THE LISTENING SEED
I was twelve, awkward in my skinny body and frizzy-on-purpose hair, wearing bright red-framed glasses, big and round, and lips that took up most of my face, especially when I was smiling my huge toothy grin.
The memory is of My Favorite Childhood Thanksgiving Day. My parents were hosting the whole bunch from my mother’s side of the family.
Uncles, aunts, and cousins began arriving just as my brothers and I had finished setting up card tables and throwing tablecloths over them to make one extremely long table down the middle of our living room.
I can see my mother basting the cheesecloth-draped turkey as it burdens the oven rack with its great brown weight. My father is whipping cream cheese into his famous mashed potatoes with the Kitchen Aid. My aunt is stirring gravy on the stove.
All my mother’s sisters are there, cooking and laughing. And my grandmother is there, too, sitting at the head of the kitchen table, telling all the stories we’ve heard a thousand times and still making us laugh.
There was something magical about that particular Thanksgiving. My parents were happy, my aunts were all getting along, and my cousins and I were all too young to be getting into any real trouble.
I was a very sensitive child, who grew into a very sensitive adult, and the holidays always seemed to zing me with a tremendous amount of emotional pressure, even as a kid.
Thanksgiving is the harbinger of the holiday season, heralding times ahead ripe for old wounds triggered and buttons pushed, family style.
The holiday season has the potential to stress people out.
Pressure to give the best gifts and to receive them graciously + glueing a forced smile on your face when your [fill in the blank family member] ridicules you or [pick your own offensive behavior] (like they always do) = the most wonderful time of the year!
Anyone who has ever been blessed with family members knows they are the best people at bringing out your worst at exactly the times you are supposed to be good.
Whether you are able to hang on to the perspective that all your family’s shenanigans are actually opportunities for you to gain more self-awareness, or not, most of us could really use a way to clear through the holiday season bullshit.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
Meet my friend, Gratitude.
You may think you know this friend of mine, but I’m not talking about making mental lists of things you’re thankful for.
Nor am I referring to the joy you feel after receiving something you’re stoked to have.
Gratitude for Gratitude’s sake; that’s where the essence is.
Have you ever attempted to feel gratitude without conjuring it up by thinking of the reasons you should feel grateful?
In the book, Spiritual Economics, Eric Butterworth argues that gratitude is causal— that feeling gratitude is the catalyst for bringing about manifestations about which to feel grateful, not just the result. He writes:
“Take a moment right now to engage in the experience of gratitude. Close your eyes and just feel grateful. Don’t turn outward, casting about for things to give thanks for. Remember, it is not an emotional reaction to the blessings you can count; it is an energy you stir up within you that is causal.”
For me, thinking of the why’s for my gratitude can leave room for the mind to wander off in the direction of yeah-but’s, that-was-then’s, and not-for-long’s.
In other words, if I’m in a mood to start nit-picking my reasons for being grateful, it easily leads me to a very different place than gratitude. And when times are stressy, I like to take the path of least resistance and go straight to the source.
Go ahead, listen to Mr. Butterworth now.
“Take a moment
to engage in the experience of gratitude.
Close your eyes
and just feel grateful.”
This is My Favorite Gratitude Meditation, and it changed my relationship to gratitude, drastically.
Try using the mantra, “I am in gratitude.”
Or, simply, “Gratitude.”
Repeat the mantra mentally as you feel into the energy of the words.
I am in Gratitude.
I am in Gratitude.
I am in Gratitude.
Do you feel yourself lighten up?
Maybe you notice a subtle smile on your previously heavy lips?
Pay attention to how you feel physically as well as emotionally.
Try to stay in the energy of gratitude for as long as you can.
Go into gratitude often, a little at a time, and at least once a day for the next week; longer if you like.
With practice, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable in that space, more at ease with finding that general place of gratitude without reason.
You may even find that regularly going to the energetic place of Gratitude actually expands your reasons to feel grateful in your life.
Instead of getting all grateful over some new gadget you get for Christmas, or because that’s what you do when you’re on the path of self awareness, or because it’s how you’re supposed to be this time of year, get into gratitude for a different reason.
Drop all your reasons to be grateful and just go into gratitude directly.
Tapping into the energy of gratitude is like finding a shortcut to joy; it eliminates the necessity for anything outside yourself to give you reason to be grateful.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, you had last Thursday to list your reasons for being grateful this year, and that is great.
However, if those same items on your mental gratitude list turn sour in your mind at any point during this holiday season, please remember you have the power to renew yourself of reasons for gratitude.
Refine gratitude down to the feeling and see it magnify your reasons to be grateful.
The Gratitude Meditation in the Qi Challenge has the potential to be very potent. Please let me know if you experience anything shift while trying it out. How did it feel to be in gratitude this way? What does your gratitude feel like? I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on this; up until now, this has been a very personal practice for me.
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I’ve been having a strong urge to spit lately.
As I get lost into the tangle of thoughts that have been spiraling through my mind I suddenly find myself salivating.
It’s not the kind of salivating you do when you’re thinking about that delicious chili relleno plate they do at your favorite Mexican food place.
And it’s not quite as severe as the I’m-about-to-be-sick salivating.
It’s a gradual accumulation of excess saliva in the mouth that seems to happen at the same rate as my mind has been producing thoughts of negativity, darkness, and fear.
I just want to spit it all out.
It’s as if my body recognizes toxic thoughts and wants to get rid of them.
In the same way that the body finds ways to expel physical toxins from itself, thoughts that are detrimental to the body’s wellbeing will also be targeted for ejection.
How does the body release a thought-form?
Traditional Chinese Medicine views everything as energy, or qi. The qi expresses itself in a vast variety of forms, and thoughts are one of those manifestations.
If thoughts are an expression of qi, we can use this idea to identify thoughts that don’t serve our highest good, acknowledge them without judgment, move them along, and dispel them from our energetic systems.
So back to my saliva.
In Chinese Five Element theory each element corresponds to specific organs, tastes, senses, sounds, directions, animals, numbers— the associations seem limitless. Emotions link up to distinct elements, and so do bodily fluids.
Excess saliva, it turns out, is connected to the element of water, which is also the element of the emotion, fear.
Duality in Harmony: Yin Contains Yang and Yang Contains Yin, photograph by Brea Fisher
My body knows my mind has been thinking fearful thoughts that aren’t working toward my best self, and it wants to move them along.
One way of releasing fearful thinking is to spit it out, literally.
There are other ways to ease fear, of course; techniques that don’t involve bodily fluids.
Try targeting your kindness crosshairs on anything, and everything.
In times when fear floods into our hearts en masse, it spreads like a sickness, traveling from one person to the next and building in its power by way of dividing us.
Fear wants us to think we are separate, different from one another, and therefore having the capability to be wrong or right.
If fear induces separateness, the antidote is loving kindness, which illuminates one with the immediate sense of unity.
Have you been finding yourself walking around the world today thinking, “I wonder whose side they’re on”?
It doesn’t matter what issue you have in mind, this is something many people are thinking when they navigate through their communities these days.
Love does not take sides, and kindness has the power to transform an opponent into a teammate.
Try this. If you are around people right now, the next person you see, whether you know that person or not, take five seconds and wish for that person happiness. If you’re alone, simply think of someone.
Don’t tell them what you’re doing, or do anything at all other than think the thought.
This is an exercise offered by Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer who has been with the company many years and is now their personal and spiritual development specialist.
Meng says his dream is to “create the conditions for world peace in [his] lifetime.” He’s an author and there are videos of him you can find online, but I happened to hear about him on a recent podcast episode of Note to Self.
Meng offers an exercise I just love, and so, I am passing it on to you as the Qi Challenge this time around.
It starts with those five seconds of happiness wishes. You can do it while driving, choosing people as you pass them by on the road. You can do it while alone, thinking of people in your life. You can wish happiness for those you love dearly, or you can wish it for complete strangers.
Do this throughout your day and see how you feel. You can do it at random times, or, for a more regimented routine, Meng suggests doing it every hour on the hour for a different person each time.
When you send kind thoughts out to others you find instant relief in the exact moment of your choosing.
When you send out wishes for another to be happy, it instantaneously brings to you a sense of contentment, peace, and love.
This means you now have a tool for instant feel-better-ness.
I’ve been practicing this exercise in loving kindness for some days now and it has changed me. My fearfulness has dissipated.
Regardless of whose side they’re on, what color their skin is, where they live, how much money they make, how old they are, what the believe in, or what they ate for breakfast, thinking loving thoughts of kindness about one’s fellow humans is a direct way to dissolve fear and create a sense of harmony.
I’ve stopped going around spitting every time I get worked up about the state of things. Now when I feel that palpable energy of the collective seeping into my own energy field I just start wishing.
I wish happiness for you, my friend. I wish happiness for you. I do. I wish it for you as you read this article. I wish it for you after you’ve forgotten about this article. I wish you happiness. I wish you happiness. I wish you happiness.
Who did you send wishes for happiness to? Tell me the story below. We all need to hear it right now.