I spent two years studying the first noble truth of Buddhism—my precious human life. Every morning, I tried to focus my first thoughts upon awakening on gratitude. It took months to shut down the endless lists of things my day would include and the failings of things previously left undone which had been my habit. It is known that habits take, on average, three months to break and new habits are established in only two weeks. Well, call me stubborn, but it took the whole two years to get my new habit established and the old one broken.
Every morning, sounds are the first thing I focus on. The list varies each day, but the one constant is the sound of mechanisms like air conditioning, clock ticks, ceiling fan, and oscillating desk fan. Natural sounds come next, bird song, wind chimes, my own breathing. Then, I say thank you for my warm bed, indoor plumbing and hot, fresh-brewed coffee. Before my feet touch the floor I have listed the many amenities of my privileged life, including my loving relations with people, places, and things – all my relations.
I was struck by the concept offered by my teacher that we should be thankful for our capacity to learn and to have teachers that care about our spiritual advancement. Listing my teachers would surely take another two years of focused practice. Today though, my thoughts turn to friendship. The holidays offer many opportunities to see people that we may have been missing and forgot to acknowledge. One such friend who will visit today once said to me, “ You put a lot of love out there, so you should expect to get some back.” Two things have stayed with me about that statement. First, that someone acknowledged the love I shine each day and second, that I would expect something in return. It is true that expectations are hard to avoid in this human experience but if my motivation to shine is only to get lit up by others, it ceases to be a natural way of being and more like a negotiation for profit. That I am altruistic in all my actions is less than authentic, but to strive for authentic, unconditional love is indeed a noble cause.
Artist unknown (happy to give credit if anyone knows)
Wary of pitfalls
Loving being loved
Desires more of it
Look too deep and fall into that abyss.