Today is my birthday, and on this auspicious occasion, I dedicated my morning meditation practice to gratitude.
It’s easy to be grateful on my birthday. I am fortunate to have many friends and family who send me texts, Facebook messages and phone calls wishing me well, sending me love and acknowledging my presence in their life. This outpouring of love makes me feel very rich. So yes, it is easy to be grateful on my birthday.
Practicing gratitude on days when the hot water heater goes out, the air conditioning fails and the neighbor uses a chainsaw until 9 o’clock at night is harder. (That really happened in one week.) During weeks like the one I just described, I can’t but think the universe is conspiring against me. “Really?” I want to say, “All in the same week! Thanks Universe!”
And guess what? The Universe is conspiring…but not against me — for me.
It’s all in the way I choose to look at it.
For example, our hot water heater was old and not as energy efficient as the newer models. Plus I discovered this new cost-saving program through our local power board for folks who buy new energy efficient heaters. And I learned how to take really quick showers, I mean really quick. Overall a beautiful lesson in only taking what you need and honoring the value of water.
A similar lesson with the failed air conditioning unit. Over the course of days with no air conditioning, my body became more acclimated to the heat, and consequently, we now are able to keep our thermostat at a higher setting with no discomfort. We also learned the value in not heating up the kitchen (as much) with the stove — another energy saving cost. And those cold showers? I learned to appreciate them a lot more.
In regard to the chainsaw, well, let’s just say I am really, really, very grateful the neighbor is finished using it.
So on a day like today, when lots of folks are loving me up, it is easy to practice gratitude. And on the days when it is not as easy? Then I stretch. I get out of my comfort zone, and hopefully, I grow.
But sometimes, it is just hard.
Sometimes I am not able to move on my own. Sometimes I am not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and just want to run away. During those times, I get to practice being brave. To remind myself that the same family and friends who are wishing me well on my birthday are also there for me on my hard days. In those moments, I get to practice asking for help.
Asking for help is my biggest stretch. Just like a lot of you, I grew up in a culture that stigmatizes needing help. While there is much to unpack about this topic, I find one of the biggest obstacles to asking for help is not wanting to feel obligated.
Boy howdy, do I get that! And here is what I know:
I am obligated. Whether I like to acknowledge it or not, I am indebted to people whom I never met, to people whom I currently know, and to people who have yet to come into my life. I know this because I did not get to where I am by myself nor will I get to where I am going by myself.
This practice of acknowledging what we have (gratitude) inspires us to give to others (generosity), and consequently, encourages others to give (reciprocity).
This cycle feeds us as individuals but also creates healthy, resource rich communities.
(Curious about what is a resource rich community? Then you may want get involved in our Transformation Through Service Program.)
I find that I have less fear, less guilt, and less ego around “obligation” when I practice gratitude and generosity. Being grateful and sharing make it so much easier to ask and to receive. I believe this message is exactly what the Universe wanted me to know.
Now, if I could only make peace with the chainsaw. :)