If you're reading this, it's likely that you own some sort of electronic device- a computer, a smartphone. It's also likely that you have a home to live in with functional electrical outlets that allow you to charge those devices, light switches to flip to illuminate the darkness, clean water that flows endless into cups, bathtubs, tea kettles.
These things are such an easy, natural part of life in many places that we tend to think of them as a given. We know that there are places in the world, sometimes very nearby, where people do not live with such ease. They don't know where their next meal will come from, or have a safe home or clean water. For a moment we may be #grateful for what we have, conscious of the grace that holds our lives together. Following hot on the heels of gratitude, though, is the ever-creeping, gaping gnaw of awareness of What's Not. We push aside our blessings and look only at what we don't have, what we have not achieved.
Dissatisfaction is a powerful creative force. It has inspired incredible innovation and progress in science, art, technology and human rights. There are some things that we should certainly not accept. But what if we are also refusing to accept a deep sense of comfort having our basic needs easily met? How much joy are we missing out on by refusing to acknowledge and celebrate What Is already?
This quote from Jack Gilbert is a favorite of mine that speaks to this:
"We must risk delight! We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world."
on three acres of verdant Hawaiian jungle overlooking the Pacific. Everyday we pick and eat what the land has grown; avocados and mac nuts, very free range eggs, lilikoi, pomelos, tangerines, bananas and papayas. We make juice and marmalade and bread. We churn our own ice cream. We Ooh and Ahh over one gorgeous sunset after another. We hike down to the bay and swim with dolphins. It is what some might call "an embarrassment of riches." There is such an abundance of goodness that we literally can't consume it all (seriously, we have hundreds of pounds of citrus).
Yes, it is easy for me to sit here in the outdoor kitchen with a nice breeze and feel calm, nourished, content. All my needs are met. The coffee is strong. The avocado toast is daily. There is good yoga nearby. Wintertime and the living is easy. There is very little struggle and there are no bad days.
This is not like life in other times and spaces, I know. I usually live in New York, where we wear our struggle like a badge of honor. We may bitch and moan about the subway or the weather, but at the end of the day we are so proud to be able to make it there. We are strong, savvy and ambitious. We strive for the next greatest thing.
The world is so loud, busy and competitive that it's possible to overlook What Is and focus only on What's Not. What I've discovered, though, is that this leads to a perpetual mental state of Lack. What I have, who I am and what I do are never enough. Striving leads to strain. I feel anxious, unhappy, unsupported.
However, this isn't my reality. Even in "normal life" in New York, there are still things big and small that go right everyday. I am supported in ways that I may never know by people I will likely never meet. I don't have an unlimited free supply of tangerines and avocados, but I can buy them at Whole Foods and that's okay, too. It's not as effortless, but New York has perks that this rural jungle town does not, like functional public transit and sushi delivery.
Every time and space has its drawbacks, but there are also gift and opportunity on offer in every moment. I remain present to this by keeping a daily record of gratitude. It's a running list of everything fun, joyful and pleasurable that happens in my life that I find useful to reference. When times are lean, I am reminded how rich and blessed I already am. When times are lush, it serves to stack my joy exponentially. I smile and giggle at my rabid fondness for Mexican food, long walks, dogs and travel. I recall these moments of delight that I would otherwise forget and my life is made better for it in ways I can't full describe. It's a deeply nourishing, enriching practice that I highly recommend.
Let's start right now. Take a moment to write out (by hand, on paper...it works better that way) at least three things for which you are grateful. You can start with the "givens" if you like, then expand out to other areas.
But maybe you stop at the basic and obvious. Maybe you walk into the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of clean water and savor it. Maybe, for a moment, you feel totally supported and cared for by the ease with which you are able to access something so vital.
Never be satisfied with intolerable conditions. Fight oppression in all its forms. Fight for the rise of all bodies. But also be comforted and delighted by everything that is basic and easy.
What you have and who you are are already enough.
May your 2017 continue to be blessed abundantly!