Musings

Going with the flow

Greetings friends!

I’m happy to be here with you again.

I’d like to share a story with you about an amazing experience I had last week. It reminded me of the truth that the Divine is magnificent and awe-inspiring. To remember this constantly is my intention.

So I’ve been avoiding the Nigerian consulate for weeks now. Going there and back home is a whole day’s enterprise. But last Friday was the last day I could go and still get what I needed in time. I fretted about how smoothly the process would go. As some of you know, certain countries’ consulates are no joke. Nigerian consulates are not necessarily known for being the most customer-friendly. To compound matters I’d stayed up very late into the wee hours of the morning to finish up an application for a project. I would be get less than three hours of sleep (no morning rituals for me). Since I really really didn’t want to go, before I went to sleep I thought to myself, ” okay God, if you want me to go you’ll make sure I get up on time.” My alarm went off a couple hours later and I turned it off in my sleep. At 7:12 AM exactly my eyes snapped open and I have 13 minutes before the cab comes to take me to the bus station. That I woke up with just enough time to get ready told me that I had been heard and in fact I was to go. Waking up with such a sureness that I was being sent, for reasons grander than a consulate visit though I couldn’t say what else for, lit up the day with a gorgeous light (despite the slush from the previous night’s snow). I was lit up. The light shone brighter than any fatigue and made the rest of the day so easy, and more than that, beautiful.

When I got the consulate I didn’t have to wait long at all. I learned that in fact I would be able to get the document I needed that same day, which I hadn’t expected! Normally when I meet other Nigerians, often my name looks unusual to them, being that a lot of us– even Nigerians– haven’t heard of my people, Tiv folk, before. One of the officers at the Consulate actually recognized my name and greeted me in Tiv. As it turned out, his brother went to school down the road from my home village! He told me that not very many Tiv people go through the place, just a few in a year. “I’m also Tiv,” a woman said from across the room and I was able to greet her also. This was a small thing but it made a difference for me in that experience. There are also lots of children present in a delighted me to watch them play and to see the delight their parents took in them as well.

As I was leaving the consulate it came to my mind that I had seen an email somewhere telling me that an elderly friend of mine was going to be moving to a different state a few hours north. She would be gone the next day. This would be my last opportunity to see her before she left. I spent a delightful hour with her. While I was there I reminded her that another friend of ours actually live close to where she was moving. “Yes, I’ve been calling him and calling him and he hasn’t called me back. Do you think he hates me?”

“Are you sure you have the right number for him?” I replied.

We discovered that indeed she’d been calling the wrong number all along. I wrote down for her the number I had. We got him on the phone on the spot. She was reassured that, in fact, he loved her and had not been ignoring her calls.

For me, waking up with such a strong sense of divine alignment literally changed how vividly I saw what was around me– people, sights and sounds, even the feel of pavement beneath my feet. And to think that such vivacity is available to each of us every waking moment of every day! Incredible.

Questions for your consideration:

  • What is the most recent experience you’ve had in which your senses were heightened?
  • What about that experience created such vivacity?
  • What would it take to experience your life in that way again?
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Musings

Gratitude and Complaint

The theme of gratitude has been popping up a lot for me lately. I want to be more grateful for the constant stream of blessing flowing toward me, whether I recognize them or not. For example, I am alive. Whatever else is going on, this is true. It is also true that my ancestors survived a tremendous amount to make way for me now, something that is true for all of us at some point. Gratitude for that alone could take up all of my time, for example. I’ve been thinking about gratitude because I believe it’s impossible to be grateful enough. No matter our circumstances, there is always something to be grateful for.

Complaint has the power to take us away from our own hearts by making us forgetful and prideful.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our complaints, we stop noticing all that we have to be grateful for. Considering gratitude necessitates thinking about my relationship to complaint. There is a saying in Islam that it is best to complain only to God. I most definitely fail at this. I mention to this person and that how tired I am, how frustrated I am by this or that, how cold it is, etc. I intend to maintain an attitude of gratitude in most conversations but somehow those complaints manage to sneak in sometimes. I wonder what it would take consistently focus on my gratitude in my speech? I like to think I mostly do so, but I know there is much more wonder to remember and for which to give thanks. Many Muslims say simply “Alhamdulillah”—all praise to God. In Nigeria many people respond to “how are you?” with “God is good.” What would I have to let go of to say just that without adding “I’m a bit tired…” at the end of it, or some similar complaint? Sometimes I do get confused about the potential difference between complaint and saying a true thing.

About 14 years ago I visited my friend Felicia in California. As she prepared for bed, she took out two bowls, one full of 100 marbles.

What are you doing? I asked

I’m doing my gratitudes. This is my gratitude bowl. Every night, for each marble, I say one thing I’m grateful for, and move it to the empty bowl.

Years later I am still amazed that she did 100 a day! I did it with her while I was there and as we got into the 70s and 80s it became a bit more challenging, and that was the most beautiful part of the experience for me. After giving thanks for the things that came relatively easy—family, friends, health, etc., when I thought I’d pretty much covered everything, how much more to give thanks for in all of creation! Considered on that scale 100 is a paltry offering!   

Not only is gratitude a must for your spirit, it also has an amazing impact on your health. Consistently, consciously giving thanks daily can dramatically reduce stress, improve your outlook and more.*

I am laughing at myself as I write this, noticing the part of myself that doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression, the part of me that wants to assure you that indeed I am very grateful, the part that wants you to think well of me. This is what Landmark calls the “Sea of Opinions—wanting to look good and wanting to avoid looking bad.” That’s a big topic, which we’ll save for another day. I invite you to notice what is coming up for you as you think about increasing your gratitude.

 

11 things I’m grateful for today, right now this instant

  • I am alive!
  • I am healthy
  • My beloved
  • My heart
  • Dhikr
  • I was able to get a bike
  • I rode my bike safely home after not having been on a bike in 10 years!
  • Some lovely conversations
  • Learning about Renaissance Souls (wow, very powerful for me!)
  • A warm home
  • You, dear reader

 

 

 

Questions for your consideration:

  • What are you grateful for today? In your life at large? In all the world?
  • What would it take for you to increase your gratitude and lessen your complaints?

 

*A couple of short articles on the health benefits of gratitude:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/22/gratitude-healthy-benefits_n_2147182.html#slide=1770433

 

http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/counting-your-blessings-how-gratitude-improves-your-health