Counting My Blessings Penny After Penny ~The Six Stages of Gratitude

 

When I was a little girl, my brother received a plastic toy as a gift, while I received a penny.

I felt hurt and disappointed, and then guilty for feeling this way. My favorite babysitter took me aside and shared a life lesson that is still with me today.

She first tried to convince me that my penny wasn’t just any old penny, but a new shiny one. I looked down at the palm of my hand, but all I could see was a penny.

She asked me to close my eyes as she took my tiny six-year-old hand, penny and all, and placed it over my heart. The warmth of her palm completely covered my hand, and she reminded me of the love and fondness that we mutually shared. Through the wall of my hurt, of not feeling special enough, not loved enough, tears formed and my heart softened just enough to let her in—to receive her gift.

She gently whispered that the true worth of any gift is always in the eye of the beholder. Nothing has more value than we choose to give it.

A penny could be worth a million dollars, and a million-dollar toy worth no more than a penny. It all depends on how we choose to perceive it. The intention behind every gift we receive is worth gold and the gold in our intention is behind every gift we offer.

It was from that day that I began counting my blessings, penny after penny. Gratitude began to replace those hidden feelings of hurt and cut through the thick protective wall of my heart. I started slowly by learning to honor myself first.

Below are the steps I took to help me want what I have and have what I want:

This first step, the white belt if you will, of cultivating an attitude of gratitude is recalling those significant events that marked our lives. Those unforgettable moments that left a permanent imprint on the fibre of who we are and still evoke joy. When we recall those moments, we should breathe in joy and breathe out gratitude. Breathe in gratitude and breathe out expansive happiness.

The second step is recognising those things we take for granted, like having enough to eat, hearing the whisper of our breath and most of all, being alive. No matter who you are and what you are experiencing, if you are reading this you are alive and being alive is worth giving thanks. Breathe in life and breathe out gratitude. Breathe in gratitude and breathe out wonder.

The third step is to observe in a day’s span, the ordinary, unnoticeable moments of kindness that grace us. The more I witness these moments, the more I am surprised at their frequency. Here are two I experienced just today: an unsolicited smile from a stranger and the bank teller who looked me in the eyes while saying hello. These random acts of kindness fill my heart with happiness. When practising, breathe in kindness and breathe out gratitude. Breathe in gratitude and breathe out benevolence.

The practice of gratitude becomes a challenge when we find ourselves tossed about in the turbulent waters of life that ignite powerful emotions. The fourth step is learning to see the silver lining in those challenges. Maybe these hardships freed us from situations that were limiting and opened our hearts to new possibilities. Ultimately we can trust that it was there and perhaps, necessary for our transformation and growth, and who and where we are today is a consequence of it. So inhale perspective and exhale silver lining. Inhale silver lining and exhale transformation.

The fifth step is the black belt—embracing that life and its experiences are happening for you and not to you. Humbly, we can extend gratitude while in the midst of chaos or caught in the jaws of discomfort. Whether it be a painful emotion or on-the-edge-transition of hitting rock bottom, ever so softly we can breathe in the experience and allow our inhale to hold the pain in the core of our heart. In turn, our heart swells with so much emotion that as we inhale our chest expands even more with compassion and love. This is where we begin to strengthen our heart and start to feel what it is to be truly alive.

From this place of softness, we are reminded of our humanness and that of others. It is from this place we connect. This is our haven of vulnerability and paradoxically, the source of our strength. This technique is the way of the Boddhisatva, the path to a heartfelt life. As we breathe in pain, we exhale compassion. As we breathe in compassion, we exhale gratitude.

The final step is reserved for the masters of the heart and yet available to each and every one of us. Ironically enough, the most challenging level of cultivating an attitude of gratitude is cultivating one for yourself, just the way you are. This step is the return to the white belt because it is an ongoing practice and demands a beginner’s mind. Being grateful for yourself is the act of fully embracing who you are, recognising and appreciating your wholeness and the characteristics that are the sum total of your uniqueness. Create an on-going appreciation list of the features that make you you, and watch your self-love blossom. Inhale your golden qualities and exhale gratitude. Inhale gratitude and exhale self-love.

Being grateful never goes unnoticed and leads to abundance. The more you recognise what you have and are thankful for it, the more you are showered with the gift of happiness.

Take a moment every night before you drift off into a deep slumber to allow your heart and soul to be filled with gratitude for the gifts of today. For those who want to jump-start the process and magnify it, devote a few minutes each day to sitting and being present with the essence of your life and your soul.

You will quickly notice an infinite well of joy that lies within a grateful heart. Today and every day, take a breath of gratitude and watch your life transform.

Published by Elephant Journal

Author : Jessica MagninEditor: Nicole Cameron

Editor: Nicole Cameron

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/12/the-six-stages-of-gratitude/

Free Falling: The Limbo of Not Knowing

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/free-falling-the-limbo-of-not-knowing/

 

The last tiny bit of perceivable stable ground fades into the horizon as I loosen my grip.

Suddenly my line of tether disappears. Night falls quickly. The wind dances with the waves as they crash relentlessly against the flimsy edges of my only sense of security.

I am carried farther and farther out into uncharted waters…

I look back, in hopes of securing my need for something tangible—something to grasp on to. There is no life jacket aboard. I am entirely alone. I have severed all ties with Point A, the past 28 years of my married life, to embark on an expedition toward Point B, an unfamiliar destination.

I feel my heart breathing a mixture of fear and loss. Tears of black mascara run down my cheeks. My mind slips into the foreground and takes control. I stoically wipe my tears away. There must be a map hidden somewhere on this tiny vessel!

My heart sinks in hopelessness. In all the busyness of planning my departure, I carelessly forgot that one important item—the map that would offer me a ‘’what’s next?’’ plan and guide me safely to another shore.

Without a map or game-plan at hand, I find myself here—with myself, right here, right now—with nowhere to go, just thrown about in the waters of raw uncomfortableness. It is raw because there is no knowing of what, where, when or how. 

I am dead center in no man’s land, and it is a seriously vulnerable place to be.

In the past, I have eagerly welcomed risk and change. Jumping has always been easy because my ”what’s next?” plan hid safely in the bottom of my shirt pocket. Maybe you will tell me that having a plan isn’t such a sure thing after all, and that it offers no more than a false sense of security. Still, we like our plans and rarely leave home without them.

Back to the present moment…

This time is different—very different. Why? Because my life before had become my security blanket—my identity.

If I jump—if I sail out to high seas without a plan—who will I be? Who will I become? The only given is that I no longer want to return to Point A, even if there is a risk of never encountering Point B.

I hear fear and doubt calling my name, and we take the risk together. We free fall into nothingness, eyes wide open. In mid-air, everything appears to slow down. I watch. I feel. My senses are prickly. I feel alive.

Being in limbo is being in transition, and transition is always present—always happening—we just don’t realize it. With fascination and a closer look, we notice that there is always a beginning, a middle and an end to all. At any given moment, we are always between two things, whether it be two holidays, two jobs, two relationships or something as simple as the inhale and exhale.

It is painful to cut ties with the past when we can’t secure the future. This is transition. This is life. This is authentically living. Things come and go, and yet—we seem to have a painfully difficult time accepting the truth of impermanence.

We refuge in the erroneous idea that things will last forever if we cling to them with all our might, and we surprisingly suffer when they inevitably dissolve. Whether it be an experience, a taste, a relationship or grandma’s crystal vase—nothing is permanent. 

When we come to the harsh realization that clinging doesn’t secure the life span of what we desire, we resolve in making things solid with our minds. This is the mind’s way of struggling for security. But if we take a deeper look and wake up, it becomes apparent that everything is in perpetual movement. Our relationships evolve and sometimes dissolve. Food perishes, plants wilt, and no matter how many pictures we take to capture pleasurable moments, those too will fade into memory, and memory will soon fade into loss.

Ironically, knowing exactly where we are going and where we will land might offer us a sense of direction and security, but it’s a misguided one. The ”etched in stone plan” equally provides us a boxed-in, limited viewpoint with only one possibility. Being nakedly available to the unfolding of not knowing seems scary for the mind, but in turn, it opens an ocean of endless opportunities for the heart and soul.

From that place of knowing and accepting that nothing lasts, we can develop faith—faith in the evolution of life. When things aren’t going the way you fancy, know that this too will pass and blossom into something else.

In the same breath, when you love the present moment, love it thoroughly and remember this will pass too and expand into something else. We don’t need to hold on to it. Let it go and trust in the process of life.

We can dance with the flow with humble faith and surrender to the blossoming of every new second. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that everything is constantly shifting, changing and growing—and without transformation, nothing can survive.

The golden sun peaks above the hazy horizon like a lotus flower surfacing from its muddy origins. I turn to catch one last glimpse of what was. I can no longer see Point A—it is a thing of the past.

Before me lays an open sea of unchartered waters of an untold story with infinite possibilities. With faith, I open my eyes wide open and flow in the current of transition—the limbo of not knowing.

.

Trailblazing. You Can’t Get Lost If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going In The First Place.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/trailblazing-we-cant-get-lost-if-we-dont-know-where-were-going-in-the-first-place/

I was just 17 ½ and freshly out of high school. I was impressionable especially when encountering trailblazers, the weird ones the ones that thought and dressed out of the box. In my junior high school creative writing class, I met a girl, not just any girl but one that had a huge personality for her tiny 4’10” frame. She spoke four languages, was born in Panama and had traveled extensively. She was smart and curious and a free spirit. Her character was forged in cement, and she was sure of what she knew, sure of what she wanted and she had no qualms going after it. I wanted to have a life like hers, different from the norm. I drank her words like the finest of wines and aspired to be like her, courageous, worldly and totally autonomous.

One day during lunch break, she casually mentioned that she was heading to Europe for the summer holidays. I drilled her on how, where, with whom, etc. ”Alone.” was her only reply to my questions that fired at her like a machine gun. That was all I needed to hear. I went home that night and thought about it. Why not me? What is stopping me from doing the same thing? I had a small savings stashed under my mattress and could sell my only two valuable possessions, my racing bike and my Rossignols.

Between creative writing class and biology, I stopped by the local travel agent and secured an open-ended ticket to London. Why London? No other reason other than it seemed like a good place to begin. And so it was. With my backpack on my shoulder, my passport and $1000 in my pocket, I boarded the plane to London. I never gave it much thought how my adventure would transpire or what I would do once I arrived there. At the time, it didn’t seem to matter.

Despite the 17 hours in the air, the flight seemed short. I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited and spent hours walking up and down the aisles making new friends. I befriended an Englishman and learned that the Sterling Pound was the currency of the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom was the same as England. I think that he was a bit concerned about my naivety, so he took me under his wing and drove me to a decent neighborhood to find a cheap guesthouse which became my home for months.

I quickly learned the importance of looking right before crossing the street, keeping my eyes lowered while riding the tube and most helpful of all, understanding the enigmatic word ”the loo”. Day one, I enthusiastically I spanned the city far beyond its borders. At least, that’s what it felt like.

Dusk came quickly. I stopped in my tracks and looked around. At that moment, reality kicked in. I was alone, entirely alone in this faraway foreign country. I knew no one; no one knew me. Nothing looked familiar. I was lost. How did I let this happen? Fear embraced me and stole my senses. I looked up at the immensity of the sky and mapped the brilliance of the stars above. I heard a whisper from inside, ”It is O.K. You aren’t lost because you never knew where you were going in the first place. So allow yourself to wander, weave in and out of the cobblestone streets, get lost again and again and discover the novelty of the present moment.” This advice is some of the best that I have ever received.

Having a plan, following a map, gives direction and provides us with a stable framework that paves our path. If the moment is ripe, we can try out our sense of faith, spread our wings and strengthen our muscle of surrendering to what presents itself without attachment to the outcome. There is something inexcusably exciting about adventuring into newness and not knowing what you will find, or what will find you. It can be scary, and it can be exhilaratingly awesome.

One serendipitous moment after another became my reality for 14 months. I learned a lot about other cultures, people and above all myself. This expedition was one of personal growth and, like Pema Chödrön wisely points out, embarking on a journey, whether it be to Europe or some other faraway destination or one of personal transformation, is always thrilling until that precise moment when we realize that we are utterly alone.

This moment is when we lean in a bit more and remember, whether you are a pathfinder on the road of growth or trailblazing through South East Asia, you are never alone, and, you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you are in the first place. So my advice- if you have the time and a sense of adventure, get lost and enjoy the art of trailblazing without a map. You might just end up finding yourself.

Orange est la Couleur de la Transformation

ORANGE, LA COULEUR DE LA TRANSFORMATION

Jessica Magnin

images-1 Près de 3 semaines se sont écoulées comme de l’encre. Goutte à goutte, la vie laotienne me bénit avec la rencontre de moi-même dans toute ma fragilité.

Luang Prabang, cette petite péninsule prise en sandwich entre deux grands fleuves est un endroit hors du commun. Comme une pièce d’un puzzle qui a retrouvé son unique place, le lien qui me relie avec Luang Prabang n’est pas un hasard. Dès la première fois, j’étais heurtée en plein cœur sans comprendre ce qui m’arrivait. Au début, c’était comme un murmure au fond de moi. Il me titillait sans répit.  Il me réveillait en pleine nuit en me suppliant de me mettre à nu, de me lâcher, de grandir. C’était viscéral, fort, hors de tout raisonnement et de tout contrôle. L’envie de transformation était sous-jacente à toute mon existence.

Sans le savoir, la vie a rendu la relation entre moi, la petite laotienne comme on m’appelle là-bas, et ce minuscule point sur terre, aussi dure que l’acier. Même après autant de séjours, 9 au total, et l’instauration d’une certaine habitude, je reste toujours loin de toute zone de confort, que ce soit par rapport aux traditions, à la culture, à la langue et au rythme de vie.  Je m’en imbibe intentionnellement, la tête sous l’eau,  afin de me trouver , vulnérable, dénuée de mes points de repère et de toute sécurité.

L’invitation délibérée de la vulnérabilité est le feu qui allume le processus de la transformation en moi. N’ayant plus de vrais points de repère, chaque instant se vit intentionnellement dans la pleine conscience et s’allie avec l’observation de Soi. Tout semble être au ralenti, comme si les moments passaient sous l’eau. Cette lenteur me permet de voir mes insécurités, mes peurs et mes attachements comme des bulles d’oxygène qui remontent à la surface, là, complètement exposés, fragiles et crus.  Encore là, intentionnellement, je les accueille, les reçois comme mes meilleurs amis, échange avec eux aussi longtemps qu’ils souhaitent rester. Petit à petit, ils perdent leur force et leur présence ; et comme l’impermanence est inévitable, je les observe disparaître, petites bulles éclatant à la chaleur du soleil.

Peu importe le nombre de jours, mes escales à Luang Prabang sont une parenthèse dans l’ici et le maintenant toujours marquées par une énorme renaissance et libération, une transformation évolutive, parfois douloureuse comme une naissance, parfois tout en douceur. La transformation est toujours au menu du jour de tous les cafés laotiens.

Le changement est inévitable. On le sait, mais il nous est difficile de l’accepter ainsi. La vie est en perpétuelle mutation et l’envie de rendre les moments solides vient de notre grande peur de perdre ce que nous avons. Nous nous y agrippons fermement en nous persuadant que grâce à notre force et à notre contrôle tout restera tel quel pour toujours. Hélas, en dépit de notre volonté féroce, la vie nous démontre que malgré notre détermination tout se transforme à chaque Nano seconde. Tant que l’on ignore cette réalité fondamentale de la vie, on se sent largué et déconnecté.

Alors nagez dans le courant du changement, adaptez-vous à l’instant même, soyez intensivement présents et ouverts à recevoir les fruits de chaque rencontre afin d’inviter le changement et donc la transformation en vous-même.

Matthieu Ricard, le confident du Dalai Lama, a écrit que ‘’nous sommes sur terre pour grandir et pour aimer.’’ Pour vraiment aimer, il faut accueillir la vulnérabilité dans toutes ses formes, dans tous ses états. Elle est la graine du grandissement car sans elle on n’est pas totalement réceptif et prêt à lâcher hier pour accueillir aujourd’hui dans sa totalité.

Comme tout a un début, un milieu et une fin pour se renouveler encore et encore d’une manière incognito, ce texte aussi touche à sa fin et je vous laisse avec cette réflexion :

‘’Le changement est inévitable, le grandissement de soi est intentionnel. Et si l’on grandissait inévitablement en apportant des changements intentionnels ?’’

Ask and You will Receive

Ask and You will Receive

Jessica Magnin

In the lull of life, transition running rampant, I find myself, head down, heart squeezed, aimlessly following the deserted path of the Mesa that cradles the Big Blue. I no longer trust my mind. It is playing tricks on me. It is closing in on my heart, suffocating the life out of me. Drops of tears form in the corners of my eyes clouding my view of the shimmering sparkles of Divinity that dance upon the oil- like canvas. I see nothing. I feel nothing. Maybe none of this ever existed.

My chest is tight. I am barely breathing. My lifeline feels as if it has been severed forever. I am empty, unguided, like a ship that has lost its wind that devotedly guides her home. The contrast of my inner and outer world is painfully before me. Silence prevails. At my deepest moment of misery, I humbly look up at the infinite heavens and surrender. ‘’I just can’t do this any more. I need a sign, a tangible sign, that I am still tethered, connected to my Soul, my Divine Source that has always been my deepest companion.’’

My bare feet feel the burning heat of the harsh pavement. I stop to put on my flip-flops. At my feet lay a printed brochure folded in three. Revealed, was an image of an opened winged angel. I can’t see the message but only the ‘’why’’ would someone litter in such a pristine place. I reach down with the intent to throw the brochure in the nearest bin but something catches my eye. A beautifully calligraphic inscription graces the image of the angel, ‘’ May the beholder receive endless joy.’’ I am startled. I look suspiciously around for its owner. ‘’Was this some kind of a prank, a candid camera farce that life was playing on me?’’ There was no one in sight. This was no prank, yet I was the fool.

At that auspicious moment I realize that it was always there, Life, that Divine Connection. It was just me who was blinded and chose to remain in my grey tainted world of disconnect. They say that we are always connected, supported and guided. As spiritual beings at our essence, our presence makes up the grandeur of that of the Universe. In fact, we are the sum total of the Divine Universe and the Divine Universe is the sum total of each and every one of us. There is nothing to disconnect from because it is impossible to separate from what we already are. Disconnect can only exist within the limiting confines of the mind. The more we surrender to the subtitle yet profound certitude that connection is who we are at our core, even when the skies are at their grayest, the briefer the span needed to realign with her; until one day, this forgetting of our unshakable connection will become obsolete and we will know, truly know, connection in every breath we breathe.

Visitez jessicamagnin.wordpress.com 

Thank you for your comments. Sending you all love !

THE WINDOW TO MY SOUL

THE WINDOW TO MY SOUL

Jessica Magnin

The present moment, if you think about it, is the only time there is. No matter what time it is, it is always now.

Marianne Williamson

images-1

My grandfather, my most inspirational mentor, used to say, ‘’work hard and then you can play hard.’’ He was a master at his own life’s philosophy and I admired him unconditionally. For me, his words were gold, so I would spend concentrated hours clearing out unwanted toys, games and trinkets from my bedroom, rearranging the posters on my walls and making space. Space was important to me. It offered me room to feel and ‘’just be.’’ Then, once there was nothing more to get rid of or rearrange, I would spend endless idle hours riding my bike, hands in the air, feeling the wind whipping through my hair and the thrill of being free.

 As a college student, I studied hard, making the library my second home, rewriting my notes, highlighting the already highlighted and beginning my research papers the moment the assignment slipped from the professor’s tongue. I liked to be ahead of the game. Then, and only then, could I enjoy the freedom of being lazy on the beach with friends and going out till all hours of the night.

 As an adult, I became an expert at making lists of ‘’things to do.’’ The sheer pleasure of eliminating one thing after another with an old fashion pencil classified me as an archaic purest. Unlike most of my friends who needed 3 or 4 days to settle into vacation mode, I was fully present the moment I stepped foot on the plane; only because I had just crossed off my last ‘’thing to do.’’ It was rare that I would find myself in the trawls of pure uninhibited pleasure before my list was completed because the pain of lingering monsters of ‘’things to do’’ would haunt me and fill that space of freedom.

 But life goes on and as we grow older life can become just ‘’one big thing to do.’’ There was a husband, a baby, a house to clean, endless piles of laundry to wash, bills to be paid, a yoga center to manage, classes to be taught and then just more laundry and more bills and then 2 cats and then more cleaning and finally my list ‘’to do’’ became taller and larger than my 5’2’’ frame. I was submerged in ‘’doing’’ and had so little time to play hard. There was no more balance; there was no more space, no more freedom to ‘’just be.’’ Life squeezed all the juice out of me and I was nose-diving toward the bottom. No matter how much I meditated nothing could counter balance the imbalance of my ‘’doing’’ except, not doing, but the laundry kept piling up and my anxiety became too much to handle. Burnout and breakdown filled my space. I had hit rock bottom.

I carefully constructed my last ‘’to do’’ list before leaving and crossed off the last item as I boarded the train. Ahead of me, lay 14 days of silence and sitting at a Buddhist meditation centre, nestled somewhere faraway from the piles of laundry and the bills to be paid. It was a strict regime. Awake at 5 am, alternating every hour from seated meditation to walking meditation, with 90 minutes of daily karma yoga, two simple meals and an hour of dharma talks.

Upon my arrival, I was assigned the karma yoga task of cleaning the windows. There were forty of them in total and they were large, very large but as of day one I had already calculated that if I worked quickly I could have them all cleaned by day 10 and then I could have 90 minutes a day to enjoy the rolling emerald hillsides cupped within the jagged snow capped Alps. Freedom! Ahh! By day 8, my right wrist was sore but my mantra in the tune of that old song, ‘’100 bottles of beer on the wall’’ became ‘’just 2 more days to go, 6 windows and 180 minutes before space and freedom could be mine.’’

As calculated, on day 10, I silently handed the head director my bucket, sponge and squeegee. He looked at me with a kind and compassionate smile that most Buddhist have, as he handed me back the bucket and pointed me towards window one. He explained that doing karma yoga wasn’t something to do and check off as a final destination but it was more the art of being fully present within the journey that was pleasurable. I just didn’t get it! They were clean, all 40 of them!

I let go. I didn’t have a choice. I returned to window one and did as he said. I slowed down; I watched I observed, I allowed myself to feel. I allowed my hand to move slowly feeling the sensation of the water trickle down my wrist, the sound of the sponge against the glass like swishing waves against the shores, and enjoying the idea that there was no where to go, nothing to accomplish and nothing, absolutely nothing, to cross off but ‘’just be’’ fully present in this sacred moment.