gratitude

wendy's incomparable joy

it's March 15th, the day my mom died 14 years ago. i've been writing about her on this day pretty much every year since, but today i don't feel like i have a lot to write about other than that i have a deep appreciation for who she was in my life and the lives of my children, family and community. whenever i talk about her with some who knew her, they always have the fondest memories of her wackiness, generosity, playful spirit, great parties, commitment to our planet or her love of dogs. she was a powerful presence in the lives of many people. although she wasn't particularly fond of babies nor of other peoples' young children, she was also a wonderful grandmother who loved my children with all her heart, especially after they got old enough to have real conversations with her. and, although i don't really miss her anymore the way i used to, i do feel sad sometimes for my kids not having her here for the important moments of their lives. she would have loved the fact that they're renting an apartment in Paris right now.

Wendy with her prize radishes

as i reflect on who she was and all the many gifts she gave me, i am especially grateful for the love of the earth i inherited from her and her father Elsworth. her joy in getting her hands in the soil and growing things was a big part of her life after she moved back to Love Creek Ranch, and i've been thinking about her all day as we we planted hundreds of seeds in our garden. she'd pop into my mind as i held the packet of radish seeds (remembering this wonderful photo of her), stopped to thank the little hummingbird who watched over our proceedings or said hello to the worms in the ground.

we also had the honor and pleasure of having our friends Kaedence, Laura and Tiger here with us in the garden to plant, chat and celebrate Laura's birthday. as i shared with her that her birthday is the same day as the day my mother passed, i felt a deep wave of appreciation wash over me for Laura's presence in my life. although she's more like a big sister, in many ways she holds that motherly space for me... always unconditionally loving, truthful, deeply affectionate and kind. i wish she and my mom could have met each other. they would have hit it off right away.

i'm so grateful to have had this day out in the warm sunshine with Jakob and our friends planting, singing, sharing a good meal and reconnecting with the Mother of All Beings. i'm sure my mom would have loved it, too. i have a feeling she was there... laughing, dancing and singing around the garden, infusing the seeds with her incomparable joy.

1907474_10153679362368574_7354749017361975124_n p.s. i just wanted to note that i forgot to post this until March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, which happened to be one of mom's favorite holidays. Happy St. Paddy's Day mom!

 

the gift of creating magic and connection with 300 teenagers

as the clouds hang low and dark in the morning sky, i feel somewhat melancholy today and i wonder why. i think it has to do with the intensity of the last few weeks and not giving myself a whole lot of down time to digest the magic of it all until now. on February 20th i completed one of the biggest projects i’ve ever taken on - a Get That You Matter program for over 300 high school students which, from what i feel and hear, was very successful. it all started five months ago when i was asked to create a program for the senior project of two amazing young women who wanted to raise the bar of cohesion and unity at their campus. they wanted to give students an experience that they are more connected than they may realize, and it was amazing. it was a real chance for me to stretch myself as well as to demonstrate what i’ve learned in the last 15 years as a teacher, Challenge Day Program Leader, life coach, counselor and Cafe Gratitude workshop facilitator. in other words, it was an opportunity to pull all of my training and skills together into an experience we hoped would impact the lives of everyone involved in a positive way. i think it worked.

it was an incredible undertaking and, in the end, 40 student leaders trained to help facilitate the days, more than 30 adults volunteered to help hold the space, and over 300 students got to see how very much they matter to each other and to our world. together, we created two magical days which i hope they walked away from feeling more seen, heard and connected than before they walked in. since we all said goodbye on Friday the 20th, i’ve been thinking about this in the context of the upcoming Reclaiming the Sorcerer webinar for which i’m preparing to co-teach three classes with my friend Jordanna Eyre, and i’m realizing that what happened there was just that… a reclaiming of the magic we all have within us. we all had the opportunity to be sorcerers who live from love and integrity.

those amazing young people showed us all what it is to do that... to be someone who transforms their reality with grace, power, love and beauty. they inspired me and every other adult who was there, and i believe we all left with a greater sense of purpose, hope and possibility than when we began. in looking back on the experience, i feel as though i was given a great gift- to help create a space where the Get That You Matter mission “to inform, inspire and ignite individuals everywhere to illuminate our world” was wholly fulfilled, and our vision for "a world where everyone knows that they matter and contributes to a just, inspirited, thriving and resilient life for all beings” came a little closer to being realized.

honestly, i have to say, just thinking and writing about the experience now is lifting my melancholy. rather than putting my attention on my massive “to do” list for the next couple of months, taking a few minutes to celebrate what we created is already filling my spiritual tank for all of the other great things to come. it reminds me just how true it is that what we focus on is the experience we give ourselves.

Theres importance in taking time to take stock and celebrate my triumphs

so, as i sit here enjoying the warmth of hot tea and the beauty of the stormy skies, i feel deeply grateful for the many opportunities to serve and live my own personal mission that come my way. i remember the importance of taking time to take stock and celebrate my triumphs and re-evaluate the trajectory of plans for the future. in taking time for my practice of early morning writing, self care and alone time which feeds my soul so much, my anxiety has lifted. what i’m left with is a feeling of more connection to myself, others and life itself. and that is the greatest gift of all. i hope that everyone with whom i shared those days at Bret Harte High School had a similar experience.

grateful for gratitude… witnessing the re-birth of hope

marianna gratitude this weekend i had the great privilege of participating in a gathering with some amazing folks. there were people of all ages, faiths and histories, and we were all there to support a wonderful woman in our community and deepen our own healing as well. it was powerful to say the least.

i personally had some powerful things arise for healing (about which i’ll write in my next blog), but there is something that happened which i will never forget. because what happened was so deeply moving - on every level - that something fundamentally changed in how i see children.

as you may know, i have been a champion of young people and children forever, having been a mother, substitute teacher and Challenge Day Program Leader among other things. in other words, i have been extremely aware of the prevalence of adult-ism in our culture and the incredible damage it does. so, it was truly awe-inspiring to witness the awareness and encouragement from every single adult there when a beautiful little 5-year-old boy stepped up of his own accord and asked to take on a leadership role in the gathering. this was no small thing he did… let me tell you.  no small thing.

it meant stepping up in a way that many adults i know would not be comfortable doing, and he did it with joy, grace and the deepest sense of knowing that emanated from the center of his being. it was so beautiful.

it was in that moment that i reconnected to my vast store of hope for the human race.  as you may know, i’ve written more than once about my struggles with hope and my capacity to carry on with a smile in the face of all we are facing in this critical time in history. i have often felt more despair than i care to admit. but in that moment, i felt hope. real hope. a deep trust, an abiding faith that we are going to be okay.

as i sat with tears streaming down my face, i watched this child’s incredible poise and presence as he listened to all he needed to do to fulfill the role for which he had volunteered. and my heart soared as though it had wings when i watched him carry it out with more grace than most adults. this little boy, with his tiny, young body and huge, eternal heart, restored my faith in humanity.

and the beautiful thing was, i had this momentary flash of, “I’m so glad young people like him are going to fix the mess we created” but it was instantly replaced by, “no. i’m so grateful he is joining us in the task of healing what needs to be healed so we can all awaken together. i’m so glad i get to stand side-by-side with this beautiful being as we build the bridge to the New World together.” all in one moment, i was informed, inspired, ignited and illuminated. in that one moment.

IMG_0213in these last couple of days since the gathering, i have felt so different. so much more possibility and joy. and this morning, i woke up feeling so grateful… for everything. for being able to get up well before sunrise to enjoy the quiet and dark to meditate, do yoga and share time with my husband. for the privilege of living where i live, for the way trees remind me how to be still, for eating food from my own garden every day, for the vast, deep and joyful love i feel for my husband and our children, for our amazing community and all the possibilities that stand before us as we walk forward. for children who have parents who stand beside them (rather than in front of or behind them) and say, “i believe in you.”

then what i realized is that i am so deeply grateful to be grateful. to know that i am grateful and to feel gratitude pretty much every hour for my life- even the struggles. especially the struggles. and to be grateful while i’m right in the middle of them, even if i don’t understand why they’re happening.

i have truly come to believe that gratitude is the key to everything… if i can truly be grateful for every one of my circumstances, regardless of how wonderful or terrifying they seem, i can be free to trust that everything is falling into place exactly as planned.

and what i have seen, time and time again, is that gratitude and generosity are the keys to healing all wounds. if we can be grateful, we can be present. if we can be present, we can be generous. if we can be generous, we can experience moments of connection which remind us how grateful we are. and the whole cycle repeats itself as we spiral upward toward remembering who we really are.

so, in this month of Giving Thanks (at least here in the states), i say, “thank you.” to everything and everyone. to my family, my friends, this beautiful little boy who brought hope back to my heart. to the people who make the most difficult choices they can possibly make, like the courageous and beautiful Brittany Maynard. to the heroes i meet every day like my friend Mark who is helping to heal deep wounds in a native tribal community and my friend Rosendo who, although faced with possibly impossible odds, is one of the brightest, most joyful people i have ever met. to every sentient being who lives on this beautiful planet we call Home. and to our Mother Earth, who gives unceasingly, without expectation, and supports us despite it all.

i am so grateful for being grateful.

what are you grateful for?

i wish you a beautiful November filled with joy and gratitude.

erin and cow

lessons from the lunar eclipse… being part of the tapestry

note: i was going to wait and post this on Monday, October 13th. but i decided not to wait, realizing that was part of my scarcity thinking... "what if i don't have anything to say next week?" then i thought, "post it now. it happened yesterday. carpe diem!" then i thought, "who the f-x-x-c cares if you don't post anything next week?!?!" so... here it is....

October 8th, 2014...

i’m sitting here outside in the dark at 4:16 in the morning, having gotten up about an hour ago to witness the lunar eclipse. and, i have to say, it is worth every bit of effort i made to awaken and whatever lack of sleep i’ll experience later today.

bood mooni’ve heard that it’s sometimes called the “Blood Moon” because of the reddish color it takes on… and now i know why. it’s simply the most gorgeous, essential color. but it’s so much more than that. tonight’s moon is primal, almost painful, in its stark and ethereal beauty as it moves through the branches of the trees above.

before i went to bed i read this great piece about tonight’s full moon - how it’s about letting go of that which is no longer serving us so we can be fully in our power serving humanity and our world. i felt something was important about getting up and bearing witness to this beautiful phenomenon, but i wasn’t sure what. i just knew i needed to be part of it.

but as i sit here outside in the chill night air, wrapped in a little wool blanket with a mug of hot cocoa in my hands, listening to my favorite sound in the whole world - the song of the soft wind dancing in the tall trees here in our little canyon - i realize that the very thing which keeps me moving forward every day and propels me to serve and stand in my power is also the very thing which keeps me utterly separate from everything. when i say, “it’s so beautiful” or “that’s so terrible” or any number of observations my head makes about anything at all, i’ve already assumed i’m separate from it.

there is something opening in my chest as i sit beneath these stars so impossibly far away and these trees so comfortingly close. in this deep darkness, they look equally close. the stars seem so close i could reach out and touch them - like that scene in Contact where she takes off her glove to touch the galaxy above her. there is something letting go in my head as i welcome this closeness, as i feel it not only “out there” but “in here.” these stars know me. i know them. this darkness is not frightening. just the opposite- it is comforting beyond explanation. it’s as comforting as the inside of my heart, as the sacred place i visit in here when i’m in need of reconnecting to myself.

sitting here, still and quiet - in the deep darkness, and soft “shhhhh” of the trees, under the blanket of stars glowing softly above, and the silhouettes of the pines and cedars, and the deep orange glow of the shadow of earth over the moon, i realize that this beauty - this incredible, quieting, deep-breath, muscle-releasing beauty is not separate from me. or, more accurately, i am not separate from it. as i sit here feeling so grateful and so awed by its beauty, i realize that it is me. that i am it. that we are inseparable.

this calming “shhhhh.” these stars, shining brightly and softly as if the sky were a black piece of paper with tiny, perfect holes poked in it by a cosmic pin. these trees, tall and majestic sentinels who have watched over me my entire life. this blood moon, soft and reassuring in her deep knowledge of time and all we’ve been and done. this is not something i stand and comment on like a masterpiece in the Louvre. no, i am in this masterpiece. albeit an integral and infinitesimally small part of it. like the huge tapestries hanging in the cathedrals i love so much in Europe, i am a tiny, momentary thread in the tapestry of life. and, what i am feeling right now - right now - is the deeply humbling and profoundly comforting knowledge that, in simply being - just being - i am expressing my own color in this infinite tapestry.

it brings to mind the saying, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." and i realize that, as humble of a statement that is, it perpetuates separation. it's more like, "there go i." with everyone and everything. there go i... the homeless person on the sidewalk. there go i... the newborn baby. there go i... the terrorist, rapist, murderer. there go i... the nobel prize winner, genius comic, noble saint. there go i... the stars, the trees, the moon.

like this dark orange moon, expressing her unique beauty and offering up the wisdom she has to impart to someone willing to awaken and stand beneath her tonight, i am utterly, intrinsically part of it all. special and beautiful and perfectly placed in the vastness of life. a tiny spark of life with nothing to do other than my part in it all.

so, i go back to bed now, more peaceful and grateful than when i retired a few hours ago. i am bringing this with me into my dreams for the next couple of hours, praying to the Creator of All Life that i may remember this moment as clearly as i feel it now, and bring with me into my coming days, months and years the certainty of how completely insignificant and intrinsic i am to this fabric of beauty we call life.

lunar eclipse

Please note: photos are courtesy of Tonja Peterson, a dear friend and amazing human. Thanks Tonja!

What are you grateful for?

Gratitude is the place to begin from not the place to get to - Erin Rossalthough this month's Being Game is "gratitude," something continues to haunt me in the midst of this dramatic year. sometimes i feel it more than others, but it's always there under the surface - a vague, persistent sense of guilt and overwhelm about what is happening in the world today. especially the nuclear situation in Fukushima, Japan. i recently saw a video about dolphins and got to thinking about all the thousands of species that will be affected, and more than likely already have been affected, by the radioactive water that continues to pour out of that reactor. not only does the radiation give cause for me and many others i know not to eat fish anymore because of the extreme risks to our health, but there is sure to be a profoundly devastating ripple effect in the already challenged species anywhere in the path of that poisoned water. i awoke this morning deeply saddened by the negative impact this situation is having and will continue to have for countless decades in ways we will probably never know. i awoke with a heaviness that has not been with me for quite some time, knowing that there is probably so much more i can do than to be a good "armchair activist" by posting, tweeting and blogging about all of this. i awoke asking myself, "what have i not done enough of? where have i gotten lazy? where am i out of integrity with my mission?" and, surprisingly, the answer that came was, "be grateful… be grateful for all you have, for all the love in your life, for all the choices you've made, for all the beauty around you, and remember to continue to be love no matter what." and, in that instant, i felt a wave of gratitude so powerful wash over me, i began to cry at all the miracles in my life… the fact that there are multitudes of ways to share love with others; that dolphins, whales and manatees are our sisters and brothers; that i am being given an opportunity to be and receive love like i never had before; that the world is ready to receive the love i have to give; that this year is a year of choices- big and small, life and death, sleeping and waking; that this is the moment in which i get to choose to see life as perfect while taking bold, decisive action to raise the bar for the awakening and transformation of humanity.

at the Work That Reconnects workshop i attended this last weekend with the incomparable and deeply inspiring Joanna Macy, she said that gratitude is the place to begin from, not the place to get to because of what we have. when we're grateful for being right where we are and being on the way to wherever we're going, it provides the curiosity and interest to deliver us into presence.

i know that our voices - whether standing alone or in a crowd of thousands - have the power to inspire, inform, ignite and contribute to others… but if we don't speak, then that will never happen. i know that gratitude is the key to turning all problems into possibilities… for when we let gratitude be our guide, miracles occur. i know that it's not always easy to be or even feel grateful when there is so much going on around us that seems bleak and insurmountable… but if we don't connect to and express our gratitude, then we cannot move beyond numbness and paralysis.

it's not too late to change - to shift from entitlement to gratitude, when we remember, as Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface Carpets and one of my greatest heroes, said, "We are each and every one of us part of the web of life itself… and we have a choice to make. During our brief- so brief- visit to this living blue-green planet - to help it or to hurt it. It's your choice." because, as Paul Hawken stated so eloquently, "At this crucial stage in human history, there is no inconsequential action- only consequential inaction."

so my question to you is, what are you grateful for? do you choose to let yourself get overwhelmed by what's going on today? or do you choose to look around you at your life, at all you have to be grateful for - even if it's simple things like running water, a place to lay your head at night or public transportation - and let your gratitude grow inside of you, like a fire, igniting your capacity to take loving, heartful action? and, finally, which action will have the most powerful, positive impact on the people and world around you?

i invite you to begin a daily practice of writing down at least 10 things for which you are grateful. or at least sharing them with someone you love. you can do it at night before bed or the next morning. but whatever you choose, i invite you to try it on for at least a month. join us this month in being and expressing gratitude… and watch what happens.

May's BEing Game: Being Abundance

"Abundance can be had simply by consciously receiving what has already been given." -Sufi Saying There is a Sufi saying that goes, "Abundance can be had simply by consciously receiving what has already been given." This month we are putting our attention on choosing, as Terces Engelhart says, "the knowingness of being always and completely provided for" and practicing the view that abundance is actually an expression of the Spirit/Divine/The Oneness of which we all contribute to and are all a real part of. For instance, we knew the sun would rise this morning and we don't question that it will rise tomorrow. What if we had this same trust and confidence in the fact that we are always being taken care of in every aspect of our lives? Rather than putting our attention on what is not working and what we don't have, what if we chose instead to see, acknowledge, and give ourselves the experience of gratitude for what was working and what we do have with the same confidence and trust we experience as with the sun. Consider that there is a whole body and network of people, plants, animals, and systems working all the time to bring us things that we often take for granted: clean running water, electricity,our friendships, family, grocery stores, the post office, the internet, etc.

Being abundance also takes letting go of our attachments to how things "should look" or any impulses we have to "fix" life, systems or each other. In this view,it is simply a moment to moment practice of being aware and expressing gratitude for every act of service, product, and intention that sustains our lives. So many of us frequently have thoughts of going hungry, for example. We even exaggerate them on a regular basis: "I'm starving", for example. But how many meals have each of us skipped in our lives that wasn't by choice? I can't think of 1 day in my life where I skipped a meal because I couldn't afford groceries or didn't have a friend or family member to lean on? What if instead of buying into this view of individual scarcity (how we aren't provided for in the realms of food, transportation, bills, love, time, etc.) we took a moment to ask ourselves how we are being provided for and focus on the thousands of meals we have received in our one life time to date?

While writing this blog I am sitting in the Heart Rock Cafe drinking a cup of Thanksgiving Coffee. As I drink my coffee I am aware of all the labor, shipping, commerce, and intentions it took to get this coffee into my hands from the coffee bean growers, to the pickers, to the buyers who care about providing right livelihood for the growers, to the truck drivers and shipyards who got the beans to this cafe location. I am present to the coffee plants themselves that have been flowering, growing and taking in sunshine and water for months to produce the beautiful cup in front of me and the cow that gave its milk to the farmer who harvested it to the shop owner and the smiling barista who served it up. I am so provided for and fulfilled in this now moment just by putting my attention upon all the contributions it took world-wide to get this cup of coffee to me so that I can do the good work I am here to do. This is abundance!

We invite you to play with us this month. How are you being provided for? What services, products, people have you possibly been taking for granted? What do you have an abundance of: shoes, friends, food, money, skills, opportunities? We'd love to hear from and celebrate your abundance!

 

 

Gratitude

Despite the murky origins of Thanksgiving, I woke up this morning thinking about what my favorite holiday is about for me… two things – connection and gratitude.
I don't know of any other holiday (in this country anyway) that so explicitly espouses the "attitude of gratitude" in the way this one does. There is no gift exchange ceremony or exchange of goods and services ("I'll show you my cool costume and you give me some candy"). It's not explicitly religious nor is it associated with politics or nationalism. It is simply a day of connecting with those we love to express our gratitude.
In this mostly consumerism-driven culture, this is a day to pause and reflect on what we have… for we have so much. I know that there are many in this country who don't have enough of even the basics. I know I speak from a position of privilege. And yet… I encourage every one of us to remember that we have people who love us (even when we feel all alone). We have freedoms that many will never experience (even when we feel trapped by our circumstances). We have choices (even when it seems we don't) in how we think, believe, speak, attitude and act.
In a world where rugged individualism can often morph into isolation, bitterness and resentment, I ask, how is that working for us? What is the cost of our attachment to independence? The truth is, none of us is an island – none of us lives separate from the rest of the world. We depend on each other for our very lives. So, I wonder… who are you grateful for? Who has helped you along your life's journey? Who could you connect with today and thank for "being there" for you? Who could you forgive? What if connection is the one thing we are most longing for? It's up to us to create it.
If you love this holiday as much as I do, I ask you this:
What if we made Thanksgiving Day every day? What if, in the spirit of this holiday, we approached every day with the awareness of gratitude we choose to muster up on this particular day every year? What if we woke asking ourselves, "What can I be grateful for today?" What if we sought out opportunities to express gratitude to everyone we meet, even for the seemingly tiniest things? What amount of joy and connection could we bring to our lives and the lives of others if we did that? What if, at the end of the day, we had a long list of all the things we were grateful for… and what if we did the day after that, and the day after that, until the day we die?
What would be possible if we lived in gratitude all the time (even if we didn't "feel" like it)?
Today, I am deeply grateful for all the blessings I have experienced thus far – the celebrations and hardships, the lessons, the connections of all kinds, the births and deaths, family and friends, this beautiful planet I get to live on, the blue sky, the myriad shades of green in a single square acre, crickets and kittens, flannel sheets and flowers, good food, passion, love and the spectrum of human feeling.
What are you grateful for?

A Letter to My Body

Body bowlDear Body- Thank you for being the sanctuary -  the home - for my soul in this lifetime. Thank you for all you give, do and express on a daily basis. Thank you for all the ways in which you function without having to be asked, cajoled, encouraged or bribed.

Thank you for the unwavering beating of this heart, the continual flowing of blood and plasma, the steady in and out of the breath and the ability to be present to it. Thank you for the exquisite function of the liver, kidneys and other cleansing organs. Thank you for the perfect lubrication of joints, the certain endurance of muscles, and the steady strength of bones. Thank you for taste, smell, touch, sound and sight - these senses which make being alive so delightful.

You work miraculously with no  effort on my part, and for that I thank you.

I honor you as the sacred vessel for my soul, the home for this lifetime's journey and the channel through which my soul's purpose is able to be conveyed. Without you my spirit would not be having nearly as grand an adventure with all the other wonderful spirits embodied here at this time in this place.

I apologize for any way in which I have ignored you -over-taxed or fed you, or under-exercised, fed or loved you. I apologize for any ways in which I have allowed others to hurt you in any way - with their words or their hands. I apologize for not standing up for you when you deserved it. I apologize for any way in which I have not cared for you as the precious gift you are.

I commit to caring thoroughly for you from this moment forward. I commit to loving you by feeding you the most vibrant, healthy and delicious foods. I commit to loving you by moving joyously in exercise, taking long walks in nature, and dancing with abandon. I commit to loving you by caring for you when you need tender attention, by getting enough sleep, and by resting when you need to rest.

I live continually in awe of your functionality and ability to experience and share great joy, empathy and love with all the other precious beings you enable me to encounter. I live gratefully, mindfully and lovingly in service to you so that I my fulfill my spiritual journey here.

Thank you for the dear blessing of this gift of Life here on Earth.

 

With utmost love and deepest respect,

Your Grateful Passenger

-- Love and blessings, Erin