Friday, April 20, 2018

Society at a crossroads

Looking back on a post describing my extensive (often uncomfortable) immersion in the conflicting views and opinions of others, I realized that there is a larger issue worth discussing- the ease by which someone can challenge -even rock- our core beliefs via social media. 

Although sites like facebook engage in extensive data mining and targeted ads to increase the probability you see what you "want to" see, they do not fully insulate us from every post we may disagree with (which really doesn't seem to be their goal anyway). I realize now that, to some, this 'accidental insight' into friends' thoughts and opinions could be upsetting. 

While part of me wants to roll my eyes, I also recognize that something really interesting is happening. This is the first time in history where we as a society can very quickly and easily access a myriad of opinions about every topic imaginable- whether we want to or not. When we compare the current dynamic to our collective past, it is clear that our society is currently at a crossroads.

If you are from "Generation Y" and older, you remember a world before social media. You may recall running into someone you hadn't seen in a while and they let slip who they voted for/what they thought about ______. You then went home to your spouse or S.O. and said, hey I saw so and so today- did you know she voted for _____?! Tsk, honestly . . . (or something like that).

And that was the end of it. No likes, no comments, no shares, no checking back to see what others responded. Sure, you could have argued with your spouse/family about it a little, but in the privacy of your own home, (hopefully!) unobserved. With the exception of those who lived within the public eye, this was the case for everyone.

Fast forward to now, the internet and social media give us access not only to so. much. information, but also an instant, far reaching megaphone. To anyone who feels isolated or that their opinions don't matter, having the ability to finally communicate about important issues can feel really good.

But we also know that this newfound freedom has a flip side, and it can be an ugly one. You know the saying that true character is what you do when no one is watching? Well, now everyone is watching (or can be)- except this time it is anonymous players performing upon a virtual stage. 

Cloaked in this anonymity people can say nasty, vulgar, and hateful things with little or no consequence. A few malicious individuals can launch thousands of 'bots' to intimidate real people with opposing views, or gather information for digital censorship. On a more personal, less sinister level, although we wouldn't necessarily walk up to someone we (would otherwise) consider our friend and say, "I hate your political views, so you are no longer my friend" we can neatly terminate our virtual friendship with a single click. 

I have been thinking about this for a while, especially in regards to people who appear not able to handle opposing views they encounter, particularly on social media. Are they all intellectual dwarfs who need a good verbal smackdown? For some, perhaps the answer is yes, but I refuse to believe that this is the case for everyone. Looking at the big picture, the fact is that as a society this new 'normal' is very different from what we have ever known, and it might take some time to adjust and accept as part of our reality. Stepping out of my own shoes, I also realize most people have also not experienced the intellectual isolation that I (and others like me) have encountered in so many different contexts. That means that I should give others a bit of a break, because I now realize that, unlike me, they might not yet be over the shock.   

Does this excuse immature, cowardly behavior on the internet? Certainly not. Personally, I am tired of it, and I am guilty of sometimes adding fuel to the fire by responding with my own special blend of teasing and sarcasm (don't worry, I recognize my need to review Right Speech just as much as everyone else- see below!). But this is why I am writing this post, because I am passionate about this issue, and I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I now recognize that it is not necessarily the 'instagram' generation who is at fault, that the fragility we often see is part of a an (understandable) human reaction to being challenged in ways we never have before.

So the question remains, will we reach a point as a society where we can handle this constant exposure to the thoughts and opinions of people with different views? Or will we retreat back into our intellectual 'tribes', banishing anyone with the audacity to challenge us? OR, will we toughen our fragile egos to let go of fear and selfishness and actually listen to someone else's story? Right now we are at an incredible, vulnerable moment in history where our sense of fairness, openness, and forgiveness is on the line. Humanity, let's try not to blow it . . . again.
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I end this post with a timeless statement from the Vaca Sutta about Right Speech, a component of Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path.

"Monks, a statement endowed with fine factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five?

It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."

Vaca Sutta, A Statement
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May all beings be happy!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No safe spaces

Recently someone 'unfriended' me on social media in response to a difference in political opinion. It is not the first, second, or even third time this has happened. Although initially surprised, this time I am pretty indifferent about it. This is not because I do not care about the person, but it is becoming quite clear that many people have trouble navigating a world outside their own echo chambers. 

This is evidenced by the creation of 'safe spaces' that insulate people from potentially upsetting topics and hushing or marginalizing those with controversial or countering views. Counseling services have even been offered to youth in the wake of election outcomes. Although I think the real question is, "What the heck has happened to our society?!" I will save that for another day. What I prefer to discuss now is the pervasive climate of shutting down those with differing views, and my experience with it. 

Socially and ideologically, I have lived most of my life as an 'outsider', and it has not always been easy. In middle and high school, I was taunted and even threatened because my family spoke a different language at home (I know, kids will find anything to pick on!). In college, I was opposed by peers who enjoyed regurgitating without question whatever they learned in class. In graduate school and beyond, I would listen as those in authority mocked Christian values and ridiculed people for the books they read. But here's what takes the cake: hearing divisive remarks made by Buddhist Sangha 'leaders' prior to practicing loving-kindness meditation! 

Believe me, I am no martyr, and these situations SUCKED. They were frustrating, and often felt very isolating, especially in the latter context. However, I do believe that I (eventually) benefitted from these experiences. This is because not only did I learn to defend my views and thoughtfully challenge opposing ones, but to actually listen to people with different life experiences, and to recognize when someone else is being singled out the way I was. I have also learned to determine when nothing will be gained from a debate (especially on social media!), making it wise to disengage from the conversation. 

My current attitude about other people's views (or my lack of concern for what they think of mine) didn't happen overnight- it was definitely a process. These days the main problem that arises is when I expect the same courtesy of understanding and openness from others. Moving away from this expectation without developing additional suspicion and ego attachment will be beneficial, but also difficult. 

So, no safe spaces for me, but I do believe that being a 'sore thumb' has made me a stronger, more reflective person. For that, I am grateful. 
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Proud, yet humbled

While taking some time to reflect on the gratitude-focused posts I have written, I am confronted with a variety of emotions. First of all, I am proud of my resolve to let go when it mattered. No one told me to do this, but on that cold December day I took the time to stop and think about the emotional road I was on. I didn't like where it was headed, so I decided that I needed to take action-though at the time I didn't know what those actions would be.

A few days later I knew what I had to do, and I let myself do it. I didn't let denial or complacency stop me. I tapped into the strength that walking the Buddhist path has given me, and allowed myself to feel humbled by all the amazing people, things, and opportunities in this life. After making that crucial decision of opening my heart to gratitude, I burst forward with an uplifted spirit.

Does that mean that my life is perfect right now; that everything is exactly how I want it? No, and no. Gratitude is not a magic wand that makes every problem go away, but I have found that it does play an important role in diminishing them while highlighting all that is good. Neither dark nor rose-colored glasses, I have found that viewing the world with a grateful eye is my lens of choice.

As such, I find that I am now suspended in a Middle Way-esque balance: feeling proud and confident enough to keep going, yet humbled enough for things to stay real. I am grateful for deciding to embark on this journey, and for allowing myself to finally take a step closer towards seeing things as they really are.


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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My dad

This is another one of those posts, where the depth of the gratitude I feel is difficult to fully express. This is for my dad, who has taught me so much about life and the world around us. Like many from his generation and national origin, he grew up in incredibly difficult circumstances. An immigrant who came to the US facing many challenges, he persevered through education and hard work. Though I have from time to time glimpsed an understandable nostalgia for his homeland, he has always emphasized the great privilege- and responsibility- that comes with being an American. Never one to back down from a challenge, he not only taught me to question authority, but how to confront it in an honest and appropriate manner.

He is one of the most hardworking people I have ever known, and my awareness of his constant toil is what I use for a reality check when I allow myself to think that I have 'worked hard'. His knowledge of technology and how it has changed is mind-blowing, and I marvel at his deep understanding of all the advanced tools we now use on a daily basis. His quantitatively-based expertise has been an inspiration to me, and has given me a unique perspective on both the benefits and perils of technology.

Along with the gift of bilingualism that my parents have bestowed upon my siblings and me, was the gift of travel, fueled by his and my mother's wanderlust. Instead of prioritizing material purchases, my dad used any extra funds towards our education and family trips to both new and familiar places. The enrichment of our lives that resulted cannot be measured, and I will remember those experiences for the rest of my life.

Thank you Papa, for everything you have given me. Ich liebe dich! 💕
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Showing restraint

The news has a way of upsetting people, and for good reason. In addition to the fear, worry, and even panic that knowledge of current events can create, they can also serve as a powerful springboard for discussions.

Whether it is abortion, drugs, or gun violence, many of these discussions can easily become heated between people with differing views. I must admit that in the past I wholeheartedly engaged in these discussions, which sadly, often quickly devolved into full-blown (and completely unproductive) arguments. As a result, I gradually let go of the need to try to convince those with opposite views- and was happier for it. 

Recently I was confronted with the possibility of another argument because of an (admittedly provocative) article I posted on social media. Though the article content was my desired focus, some insisted on discussing issues I specifically stated I wanted to avoid, simply because of the volatility (and predictability) of the course of the argument that would ensue. Those requests went repeatedly unheeded, and, after first trying to diffuse the situation with humor, I eventually had to shut the thread down completely. 

Not a very happy conclusion, but I have enough experience to know that things were only going to get worse. What I am happy about is the way my reaction to the barrage of comments (on a topic that I did not wish to discuss in the first place!) has changed. Fifteen years ago, I would have been livid, and would have launched into all kinds of verbal retaliation- that'll show 'em! But now my current practice is to remain calm (more or less) and strive to show restraint in my responses. 

But don't worry, I will refrain from patting myself on the back too much. That is because this human still sometimes gets angry or annoyed by conflicting views (natural, perhaps, but not always great in terms of clarity). I also know that in the future I can be more proactive about asking people to stay on topic and be civil to one another, and to more promptly close the conversation if those requests are ignored. Finally, I must continue to work on navigating the fine line between being civil and allowing myself to be bullied- which is where careful balance of indignation and restraint may actually come in handy! 😀

Although I know that some of the changes in my response are due to continued life experiences (sometimes called 'maturity'), I am grateful for the enhanced sense of perspective and calm that walking the Buddhist path has placed within my reach.
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Experiencing the gratitude of others

A short while ago I read about the hardships of a couple who had just learned their oldest child has a rare genetic disorder. After reading the heartbreaking post about the young woman's need for an immediate organ transplant, I felt a combination of worry, sadness, and fear.

But when I eventually read positive news about the girl's prognosis, my heart filled with joy- and gratitude.

From this I was once again reminded that practicing gratitude is not all about me. Yes, I knew that gratitude has its own benefits, but not necessarily isolated from everyone else. In this way we are all truly connected- your gratitude is my gratitude! 😊

What could be a more a beautiful way to develop caring, empathy, and what Buddhists refer to as metta towards fellow sentient beings?


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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Farmer's Market

Yesterday we went for a grocery run to our local farmer's market. In contrast to the upper-middle class 'al fresco' version with perfectly arranged 'heirloom' and organic produce, the one we frequent is housed in a rather grubby-looking old grocery store. It sprawls into several sections, including housewares, clothing (yes!), local bulk and preserved goodies, bakery, meat/fish, dairy, and east Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern foods. The produce, while at times not as 'pretty' as in the chain stores, is abundant and diverse, easily accommodating many international cuisines. 

Moreover, almost all produce and perishables are available at incredibly reasonable prices, allowing us to purchase two cartloads of groceries for ~$150.00. As far as I know this is nearly unheard of in our area, and is probably one of the reasons the market is so popular. 

I want to express my gratitude for the Farmer's Market not only for the ease of finding a huge variety of food, but to be able to afford such things now that we are confined to a single income. 

What are you grateful for today?

Just a portion of our many tasty purchases!
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Signs of spring

We have been fortunate enough to see the weather improve over the past few weeks, and now there are some unmistakable signs that spring is on its way. Everywhere changes are taking place, with longer days, greener grass, and buds on trees as they ready themselves to burst from dormancy. 

But perhaps one of the my favorite signs of the fading winter is the appearance of those bright green shoots that eventually give rise to buds and blossoms. I love all spring flowers, but there is always something miraculous about the first crocuses. The emergence of these delicate but tenacious flowers that persist even in the face of a vernal snow brings to my soul a sense of excitement and renewal that only nature can provide.


Today I am grateful to have seen (and photographed!) the first crocuses of the spring while out for a walk with my daughter. In terms of weather spring is a capricious season, so knowing that these blooms could again be hidden under an icy mantle makes them all the more special.
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Through a child's eyes

Yesterday my husband, daughter, and I went to a nearby aquarium. We had a nice time, and Kleiner enjoyed looking at all the fish swimming gracefully in the water, pursing her lips to mimic their little fish mouths. She also stared with wonder at the turtles, hippos, and jellyfish as they swam and otherwise moved about. It was truly a pleasure to observe things from her perspective as she saw these creatures live for the very first time. 




I know that I will probably (and hopefully) write many posts similar to this one, but that is okay with me! I love being able to see the world through a child's eyes, and am grateful for the opportunity.
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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." 
~Shunru Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1970)
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Progress and resilience

As I have mentioned, the first year of my daughter's life has been one of my best- but also one of the most challenging. Soon after her birth, I was hit with the strongest emotions I have ever experienced. Though I was so happy and proud to be a parent of this amazing little human, I was incredibly anxious and tense, and the 'sleep when the baby sleeps' saying seemed like a cruel joke. 

Despite my husband's valiant efforts to make me feel better, I also felt so alone, because in truth, I was. I knew I could always call my mom and sister, but everyone was so far away. Most* of the people I knew who said that they were 'there if I ever needed anything' ended up MIA. I was angry at myself for being so naive, and felt sad and disillusioned.  

Now I understand what a difference a year can make. Around this time last year I was exhausted, lonely, and my confidence was at an all-time low. Though in some ways I felt stronger (I had delivered a BABY after all!), I was the heaviest I had ever been and felt in the worst shape of my life. 

Finally, the weather began to improve and I was able to take baby out in the stroller for short walks. Those walks became longer and longer, and slowly the weight (and inches) started to come off. My pre-pregnancy clothes started to fit again, and I finally slid into one of my favorite pairs of jeans! 

I still have a little ways to go, and since this isn't a fitness blog, I have decided to not get into the exact numbers here. But as I approach my goals I am amazed by how different I feel, not only how I look. It is not as much about vanity anymore, but also witnessing how a change in mindset has eventually led to changes in my physique.   


I am grateful for resilience, both mental and physical, and for the strength my husband, my family, and my own body and mind have given me. 

*I do mean most, but not all. More about that later 😀
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

An un-apology

A while back I posted about some of the 'flip side' emotions and accompanying questions that have also arisen from this gratitude practice . . .

Doubt: Will I be able to keep up this practice, or am I just deluding myself?

Self-consciousness: When I express gratefulness, do people think I am bragging or trying to flaunt some 'perfect life'? 

Fear: Will my fledgling gratitude be tested in a way I will not be able to handle? Will I alienate people I care about?

For starters, I know that if someone doesn't like or is annoyed by these posts, they don't have to read them. But we all know rejection can hurt, and often makes us reevaluate what we're doing.

With my own reevaluation complete, I know in my heart of hearts that developing this gratitude practice is the right thing to do. I also know that, though people may roll their eyes, posting often is the only way I will stay accountable. I guess that makes the patience and tolerance of others yet another thing to be grateful for! 😊

So, this is in essence a "Sorry, not sorry" post. Looking back, the gratitude practices I have tried to develop in the past were destined to fail. Now that I am actually doing it, my world is changing for the better. And I have a feeling that as I continue on this journey, there will be no going back.
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Have you succeeded in or attempted developing a gratitude practice? What worked/didn't work for you?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lactation consultants!

First of all, Happy Valentine's Day! Of course, what could be more in the sprit than breastfeeding and those who make it their life's work?! 😂

Yeah, I know, not really. But just hear me out. It was on this day a year ago that Kleiner and I were struggling. The situation was not dire, but things were not great. I was ready to give up. 

Enter Katie, the best lactation consultant we could have had. She listened carefully to our issues and showed me simple techniques that made all the difference. When I opened up about some recent (unpleasant) experiences, she empathized. 

Fast forward to now, it is hard to believe how vulnerable I felt (and was!) at that point in time. I am glad we were guided by such a capable person- something I would hope for every new mom. 

I know that the world would not have ended if we had switched to formula, and that this is a viable (yay, science!) and beneficial option that many families choose. But I am very grateful for the support and guidance I received at this pivotal time in my (and my baby's) life. 


What are you grateful for this Valentine's Day? 💗
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy! 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

10,000+

Today I am grateful that I was able make it to my goal of 10,000+ steps for two days in a row. Between the frigid weather and a little one at home it is not always easy! 


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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Not really feeling it

Today was one of those dark, rainy, miserable days. I don't know if that is what put me in a sour mood this evening, but I am really not feeling this right now. Even so I still had some grateful moments throughout the day, but was overall definitely not in the best frame of mind. 

Beyond the weather, I think I am suffering from a little too much routine. I continue to look forward to the weekend to spend a little more time with my husband, but the days just blur together into a (seemingly) endless loop. Feeling like day-to-day I accomplish nothing important is an effective recipe for frustration and discouragement.

But you know what? All this is okay. Like I said in my first gratitude post, the purpose of developing this practice in not to force myself to be grateful. Days (and emotions!) like these are going to happen, and it is my job to learn how to deal with them effectively. It is called a 'practice' for a reason! 

If I am grateful for anything today, it is that gratitude was able to shine through, even in the presence of substantial negativity. With that, I conclude with a picture of a notebook I saw in Target- which has now become especially relevant. Enjoy 😊  


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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Friday, February 9, 2018

A bit overwhelmed

One thing I realized soon after embarking on this gratitude journey was it would be difficult, but for different reasons than I had originally thought. Instead of tiredness, procrastination, and negative emotions getting in the way, I am now more concerned with the magnitude of the endeavor.  

Put simply, there is just *so much* to be grateful for! 

So far, I have written quite a few posts about the 'best things' in life; the little things make us smile. I have also written several posts about loved ones, those who have touched and brought tremendous joy to my life (and the lives of many others). 

Taking a step back, it is fair to say I feel completely overwhelmed (in a good way!).  It is like I have just discovered a peaceful new ocean, and, in my efforts to explore it, have only just viewed a few shimmering drops in the palm of my hand.


I am so thankful for all the wonderful people and things in my life, and will continue my quest to express the gratitude I feel towards them to the best of my ability.
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Don't count your gratitude before it's hatched!

Writing about gratitude has awakened a source of excitement that I didn't even know existed. I think about it a lot, and the practice serves as a reminder when the frustrations of daily life start to get me down. When identifying something I am grateful for, I feel happy to write about it and share with others. In fact, I am sometimes so eager that in my mind I select upcoming events as reasons to be grateful- though they had not yet happened! 

When this is the case, I need to slow down. Yes, I believe this gratitude practice is a good thing, but I also must live in the present moment. Though it is perfectly acceptable to regard 'something to look forward to' as a reason for gratefulness in itself, it is essential that I do not become dependent on a specific outcome. Doing so would mean I am replacing my sense of gratitude with attachment and a desire for things to go 'my way', however good my intentions. 

Yes, when this happens I need to dial back my ego and just be grateful, for both those things past and present that allow me to be who I am in the here and now. Because a mindful sense of gratitude can also sow the seeds for a hopeful future. 
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The present moment 
contains past and future. 
The secret for transformation,
is in the way we handle this very moment. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2006)

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves—slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness (1999)

Did you enjoy this post? What do you think about the connection between gratitude and living in the present moment?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Nothing's perfect

As I first embarked on this gratitude journey, I had some doubts about posting my thoughts publicly. Beyond apprehension about feeling exposed, I was cautious about inadvertently portraying my life as some Pollyanna's paradise. 

Since I am a human being, you already know that it is not. Everyone has problems, bad habits, and troublesome emotions. However, if we are truly grateful for what we have, don't have, learn, or experience, it does not make sense to spend our energy qualifying it. 

So yes, I may have been tired all day, but it is important that I allow myself to feel grateful for my husband's helpfulness. I know that our apartment is not the best, most modern, or spacious, but I can still be grateful we have a roof over our heads. I may not have the fittest body, but . . . you get the idea. I express gratitude not because there are no flaws or imperfections, but because being grateful is what matters, and attaching "ifs, ands, or buts" diminishes it.  

From a Buddhist perspective, focusing on gratitude is a step towards a more harmonious life. The 'suffering' defined as dukkha defines the inherent unsatisfactory nature of all things, ultimately defined by their impermanence. Since we already know this, there is no sense in dwelling on it. 

Instead, we can shift our focus towards the sense of contentment that gratitude can bring. If we are grateful, then tanha, or "selfish craving" slowly loses its power over us. Since "craving" or attachment is one of the major obstacles thwarting our happiness, this is a big deal in Buddhist terms.

But you don't need to be a Buddhist to understand or at least appreciate this argument. The benefits of gratitude are already there . . . without anything ever being 'perfect'.  


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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Abundance

Today while feeding my daughter her lunch, I was struck by the huge variety of food she eats. Oranges, apples, bananas, avocados, grapes, asparagus, green beans, different types of cheese, bread, rice, eggs, pasta, all types of berries- the list goes on! This made me think of a conversation we had while having dinner with friends not too long ago. In response to our complaining about how Kleiner often throws her food, someone brought up how hard it must be for parents who's children don't throw their food . . . because there is no food to throw.

We paused for a moment, completely humbled. In the midst of such abundance, how can we merely discuss this heartbreaking reality? My only answer to this loss for words is to state how truly grateful I am for the abundance around us, and that we are able to feed our daughter wholesome and nourishing food when she is hungry. 💗


What are you grateful for today?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

'Random' gratefulness

Found this in my social media feed today:


I posted this on this day in 2014. Looks like I was attempting this gratitude 'thing' even back then.

I am still grateful for what I wrote above, and also that gratefulness now has a daily, rather than 'random' presence in my life. 😄 

What are you grateful for today?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Is gratitude a waste of time?

Since gratitude is a feeling we can experience, perhaps we cannot say this about gratitude itself. But thinking about it at length, writing thank you letters and posts like this one- Isn't there something else I could be doing with my time?

The answer is, most definitely. I could be organizing our apartment, exercising, working on my scientific writing, and applying for jobs. I could take a nap or read a book. Yes, there are lots of things I could be doing instead.

However, though some activities can be worthwhile, what good are their outcomes if I am still caught in a cycle of negativity? What good is 'productivity' when my attitude and outlook on life need adjustment?

The fact is, I KNOW that writing about what I am grateful for is what I need in my life right now, and that this is the right thing to do. I just have to be confident that as I continue through this year things will slowly fall into place.

When time and a little bit of extra effort from me yield positive results, what better instance can there be to accomplish something, then when I can actually appreciate and savor the outcome?!


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What do you think? Is writing about gratitude a good use of one's time? What alternatives could also lead to personal growth and attitude adjustment?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at my blog, ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Dinner with friends

This weekend my husband, little one, and I were invited to the home of a former colleague of mine. We had a wonderful time, and enjoyed some homemade pizza, salad, and cherry strudel. After experiencing some mild side effects from one of her vaccinations, Kleiner was a little cranky, having missed most of her lunch and afternoon nap. Our hosts completely understood, and, also being doting grandparents, did the most they could to entertain and make her happy. 

It was truly a lovely evening, and I am grateful that we were all able to set aside some time from our busy lives to get together.   
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Winter sunshine

Today is just as cold as any day in January, but there is plenty of sunshine, too! It streams through the window all day, much to the benefit of me, my daughter, and of course the plants on the windowsill. 


I am grateful for another beautiful afternoon, and a sunny room where our daughter can play 😀
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

I'm Surprised

It seems that almost every January I contrive some way to to 'work on' myself, but my half-hearted or unsustainable efforts usually fail within a week. But I am proud to say that today marks the completion of the third week of the gratitude practice I am developing for 2018. 

Honestly, I did not expect it to go so well. I thought that I would make up excuses and find some way to put it off, or that I wouldn't be able to break through the negative, critical thoughts that often filled my mind to write about something I was grateful for. 

Well, I have never been so happy to be wrong! First of all, I have written more posts in this month than I did for two separate years, which is a great thing for someone like me who loves to write, but "never has the time". But that is just the tip of the iceberg. I really do feel completely different, much less negative and more like the person I'm 'supposed to' be, if that makes any sense.

Thinking about it, there are a number of possible reasons why working to be more grateful has been less difficult than I first thought:

  • There is so much to be grateful for, therefore no shortage of things to write about and share. 
  • Practicing gratefulness has put me in a better, more positive frame of mind, which has strengthened my motivation and resolve to keep going. 
  • Though they are strong and difficult to be rid of completely, perhaps the negative thought patterns of my past are more fragile than I thought. 
  • The simple rules I set for myself, especially about being flexible, are very open, so, no pressure or stress. 
  • I look forward to the happiness that accompanying my posts with more direct actions of gratitude will (hopefully) bring.  
  • Expressing gratitude is a good and healthy way to spend my time, and may even benefit others in the process. 
  • It is fun to think and write about the little things I am grateful for!
I am sure there are (and will be) many more reasons, but to these are some good ones to start. I am fully aware that there may be some unexpected obstacles to the practice during the course of this year, but for now I am very content with how it is going, and look forward to continuing.

What are you grateful for today? Would you care to join me on my gratitude journey?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at my blog, ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Sleeping In"

Today was kind of a ho-hum day, mostly because I was feeling a little under the weather since last night. Later in the day, my daughter came down with a fever, probably due to the MMR vaccine she had about a week ago. We will keep an watchful eye- hopefully nothing else develops beyond that. 

I did not do much today, but this morning I decided to go back to bed after my daughter woke up at her usual 6-6:30, and slept until 8:30! I know, I know, not really 'sleeping in' but, hey, I'll take it, especially on a weekday!

I also got a surprise phone call from my mom- always nice to hear a familiar voice amidst the din of songs from children's toys 😊

I am grateful for getting a little more sleep than usual, and for being able to talk to my mom!
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy! 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dinner's ready!

. . . a day in advance! Last night my husband and I cooked together while the little one took her early evening nap. I made pasta with cream sauce and he prepared a yummy 'tortilla casserole'. We garnished it with avocado and some Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.


I am grateful that tonight's dinner was already made - it allowed me time to put together this post and work on some others as well! Thanks again to my sweet husband! 😍
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!

How writing about gratitude is different

Tomorrow it will be three weeks since beginning my gratitude journey, and I must say I am surprised. Pretty wimpy, I know, but all my efforts to develop a gratitude practice in the past have failed, and now I know why. It is not because I was actually ungrateful, but because I was just making a mental note of what I was thankful for. I wasn't truly expressing gratitude, but merely conceptualizing it.

By writing these posts I am taking action, and in a way that I stay accountable to the practice. I don't know what obstacles may stand in my way during this year, but my greatest hope is that I don't stop, and that the thoughts I communicate here at BCB turn into solid acts of gratitude.

I have the stack of thank you cards, so why don't I send them? They don't do any good sitting in my stationary box! 

 
What are you grateful for today?
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism.  
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May all beings be happy!

Monday, January 22, 2018

January thaw

Today the temperature actually hit the 60 degree mark, so I picked my husband up early from work to go for a walk with our daughter in the stroller. It felt so good to be moving in the outdoors again (and not be freezing!). We saw a cute squirrel up in a tree, fully occupied with some tasty morsel. Little one was tired, but still enjoyed looking at the animals and birds we saw along the way. 


Thankful for this 'January thaw' and for being able to take a walk outside with my family! 😊 
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at my blog, BCB.  
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May all beings be happy!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Freshly baked bread

A few weeks before Christmas, my husband said he had a surprise for me, but he didn't know if I would like it. Slightly ominous, but oddly exciting. It turned out to be . . . a breadmaker! 

I must admit, I was skeptical. Though I do make a good sweet bread, I was always intimidated by baking yeast breads, convinced that I would screw it up. Plus all that rising, punching, and kneading, I am far too lazy and impatient for that. 😏 

Today I finally had the chance to try it out, and I am so glad I did! As you can see the resulting bread was very tasty looking, and the flavor lived up to its appearance. 



I am grateful that I can now make delicious bread at home, and that I had the opportunity to try it out today. I am also glad it came out well!
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at my blog, BCB.  
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May all beings be happy!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A family outing

Today we took advantage of a warm(er) winter day for a family outing. We did a (minor) Target run, had lunch at the mall food court, and stopped by JoAnn Fabrics for some small Valentines and springtime decorations (time to put the Christmas stuff away!).

One of my purchases was a small heart-shaped wreath with faux lavender flowers, which caught my eye the moment I saw it. 


Though it might not seem like much, I came home feeling very satisfied. I realized it had been a long time since we had gone out as a family and I had felt at ease. Really, our daughter is (knock on wood) very good in restaurants and stores, but going out with her in tow has often been stressful for me, spurred mostly by motherly worries of a sudden, mysterious infant meltdown. But today was different, and I was much more relaxed, even back to my wisecracking self (much to my husband's surprise). Could it be the gratitude talking? 😉  

I am grateful for such a nice family outing, and for starting to feel 'like myself' again.
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This is an entry for the Gratitude practice I am working towards during 2018. Please feel free to read all about it here.
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May all beings be happy! 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Growing gratitude

Today I am grateful for a Bible reading my sister-in-law shared with me a few days ago called 'Growing Gratitude'. Since I wanted to savor the reading rather than just skim through it, I waited until today to read it. I am glad I did because it really lifted my spirits. I would not say today was a bad day, or that anything went very wrong, but as any parent can tell you, some days are just . . . hard. For no real reason I felt a weight on me, along with a tiredness that made it difficult to get my gratitude in gear!

Well, reading that post changed all that. It reminded me that there are so many people out there also tuning in to gratefulness for all the good things in their lives, and that this is the right thing to do.

"Thou hast given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart."
~ George Herbert, "Gratitude"  

I am grateful for the timeliness of that article, and for an extremely intuitive sister-in-law! 😊
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This is an entry for the Gratitude practice I am working towards during 2018. Please feel free to read all about it here.
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May all beings be happy!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Time to myself

Today I finally did what I had wanted to do for some time- go and work out at the gym, or at least take a walk outside. Since it was 16 degrees F at 7am, I opted for the former. Nothing serious, I just walked on the treadmill, but it felt good to get moving again. I am so close to losing all the baby weight, but reaching that goal does require some effort on my part. So does getting up early in the morning when my daughter and husband are all snuggled in and fast asleep. 

Normally making this extra effort would annoy me, but clearly it is what is required since I will be cooped up every day until the weather gets warmer. Instead I feel grateful for having that time to myself, for myself, because the effort will be worth it- and I don't know if tomorrow will give me the same opportunity.
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
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May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fearing gratitude

Since beginning this gratitude journey I have experienced a lot of positive and uplifting emotions. However, since in my view showing gratitude also means being honest with myself, I do want to note that there is a flip side. Along with what we might call negative emotions, my mind has been occupied with many questions . . . 

Doubt: Will I be able to keep going with this practice? What if these initial feelings are just a fluke? Will being grateful actually improve the quality of life for me and those around me, or am I just deluding myself?

Self-consciousness: When I express gratefulness, do people think I am bragging or trying to flaunt some 'perfect life'? Will anyone be angry if I do not show them gratitude soon enough, or in a way they expect? What if I forget someone?

Fear: Could expressing gratefulness in this manner 'tempt fate' and result in losing everything important to me? Will my fledgling gratitude be tested in a way I will not be able to handle? Will I alienate people I care about?

Clearly, most of these questions are quite unfounded. Viewed logically, I know that if someone is unhappy because of timing or the way I express gratitude, then perhaps my thankfulness is misplaced. If anyone is annoyed or alienated by my posts, they don't need to read them. I know that most people's busy lives don't permit much time to dwell on what others think of them. Finally, I can only hope there is no 'evil eye' out to get me, seeking revenge for my acknowledgment of the good things in my life.  

Though I would not necessarily describe this adventure as 'brave', I did not expect that discussing what I am grateful for would leave me feeling a little exposed; that it would take courage. 

Well, as we all know almost nothing worth doing in life is easy, and if my own change in attitude so far is any indication, I think I am on the right track. 
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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
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May all beings be happy!