Tag Archives: Gratitude

A cute birthday tale

IMG_0107 LROkay, let me tell you a cute story:

One of my Mum’s best mates turned 60 recently.

Like most people who turn 60 (or me when I turned 30), she didn’t like the idea one bit. She refused to have a big party, and her husband had booked a table for two at their local restaurant.

When the actual day arrived, she felt pretty gloomy. (Which reminds me of the day my Mum turned 60 – although she’s usually the most upbeat person I know, she was pretty low. She half-joked she would go down to the market to “see if they sell some magic powder to make you look and feel younger”. I still laugh to imagine what powders she might have been offered…)

Anyway.

As every woman knows, just because you say “I don’t want any presents” doesn’t mean you actually meant it. For all the wanting not to make a fuss, my Mum’s friend felt a bit deflated and lonely. Especially as her husband had some business to attend that day, and my Mum had things to sort out in town, so no one was around for company; her only plan was to lunch with her elderly mother.

The dreaded day was turning out to be just another day.

I’m not sure if she felt a bit wronged by the entire universe, but she sure felt wronged by her husband. Self-pity can make the best of us a little bitchy sometimes, so she phoned my Mum to complain about him – had he cared a little more, he’d have arranged to make her day more special that going to the stupid local for dinner!

Meanwhile, said husband spent his day “away” smuggling food and drinks into my parents’ kitchen down the road, in order to cook a big party meal unnoticed.

He planned the whole stealth operation so well that she didn’t suspect any of it.

So when the evening came and she was ready for dinner at the local (coat, scarf, had and gloves, checking her watch as they were going to be late), she grew increasingly annoyed that he wasn’t ready yet. What too him so bloody long? “What shirt shall I wear? Does it go with this tie?” he asked, as if he usually even noticed.

Of course she didn’t know he was just playing for time, because the guests had been delayed.

It wasn’t until they were finally ready to lock the front door – by now in full grumpy mode – that she heard someone call out greetings from the garden.

She turned round to see familiar faces, a handful of loved ones inexplicably smiling to her, bearing bottles of wine and dishes in casseroles… including her children who looked like they had just dropped by for dinner, even though they live hours away.

 

 

Books that will change your life: “This Will Never Happen Again”, by David Cain

TWNHA_low res
To say this e-book is by a “fellow blogger” would be a massive overstatement – the author, Canadian-engineer-turned-full time writer David Cain, has tens of thousands of followers on his blog Raptitude, and on the Thought Catalog website. He’s a bit of a legend in the blogosphere and definitely a hero of mine…

The book

“This will never happen again” is a collection of previously published posts (so you could read them online, although I think the book versions have been slightly edited).

The Raptitude blog takes “a street-level look at the human experience” – it’s about how to become a better human. The book focuses on something more precise in the human experience: the mindfulness of everyday life; how we can learn to not take things for granted, and make sure we appreciate the magic in every single moment.

The big idea

Life is as it says in the title: this will never happen again. Today, this very moment, the special set of circumstances that are happening right now, have happened and will never be repeated. Even if you are in the same spot doing the same thing with the same people tomorrow, it will not be the exact same. External elements may be different; you may be in a different mood; you will have learnt something from the previous day. You will never be as young as you are today.

In our everyday lives we take far too much for granted. We may know we are lucky to have a good job, friends, family, but do we feel it? How often do we complain about petty things instead of appreciating all that we have? How often do we pause to feel the wonder of life itself – of waking up everyday, of having a roof over our heads or other basic things we couldn’t live without,

We owe it to yourselves to be fully conscious of this to enjoy a truly special “human experience”.

Why it will change your life

The great thing about this book is that it doesn’t lecture you – it’s written in a simple, down-to-earth style, and the author comes up with small techniques you can use to find blissful experiences in small, mundane things.

For example, how you can use boring downtimes such as walking from your car to the supermarket to awaken a sense of wonder. Or how to practice gratitude by imagining that tomorrow you will wake up without anything – you will open your eyes in the morning to find that you are in a forest, naked and alone. Or how you can “die on purpose” by imagining your surroundings – the room you sit in, the people in it – as they would be if you weren’t there.

And so it the book manages to capture the uncapturable – the tiny moments of bliss that add up to a deeply happy existence.

Reading it left me with a true sense of magic and a distinct feeling that I was walking on clouds… so it comes highly recommended.

If you would like a taste of it first, here are a couple of really amazing chapters:

How to walk across a parking lot

A day in the future

Enjoy!

We are one

P1050280 low resPerhaps like other Westerners who are drawn to buddhist meditation for non-religious purposes (wellbeing, stress-busting, generally coping with modern life), I have a bit of a dilemna. Not being a buddhist myself, I feel there is only so much I can take in from the otherwise excellent meditation classes I have attended. The techniques themselves are great – much is focused on breathing, visualising, and feelings of kindness which are common to all human beings. The teachers are welcoming, patient and non-judgemental. But some of the concepts I just don’t get. Apart from the fact that I feel a bit of a fraud chanting in Sanskrit (which some of the classes include) without understanding a word, there are things that don’t make sense to my rational, European brain.

While some of the precepts are fairly universal (non-harming, loving-kindness), I particularly struggle with the idea that we are one, that no-one and nothing in the universe exists in separation from anything else. To me it sounds like saying “me” or “you” or any other living thing/ dead thing/ object are intimately related, and I cannot really say I get it. I wouldn’t argue whether it right or wrong as a concept – I just can’t work my head around it. In my mind, “I” am not “you”, and neither of us are the same as this chair, be it as it may that we are made of the same energy/ atoms/ elements, and however much I like both of you.

And still. If we look around us, the world is full of chances to see that everything is connected, in a way that even I can understand. As I sit at home writing this article and eating a delicious slice of chocolate cake I bough on the market, I try to think of everyone and everything that existed before this moment that made it possible for me to eat this cake. The Portuguese baker who runs the market stall. The ingredients and their provenance. The chocolate, the eggs, the milk. The cocoa beans, the cocoa tree and the people who planted them. The chicken, the cows, the farmers who tend to them. The grass the cows feed on. The rain that makes it grow, the clouds. The plate the cake is on, the spoon I eat it with, the people who designed and made them both. Our ancestors who invented eating from plates and spoons (somebody had to). The person who first had the idea to eat a cocoa bean. The person who first had the idea to bake it.

I begin to feel dizzy with the million connections and people and days and amounts of knowledge that enabled me to sit here and eat this cake. I realise this is not only true of this cake, but the computer I use, the chair I sit on, the clothes I wear. Everything in the house and outside of the house. Everything that comes from nature and everything that is man made. Everything I can see and everything I cannot see. Everything that is in your life, and everyone else’s. Everything connected to our parents, and their parents before them.

I feel grateful to everyone who put in so much effort. I feel humbled and small, and in awe of a world that provides us with so much. The milk, the grass, the cocoa beans. The people.

I feel grateful and I feel connected. I feel the energy of such a perfect system and I feel blessed to be part of it.

I begin to feel with my heart what my head won’t understand. Without the shadow of a doubt, we are one.