Pleasure Is The New Gratitude

Does it sometimes feel like a chore to come up with a list of things you’re grateful for? Like you’re in a perfectly good grumpy mood, and someone wants you to say things like “I’m grateful for hot running water” and then you feel like a jerk for not being grateful for something that some people lack, but at the same time you’re annoyed that someone is challenging your status quo?

Now, what does it feel like to step into a hot shower? When you feel the warmth on your body, breathe in the steam, feel the dirt and sweat washed away, feel your body caressed by the water? Isn’t that delicious? I believe that intentionally enjoying pleasurable moments like that is a lot like gratitude. The good kind of gratitude where your heart feels full and happy, not the one where you feel judged and inadequately appreciative of all that you have.

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Noticing things that feel good in your day is also a means towards mindfulness. Noticing the flavor of the food you eat – yum! – or the softness of cat fur, or the laughter you share with friends, or the relief of sitting down after a long walk – all of these things that feel good also help us be present in our bodies, aware of the moment, present and happy.

I love touching soft things. Furry things, smooth things, velvety things, all sorts of things that feel soft. The lovely thing is, I can enjoy the brief moment of softness even on a day that’s not going so well. I can remember that the world is not endlessly bleak, and that there can be moments of light even on the darkest days. That is what a gratitude practice does too. There are reasons to be grateful even when the cat barfs on your new shirt and the toilet clogs – at least the car is still running, at least there’s food in the pantry, we are warm and safe right now.

So for this Thanksgiving holiday, we can make lists of things we are grateful for – and we can also enjoy the things we have to enjoy. The hugs of dear friends and family. The yummy food. Hot showers. Taking time to really notice and appreciate the things that feel good is gratitude repackaged – and delicious, too!

I Believe

I believe that having a seat at the table is not the same as having an equal voice.

I believe that sprouts need time and space to grow, whether those sprouts are tender new plants or fragile new ideas.

I believe that the still, small voice inside is the one most worth listening to, and that we have to get very quiet to be able to hear it.

I believe that everything, including mindfulness, can be used as a weapon by those who are acting aggressively, and that everything, including conflict, can be used as a tool for growth and connection by those who are acting with loving-kindness.

I believe that group dynamics are much more complicated than relationships between two people, which are complicated enough.

I believe that the stories we hear in our heads have a lot of power over us. It’s hard to see that they aren’t the truth, especially if the people around us reinforce them.

I believe that getting hurt when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable will keep us from getting vulnerable again for a long, long time. I believe that from the outside it can be hard to tell if another person is actually feeling vulnerable. I believe we should always assume the other person feels vulnerable, even if they are acting brash.

I believe that connections between people are the most important thing we can create.

I believe that understanding, compassion, and acceptance are the most important tools a team has to create a space where everyone feels welcome and able to be vulnerable.

I believe that new ideas are vulnerable things. It doesn’t take much to crush the idea and the person offering the idea.

I believe that new ideas are necessary to move the world in a sustainable and healthy direction, and to create prosperity for the people doing the moving.

I believe that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, that being vulnerable is a sign of great strength, and that it takes courage to be open to change.

I believe that I can help teams find this place, where they believe these things too and can make their own spaces safe to be vulnerable and new. I believe I can help you.

How Are Meditation and Play Similar?

I have recently started meditating. I’m not managing to do it every day, or for very long at a stretch. But it’s a very interesting process. Some days my head is very noisy, and it’s all I can do to try to come back to breath, or a mantra, without drifting off on another thought current (or song stuck in my head). Some days I sink in deep, feeling like I’m sitting with my essence and discovering that I’m okay. Some days I have a conversation with my younger self. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I feel like my body and my mind and my life are expanding, filling up with light and life and hope and love. I love these times the most. They make the hard days worth it. They make me want to go back, to sit still, to see if I can feel that amazing collaboration with the universe again.

It occurred to me that really good play sessions feel very similar to these really good meditations. Sometimes when I play I think too much, and sometimes I feel awkward, and then some days it comes easily and flows through me and I’m on a current, heading towards discovery and purpose without working very hard at all. One lovely thing about finding this same connection with the universe through play is that other people can join me there. In meditation, everything happens inside. In play, some of it happens in the physical world around me.

It is very easy, even necessary, in our daily lives to be guarded. When we are alert for danger, we are not likely to experience this sort of flow. It’s harder to be aware of insights, new possibilities, or gut feelings and intuition, when we are going through the world with our practical, logical, or self-protective hats on. We need to find a place outside of the daily grind to practice relaxing and letting ourselves go with the flow. Meditation helps with this. So does play.

Calming the Fear of Change

Starting a business creates a lot of change. I’m getting healthier at the same time, which also leads to change. And a lot of this change is nerve wracking. So in my process to becoming healthier I’ve been exploring ways to cope with all of this fear of change, and I’d like to tell you what I’ve learned so far.

One: Check in with myself here and now. Part of this is asking if my fears are true (if I lose weight will I really be more vulnerable and less powerful than I am now, overweight?) and looking around at the world (hmm, she’s pretty powerful and she’s slim; violence against women happens no matter the woman’s size; being strong and fit is actually more likely to protect me). Even more, I check with how my body feels. The weight isn’t literally melting off me. I don’t change weight by the second. So, how do I feel right now? Do I feel strong? Safe? Light? Content? I’ve found that the more happy I am with how I am right now, the more willing I am to change. When I feel like I’m supposed to change, I get resentful and dig in my heels to prove I’m ok the way I am.  When I check in with myself and feel acceptance and love, it’s ok to let things shift.

Two: Connect with the flow of the world. This is something I’ve done so far in meditation. Don’t get me wrong, I usually meditate for less than 15 minutes, often only 3-6 minutes. I don’t do it daily, either. But even in this short amount of time, I find I can feel like I’m a part of the universe, and the universe is a part of me. There is no barrier around me, keeping me separate. I am made of star stuff, as is everything around me. And everything in this universe is in flux. Things are born, grow, and die. Expand and contract. Breathe and move and shift. I am moving in synch with everything around me. When I get into this frame of mind, it’s ok to change. It’s not like I’ve got a solid floor under my feet which I’m trying to dig up and replace, which feels very disorienting and upsetting. No, I’m part of the great slow dance of time, and my floor is no more solid and permanent than any other part of this universe.

Before you start to think that I don’t know what change is really like, your fear is legitimate and mine must not be that bad if a little meditation can make it better, let me tell you it took me a looooong time to get to this point in my life. I’ve made a lot of changes with the help of therapy, since I was in no way able to cope with making them on my own. For example: I gained weight in high school as a way of coping with feelings I had no other way of dealing with. I felt like I was no good, I didn’t want to live in my own skin, and overeating gave me some numbness so I didn’t have to hate myself every single minute of every single day. I wouldn’t admit to my therapist that I had a weight issue for years. Years! When I did lose weight, I gained it back again while I was still going down. I weighed 244 in high school – a doctor told me I was 100 lbs overweight. I could probably count on one hand the number of months in my life since then that I’ve been under 200 lbs. One time when I was losing weight – slowly – I got scared and gained back 40 lbs in one week. One week. That’s a lot of overeating. Little by little, with the help of therapy, and friends, and growing up, and finding the things that I love, and finding ways to love myself, and learning about compassion, and meditating, I have found a way to not gain 40 lbs in one week. This is, for me, huge. I hope my experience can help you too, but all I am doing is sharing my experience. You are a different person, maybe your fears are worse than mine. But let me tell you, I’m within spitting distance of 200 lbs again, and it will be a big deal to break through to the other side. It means not using food to cope with anxiety, and fear, and boredom, and confusion, and frustration, and fatigue. Do you know how much anxiety and boredom and frustration come with starting a business? Raising a kid? Lots. So when I tell you that these tips are helping me, I don’t mean they’re nice. I mean they are helping me cope as an adult with painful and difficult feelings, and I’m shedding my extra padding and that’s scary. I’m coping with the fears around not succeeding in starting the business of my dreams. I’m coping with the fears around actually succeeding too! I’m staying connected to the flow of the world, not finding a hole to hide in. If it can work for me, there’s a good chance it can work for you too. So I want to share it with you. I promise, you are not in more pain than me, you are not more scared than me, you are not more safe than me. We are all riding the waves of the breathing of the world, and seeing that can make all the difference.