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rushing refugee calendar screen shotMy life is full. Full of things to do. Activities I’m passionate about, writing that brings me joy, work that is fun and purposeful, people I want to know better and spend time with, chores and errands and work to create the home I want to live in. It’s full, my life.

My calendar is color-coded with mostly no white spaces. I’m busy. Often, I’m rushing.

My husband marvels at this. He wonders why, since I am in charge of much of my own time (the gift and the curse of the self-employed), I manage to be running around so much.

I toss my hair at this: I’m passionate! I’m joyful! I’m fun, dammit. So hush up about it.

Sometimes, after I’ve stopped stomping around about how guldang passionate and fun I am, he reminds me about what he’s learned about happiness. People find happiness, he tells me, in lots of different ways but all happy people share three traits:
1. Happy people are grateful.
2. Happy people are generous and help others.
And (here he pauses to be sure I’m listening)
3. Happy people savor.

I’m poised over this like a little Happiness Scorecard, holding tight to one of those little half pencils from mini golf.

1. Grateful? Check.
2. Help others? Do my best to. Check.
3. Savor? Um. Well. Sometimes. I do … a little … savoring.

Here I drop my little pencil and put my head on the table since he knows as well as I do that I don’t savor. I don’t let chocolate meditatively melt in my mouth, I chew it. I don’t sip tea, I gobble it. And mostly I ride my bike to yoga because it’s faster than driving.

It’s true. I rarely choose to savor. There are just so many cool things that I want to DO and I don’t want to miss out on DOING any of them so I rush from one to the next.

But here’s the rub: by rushing, I’m actually missing out on those cool things.

My addiction to the rush of rushing, to the feeling that I’m important, and that I have a passionate, purposeful life is getting in the way of me actually feeling my passionate and purposeful life.

It is a habit for me to hurry, to over schedule, to squeeze as much as I can into a day. Even if I’m meditating regularly. It doesn’t matter that I’m mindful whilst I zip about. Even if I’m paying attention and aware, rushing often squashes the life out of my time. I know why I’m addicted to rushing and I feels like a good idea to make a different choice. I stand before you — a rushin’ refugee.

Savoring is worth doing. As I wrote about last year, mindful savoring makes memories. The more we are deeply attentive to what is happening, the more likely it is that we will remember our experiences, that we will remember our life.

So I’m pledging to savor: to put my fork down between bites, to listen to music without doing something else at the same time, to let the chocolate melt on my tongue. I expect this may be a challenge for me, but rushing is a habit I want to break, so I’m doing what every over-scheduling over-achiever would do: I’m naming June 2014 Savoring Month.

On Wednesdays in June, I will report in a comment on this post and on the Focus Pocus Facebook page about how I’m doing with savoring. In particular, I will focus on eating (fork down, chew, swallow breathe, relax), drinking (sip and breathe, sip and breathe, even after yoga), and driving (leave extra time to get there without the adrenaline rush).

I’ll let you know how it’s going. And if you’re a rushin’ refugee and you’d like to come along for the (leisurely) ride, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.

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CR 021714 012In English, the typical response to “Thank you” is “You’re Welcome.”
In Spanish, “Gracias” usually gets “De nada.
De nada means, “It’s nothing.”

In Costa Rica, the response to “Gracias” is “Con gusto. Con mucho gusto.
With pleasure. With much pleasure.

Every time I heard it I remembered: I can choose pleasure. I can choose to do whatever I’m doing, even if I’ve done it a thousand times before, with great pleasure.

Often I focus on what is not working, what does not feel good.
Imagine choosing to focus on pleasure instead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou are a lucky duck. No matter what is happening, something is gratitude-worthy. If you’re thankful-resistant, what’s causing it? Busy-ness? Fear? Distraction? Anger? It’s okay, it happens to everybody. Just notice it. Sometimes noticing makes all the difference.

Feel grateful, then actively move gratitude from your heart into the world. Rather than quietly giving thanks and tucking it neatly away, let it expand out.

My camp grace suggests that as free people, we can
…spread life’s noblest gifts that all may share.

Another says
Let us give thanks that life is high adventure.

Amen. Let’s do that. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

high adventure woman on a cliffWithout a doubt, Thanksgiving is my very most favoritest holiday all year, ever, period. I love gathering with my beloveds in the luxury of a super-long weekend. I love the prominence of an autumnal feast (complete with vegetables roasted within an inch of their lives and Frank’s Norwegen flatbread) and the absence of obligatory gift-giving.

And I love the reminder to give thanks.

When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp in northern Ontario. Taylor Statten Camps have been around since the 1920s, and they run deep in my family. My grandparents, great aunt and great uncle, my father and her sister, my mother and her brother, my sister and I all spent time on Lake Canoe in Algonquin Park. I loved camp when I was young – I still dream about the pine trees and the rocky shores and how I felt there. But it’s been only as an adult that I recognize all the gifts that I received there.

One of those gifts is the idea of active gratitude. To feel gratitude, to close my eyes and breathe or speak my thankfulness is powerful happiness juice … but it is only the first step. Leaving it there is like writing a poem from my heart and then sliding it, unshared, into my sock drawer.

The graces we sang before meals at camp taught me about moving gratitude out into the world. They were sneaky, those camp founders. “Just sing the graces,” I imagine them saying in accents more menacing than Canadian. “We’ll never explicitly tell you a thing about being thankful but sing those graces every day every summer during your formative years and when you’re 50, you’ll get it.”

Each grace we sang at camp, I realize now, called not just for thanks but for actively moving our gratefulness from our hearts through our hands into action. At breakfast, we sang:

May we be true to all the light we see,
Loyal and strong, that we may proudly be,
With joy and beauty lighting up the way,
Masters of life today.

The lunch grace, written in the male-centric 1940s, had an even stronger appeal to energetically extend our thankfulness to others:

We take our stand with free men everywhere,
Who spend their lives to make earth still more fair,
And spread life’s noblest gifts that all may share.

And finally, the dinner grace opens with my very favorite line – one I equate with my camp experience:

Let us give thanks that life is high adventure.

Notice that it does not say, “Let us give thanks that life is easy peasy” or “that life always goes the way we expect.” “High adventure” actually implies the opposite. What do you think of when you hear “high adventure”? As a girl, I usually thought of white water rafting or riding a fast running horse or jumping off a high rock into a cold, deep, blue lake.

Exhilarating.
Exciting.
Challenging.
Scary.
High adventure.

As an adult, I know that the high adventure of life can also include other exhilarating, exciting, challenging, scary things like understanding the stock market, being in a long-term relationship, navigating modern air travel, and being a step-parent. Dinner grace opened with a big “woooo hoooo” for the thrill of it all, and then closed with a call to skillfulness:

As builders of a better world we seek,
May we be wise to use each newborn day,
Let us give thanks.

A few autumns ago, I took Spanish classes at our local community college. I was delighted to discover that “Thanksgiving” in Spanish is “Día de Acción de Gracias.” Literally “the day of the action of thanks.” Thanksgiving in Spanish is an active gratitude. If I’m grateful for the food I have, perhaps my acción de gracias is a donation to my local food bank. If I feel thankful for my friends, my active gratitude might be introducing my friends to each other, or making sure I express how much they mean to me. If I’m grateful for my home, maybe I wisely use the newborn day to clean the gutters and otherwise take care of it, or volunteer with Habitat for Humanity so others might also have a home.

Feel your gratitude. Notice and pay attention and recognize just how fortunate you really are. Then take your deep, heart-felt thanks out of your sock drawer. As a builder of a better world, allow your gratitude to move through you to make a positive difference.

Let us give thanks, everybody.
Let us be true to all the light we see.
Let us spread life’s noblest gifts that all may share.
Let us be wise to use each newborn day.
Let us give thanks that life is high adventure.

choice scarecrow“Gratitude is a Choice” ~ church sign in Stuarts Draft, Virginia July 5, 2013

Do you ever say (or feel), “I have no choice”? Is it ever really true?

Do you sometimes find yourself caught in a activity, a relationship, a job, a feeling and believe you have no choice but to keep doing it? Are you sometimes doing something you love and feel like you have no choice but to stop?

There are costs to all choices. By definition, choosing one thing means you are not choosing another. Some choices have big ramifications. But there are always choices.

If I don’t sleep because the rainrainrain was beatingbeatingbeating on the corrugated roof of my cabin, I can choose to focus on how tired I am or I can choose to be grateful that I have a delicious breakfast awaiting me that I didn’t prepare. If I don’t sleep for 4 nights, I can choose to tough it out no matter how terrible I feel or I can choose to go home a day early.

We always have choices.

This week, notice when you feel like you have no choice. Ask yourself, if it is really true. What other possibilities are there? Recognizing that there are costs and benefits to every choice, breathe and expand your mind to feel the freedom of those possibilities.

O, how I love Thanksgiving!  Two practices this week, so two 100-word posts, too!

Today, 100 words on Gratitude Feast.

Regular Gratitude Journal = 5 things to be grateful for every day.  Powerful practice, indeed.  You’ll never be the same after doing it.  But under stress, I wrote the same five things every day:  “man, home, cats, food, body.”  Over and over.  When unhappy or anxious, gratitude perspective narrowed decidedly.

Unique Gratitude Journal = one unique gratitude daily.  Treasure hunt every day!  Looking for a different gratitude every day increases my gratitude for everything every day.   Give it a go!

Tomorrow, 100 words on Gratitude Fast!

It’s Thanksgiving week.  O, how I love Thanksgiving!  (I love it so, that I must use the biblical “O” rather than the regular “Oh.”)  Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever, period.  With its focus on the nourishment of victuals and family (born-into or chosen) and gratitude, it fills me up body and soul.

When it comes down to it, nothing increases happiness more than gratitude. Understanding the power of gratitude, I have used a variety of practices over the years to strengthen my gratefulness muscles.  This week, I offer two gratitude practices that I have been using in recent months that have ramped up my personal happiness and peacefulness in a big way.  One is a Gratitude Feast and one is a Gratitude Fast.  So in honor of my favorite holiday, this post will be a two-parter!

Part I:  Gratitude Feast

The Gratitude Feast I call a Unique Gratitude Journal.  Off and on for years I’ve written a gratitude journal in which I write 5 things that I’m grateful for at the end of each day.  It was inspired by reading Sarah Brathnach’s book, Simple Abundance:  A Day Book of Comfort and Joy in which she says (and I’m paraphrasing here) that no one can be the same after writing a gratitude journal for 3 months.  I think she’s right.  Gratitude is that powerful.  What I discovered, though, was that especially when the going was difficult and I was stressed, I tended to be grateful for the same things every day.

“Frank, my home, my cats, good food, my healthy body.”

“Frank, my home, my cats, good food, my healthy body.”

“Frank, my home, my cats, good food, my healthy body.”

Good things to be grateful for, to be sure, but I found that when I was anxious or unhappy, my gratitude perspective definitely narrowed.

A Unique Gratitude Journal practice is one in which I write one thing that I’m grateful for at the end of every day – and it has to be something different every day.  Suddenly, every day becomes a treasure hunt.  Every day, I’m on the lookout for what my one thing is going to be that day.  Here are some examples of some of my recent unique gratitudes:

8.18.12 > peeling peaches for birthday picnic

8.31.12 > little black birds on a wire

9.2.12 > smoked olive oil & pistachios

9.7.12 > a mourning dove running on little orange feet

9.26.12 > Helen’s red glasses

10.6.12 > a black cricket in the grass

Being the observant readers that you are, you might notice that none of these entries mentioned “Frank, my home, my cats, good food, my healthy body” per se.  These entries are more specific, more precise.  And while that reliable cast of characters does pop up in one way or another now and again, what I find is that looking for one unique gratitude every day increases my gratitude for everything every day.

Give it a go!  All it takes is a pen and paper and a willingness to see new wonders in the world every day.

Tomorrow, Part II of the Thanksgiving Week two-part post:  Gratitude Fast!

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