It is the beginning of a new week and I thought I would take a moment to still my mind and take stock of the present … now is a present and the present is now.
When we are slain by difficulty or pressure, squeezed into other people’s deadlines and commitments, pushed by life into making decisions before we are ready to, faced with challenges related to health – our own or our loved ones’ – given physical challenges that we are unable to meet, faced with guilt at our inability to reach goals, and kept consistently preoccupied by the frenetic pace of modern life for all manner of reason, it is important to give ourselves moments to stop. Whether we are in the midst of a ‘storm’ physically or in the storms of life emotionally or academically, it is so easy to fall into thinking that life is always difficult, always treating us badly or that things are never straightforward. I try to bring everything down to its most basic, especially at these times.
When we take a moment to stop and look at what is good in our lives, what is going well for us, what is right in life, what is possible for us to do for others, what is realistically achievable within our bounds and our abilities as we perceive them, we begin to alter the panic mode that sets in as life’s burdens increase in our minds and our lives. Many have written and spoken about the value of taking inventory at the end of each day, or at times during the day, of what we have to be grateful for. This is an incredibly useful and profound practice which, when done often, changes a pattern of thinking that we are victims, to seeing and feeling how fortunate and blessed we are. It is this mindful practice which has helped untold numbers of people keep hoping, keep dreaming, keep on breathing in the unbelievably tough waves … and it is a practice of immense value to anyone who wishes to improve their present lives, regardless of waves.
At the weekend I heard a man speak about how he and a group from his congregation in America had recently spent ten days in Swaziland, helping local African people to establish sustainable ways to grow food. As the man spoke, describing how his wife had packed an entire suitcase full of little trinkets to take on their journey, to give to the African children as gifts, I could picture the process. I imagined I could feel the joy and anticipation that his wife might have felt as she prepared for the trip. I wondered at the immense gratitude that lady might have experienced, knowing that she was in a position to fund and to find such treasure to take with her to Africa, to bless others with.
To be honest, as I listened to the story, I also hoped that there was nothing in that suitcase that might add to the problems experienced by the people whom they were travelling long distances to help … Sometimes we who have everything think that we are helping by handing over our ‘loot’ where, in contrast, we have much to learn from the indigenous people themselves. I speak with firsthand knowledge of this, remembering the times many years ago, when I too shared out of what I had – as a ten year old child in Africa.
However, listening to the man speak about the group’s experiences in Swaziland, the overriding thoughts for me were about the sense of pleasure and purpose attached to that worthwhile trip. I could see the little children’s faces in my mind, as the man described their joy at receiving tiny gifts … their outstretched hands … their huge smiles … their shy giggles … I felt grateful for that. I could imagine, too, the intense joy and elation of the community at anticipating seeing their first crops flourish, at knowing that they would soon be able to put food in the hands and mouths of their children, the joy of expectancy at being able to be self-sufficient in something as basically essential as growing simple, healthy food. I was so grateful to that team of people for doing that. It goes without saying, yet so many do not know this in their souls: Africa needs this type of love, as do so many other parts of the world right now. Sustainability is key.
Most of us who have devices to create or to read articles such as this one, are fortunate. We are tapped into the stream of modern life that comes with untold riches and we are able to find food, even if it is only a crust of bread. I have known times when, despite seeming material comfort, there has been ‘lack’ which has been painful to experience. Yet, even then I was fortunate … my hunger or lack did not last long … and there are people right now who have not even a crust of bread or other nutrient to feed their children or themselves with. These people have to dig very deep to survive.
It is easy, especially on a Monday morning, to fall into the negative mindset that floods our social media pages – unless we keep ourselves in check and adjust our thinking ourselves.
I would urge everyone ready this to simply stop … take a few deep and satisfyingly nourishing breaths … and think of three things that you are grateful for right now. Add to the list if you wish to, as the more things you find to be grateful for the happier you will find that you feel. Even if you can only think of three things to be grateful for, the awareness of those will begin to alter the pattern of damaging imagining that there is only negativity in your life. Where you are standing or sitting right now, your thinking appreciative thoughts can and will bring relief and change. The more we practise this, the more it becomes a habit – and with practice, any habit can become the norm.
So stop … take stock … just for now …
This is a sacred moment. You are alive. The Earth is hanging in space. All is well.
Have a blessed and beautiful week.
You are rich and you are incredible.
Don’t forget that.
In mindful wonder and gratitude for life and all it offers,