some fault or error of mine. There are only good things that I allow, or resist.

Life is as good as I allow it to be; I am as happy as I allow myself to feel. Searching for my own faults and trying to avoid making mistakes was itself just the product of a misunderstanding.

There is no degree of personal perfection required to turn your life around. There is no correction of faults or errors required before people start treating you right. We do not earn God’s love and blessings, they are freely given.

We just have to accept them.

Count Your Blessings Day 10

Getting picky!

I can feel all of this work coming together.

I’m laughing a lot more and feeling good a lot more.

I’m really sensitive to “old stories” that don’t feel good.

In fact some things that felt good before – like my morning routine of getting my son ready for school – don’t feel so good now.

I want it to be an easier, more enjoyable process for us both. And it’s as if being happier has raised my expectations.

I don’t want to rush, and I don’t want to feel pressed or pressured. So I won’t.

It actually doesn’t matter if he’s late for school. What matters is that he gets enough sleep and we have a good time together.

What I love is walking him to school, playing the feeling game together, talking about how good the day is going to be.

I love the trees along our walk, especially the enormous fir tree in front of the old college.

I want to live among trees like that. That’s my dream.

I wrote all that just minutes before waking him up. While his breakfast cooked I helped him get dressed, and now he’s 90% ready, with 10 mins to go, and he’s still able to watch his favourite YouTube channel.

It can be easy, if we allow it to be! And we allow it by focusing on what we want and really feeling it.

Later

The walk was fun. If I focused on getting there my son got slower and more tired. But if I focused on enjoying the walk myself he sped up to walk alongside me.

We ran into an old friend on the way there and she stopped to chat as we walked along.

I’m now sitting in a garden beneath the amazing fir tree while I finish this post and ask myself “what next?”

What next?

I was contemplating wrapping up this Blessings series because I missed a day and wasn’t sure how to keep it going.But I can see that’s coming from a feeling of worry, when really there’s nothing about blogging that should inspire worry.

So I’ll keep letting it evolve and see where it takes me.

For now I think my original purpose has been served. Counting my blessings changed my perspective of what blessings are and how many I have.

It’s beyond counting now. Yet the focus on appreciating what is in my life is still valuable.

For appreciation to become my dominant feeling I need to practise it.

Count Your Blessings Day 5

It’s actually brilliant…

Counting my blessings is doing something to me that is both cool and amusing.

I’m beginning to take for granted that each day is full of blessings.

I’m even getting a bit impatient about writing them out.

And I’m definitely feeling eager for more. Not necessarily more of the same, but more variety, more richness, more surprise, more satisfaction.

Today was spent mostly at home, and I really appreciated it. I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything.

Well, I drove my wife and son to a meet up with friends and picked them up later, but most of the day was spent relaxing.

In the past I would avoid all kinds of events and activities, but I didn’t really relax. I just wanted to avoid the extra stress because, truth be told, I was still stressed at home.

I carried my stress around with me. Keeping it alive and feeding it frequently.

But today felt like genuine relief, because I felt real appreciation for the down-time after so many days of uncharacteristic activity.

There were lots of beautiful moments today. Watching my wife and the kids dance to some YouTube videos.

Enjoying the delicious meal my wife cooked, while I was blissfully unaware she was even doing it.

Sitting with a coffee on the front porch in the cold autumn air.

Playing Minecraft with my son.

And little things like aches and pains that would have ruined my day were just…things I noticed, I guess?

So I’m wanting more now, and I’m getting a clearer picture of the kind of feel I’m after.

The process of counting my blessings has focused and tuned me in super quickly to what a blessing is, what it feels like, and what more I can look forward to.

I have a sense that it is never going to stop being this process of discovery and expansion.

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!

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!

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!