Vulnerability and Gratitude

During one of my meditation groups last week, we discussed gratitude and being thankful. While the teacher mused on the snicker of her kids, but the profound statements that would come out of their mouths, I thought about why we tend to minimize gratitude and being thankful.

Expressing gratitude, I think, is a vulnerable act. Aside from my musings on fear of sugarcoating, there is how it reminds us of impermanence. A quick search revealed, that I wasn’t the only one who made this connection. Brene Brown actually alludes to this very idea:

“As someone who studies shame and scarcity and fear, if you asked me, ‘What is the most terrifying, difficult emotion we experience as humans?,’ I would say joy,” says Brown. “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. So what we do in moments of joyfulness is we try to beat vulnerability to the punch … We try to dress-rehearse tragedy.” –Brene Brown

But while she discusses the fear of when the other shoe will drop, I suggest that there is something more going on that feeds into this fear of losing something held so dear.

To really feel and experience gratitude, is to be truly present in the moment. It isn’t complaining about what was lost or incomplete nor fearing what may come down the road, it’s recognizing and really taking in what is available during that moment. It is the vulnerability of being open to receiving and expressing the gift of gratitude.

That, I think, is where the real fear of impermanence and of scarcity begins. To the untrained, the one who doesn’t often consider gratitude much until those unexpected moments where that light turns on and wakes up to the moment, it can be frightening to think that said awakenings are few and far between instead of something that can be cultivated and experienced all the time.

Lacking Presence

“Clearly, all fear has an element of resistance and a leaning away from the moment. Its dynamic is not unlike that of strong desire except that fear leans backward into the last safe moment while desire leans forward toward the next possibility of satisfaction. Each lacks presence.”
― Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last
The question I have is: How does one feel safe in the moment and the moment after that?  Noting when fear arises is a wonderful moment..a moment of ‘waking up,’ but it can be exhausting during times of tribulations to identify the contractions and resistance, note, find space, repeat.
It seems like the process of constantly moving back to the present can become just as rigid and mechanical. I suppose acceptance of the present state of affairs and learning to sit with it comes at its own time and from that comes peace.

Beginnings

Every piece of writing requires an introduction. Often one feels compelled to write when something big happens and my situation is no different. This is especially true when a medical situation arises and triggers a whole host of uncertainty and other emotions. For me, on March 30th everything changed; not a death sentence but a random, and scary turn of events nonetheless.  This particular situation however, is not the focus in this blog/online journal.

Instead I am attempting here the exploration of living mindfully and in the moment. Change is always happening and our bodies do what they do. Its more about how we approach it, how we work with it rather than our reactions and our tendency to push unpleasant situations away.  This is the focus; it is my musings on living mindfully and in the moment even when our minds spend a lot of time in the past and the future. This is about listening to and working with what is and the various ways in which mindfulness, meditation, and focusing intersects with life.

As Steven Levine retells:

Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master, “In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness? How can we find security when we see that we can’t count on anything being the way we want it to be?” The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass that had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, “You see this goblet? For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over, or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is, and nothing need be otherwise.

When we recognize that, just like the glass, our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, then life becomes precious, and we open to it just as it is, in the moment it is occurring. When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead — our children, our mates, our friends — how precious they become. How little fear can interpose; how little doubt can estrange us. When you live your life as though you’re already dead, life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime, a universe unto itself.”

 Quote From: Levine, Stephen, and Ondrea Levine. Who Dies? : An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying.  Bath: Gateway Books, 1986, pg. 98.