Week One - - - Day One
Can change your Life
and your moments
On June 20, 2015, I walked half a block down my street in Austin, Texas, to meet a woman I knew and admired and liked, but with whom I thought I had no “romantic” expectations. I had met her a mere three months before, in March. She had moved to Austin in February. Now in June it was a gentle summer’s day, and we were going to meet for a lunch and study session. I was writing a book on radical listening. She was smart and kind and I wanted her input. Her name was Carol Williams then.
It’s Carol Williams Elms now.
We thought we were meeting for an hour and a half. For lunch and a bit of her help on a book I was writing, the precursor to this one.
Twelve hours later, at one am, as I pried myself out the door, to walk the half block back to my home, we both were almost certain we’d met the future lifetime partner that had a day before seemed “almost impossible” to find. I’d written an “almost impossible goal” to find a fabulous woman within walking distance. And an “almost impossible goal” to find a lifetime partner at 70 years old. Carol had been praying for a life partner. And then… the miracle seemed to be happening.
And even with goals and prayers, I don’t think this “miracle” would have happened without our both being immersed in gratitude. Why?
We all thrive in gratitude…
On that day becoming night together, and since then, the practice of gratitude was a deeply embedded part of both our lives. Then, as now, I was writing in a “gratitude journal” at least twice, often three or four or five times, a day. Carol, on that miracle day, had a steady background prayer life, of which gratitude and thanks was a significant part. Now she has a gratitude journal, too. Will you soon get a gratitude journal? Only if you want transformation as deeply and easily as possible.
Don’t believe me, or anyone. Test drive gratitude right now.
Mini-game: Think of 3 things you are grateful for. Does something shift?
You might enjoy feeling where in your body this shifts seems to be.
How does this work?
The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude focuses our hearts and minds on what we like and love in life, what is going well in our life, what we are thankful for and want more of. Instead of wasting time and mental energy on worry or complaining, gratitude allows us to look at life from a peaceful and open heart. With an optimistic heart alert to what has gone well in the past, we are primed to be looking forward to more “good stuff” unfolding each day.
Modern research has shown what ancient wisdom has long suspected: the brain (and person) can be in either fear or gratitude.
But not both.
WE CAN BE IN EITHER FEAR OR GRATITUDE, BUT NOT BOTH
Carol and I were tuned in to what we appreciated about our lives. This made it far easier to tune into what we could appreciate in the other person. And then, twelve hours after I’d walked in the door, we reluctantly dragged ourselves apart amazed that we might well have found the “almost impossible.”
Dear reader, let’s jump into action.
Leap. Hop. Skip. Prance. Slippy slide. Have some fun.
Day One: Gratitude Exercise #2:
SAYING GRATITUDES ALOUD
If you have a partner, or a willing friend, ask them to join you.
Notice how you are feeling now.
Say aloud five things you are grateful for. Feel your heart as you say these five.
Then the other takes a turn.
Notice how you are feeling now.
Share with each other the shift this made, this simple speaking aloud and sharing of five gratitudes. (PS, you can say more if you wish)
If you are alone, jot down here a few reminder sentences on what shifted by saying five gratitudes aloud.
My notes on the differences I noticed….
Really, do it now. This is not a book to “just read” and imagine “doing it” later. This is not a book of “good ideas” for you to give your “screwed up” friends. This is my offering of the best and most useful practices I have discovered over the last 50 years. This my gift in gratitude for a bunch of wonderful and useful and fun (and sexy, and life enhancing) practices that I have been lucky enough to learn.
This book is a transformation manual for those who want even more amazing life.
Which is you, right?
You are either in a “pretty good” (or even “great”) relationship and you wouldn’t mind it being even better.
Two: You are in a funky relationship that cries out, begs and wants to be better.
Three: You are not yet in a relationship and you think that would be a pretty fine addition to your life. IF IT WAS A GREAT RELATIONSHIP.
Whichever category you are in, saying gratitudes helps clear your heart and your day and your life and your relationships.
Let’s try a more full bodied plunge into gratitude.
Gratitude #3: Standing Gratitudes.
Go to a window if there is one, or outdoors if that’s easy.
Say aloud two to twenty gratitudes.
Go slowly and hear your own voice.
If you have a friend or mate to join you, all the better.
Notice what difference this makes.
Don’t be shy.
Even in a tight ass office seeing someone stand and hearing them speak forth some gratitudes might be a catalyst for something nice.
Like find out.
Real learning is noticing a difference that makes a difference.
Learning is not taking in anything by rote.
Learning is a shift that makes a difference. And being aware of the shift.
That’s this book: a bunch of things to explore and notice what difference they make. I’ve explored and delighted in them. Now it’s your turn. Explore. Discover. Learn. Transform.
As I’ve said above, you can be grateful or you can be in fear. Can you feel a shift in you when you say gratitudes aloud?
Our last game/ exercise for today, writing in a gratitude journal, is a practice that can change your life, because it is solid and demands repetition each day.
It takes only a few minutes.
This could be something to start every day for the rest of your life.
Day One: Gratitude Exercise #4:
WRITE 5-13 GRATITUDES
Get a paper or a journal
START ON A FRESH AND EMPTY PAGE
A page grateful to be used for gratitudes
Write the day and the date.
Draw in a smily face, or something amusing.
Write five gratitudes or more.
If a lined journal, leave a line between each line of writing
Write big and slow and feel your hand moving, and see the letters forming.
Move around. Jump for joy a bit if the mood comes to you.
Or wiggle for relief.
Maybe go take a walk.
Before you go to bed, read over your gratitudes and write a few more. (Truth, I often forget this. And… part of Carol and my night meditation is sharing on three levels….”I’m grateful for…..”. Two, “I love . . .” Three, “Now I am aware of . . .” )
Skipping our meditation for now, you might simple incorporate the practice of sharing gratitudes, or “what did you like/ love about today” into your night time wind down.
Or you might make night time gratitudes a form of prayer, and say them aloud to “God” if you have one. Prayer as thanks, super important to one and all.
Thank you God. I’m grateful for . . .
Thank you Life. I’m grateful for . . .
Thank you Universe. I’m grateful for . . .
Thank you all my ancestors. I’m grateful for . . .
Thank you Great Mystery. I’m grateful for . . .
Thank you Magical Stillness at the Center of it All. I’m grateful for . . .
Have the delight and ease and opening you are meant to have when you return to a feeling of gratitude. Notice what happens in your heart area.
Enjoy your day.
Week - - - Day Two
LUST, part one:
We are mammals. We are meant to…
Today is a day to be grateful.
They all are.
Today is a day to be present.
They all are.
Today is a day to touch.
They all are.
And not all of us live with someone. And some of us live with someone with whom we’ve forgotten/ lost/ been turned off to touching.
God Bless us all.
No matter what our circumstances: we are mammals. Touch feeds a certain need in us that we all, hopefully, felt as infants, when being cuddled, or nursed, or passed from friendly adult to friendly adult.
Or as children in our silly play as we formed “pig piles,” or concocted other ways of delighting in touch.
If our family was lucky, there were a lot of hugs.
And, one of life’s great truths is this
THE PAST HAS PASSED. IT’S OVER.
No matter how much or how little touch we received as children, we can bring more touch into our lives now.
One is so simple that I’m almost reluctant to offer it.
And yet…IT WORKS. THIS SIMPLE ONE HAND TOUCHES ANOTHER GAME WORKS.
And we almost all have two hands, and we almost all don’t “waste” enough time being nice to ourselves.
And . . .
Huge portions of our brains are devoted to our hands, which do and have done so many skilled and interesting and complicated actions and learnings in our life. (If you forget this, hand a young baby a spoon)
Enjoy and learn from and deepen awareness and self-self-appreciation thusly:
Touching Game/ Exercise #1:
One hand touches the other.
Notice which hand is your dominant one. Let’s call it the USUAL hand.
Put it in front of you and look at it.
Feel and even say gratitudes for having this hand.
Now, put up to gaze at your non-dominant hand. Let’s call it the NON-HABITUAL HAND.
Feel and say gratitudes to this hand.
Notice the difference just this makes, being grateful to both hands.
Now, with your NON-HABITUAL HAND hand do three things, at least:
One: Your NON-HABITUAL HAND hand squeezes the USUAL hand in three places, over and over, to bring out awareness and ease and ??? in those three areas.
Rest a bit after doing these and feel the difference between the hands. And feel the difference in YOU with two hands more bright and clear in awareness.
Two: Your NON-HABITUAL HAND pets, in a stroking and friendly manner, the top, the palm and the sides of your USUAL hand.
Do this slowly and with a delight in the exploration and the sensations. Sensations in each hand.
AT THE POINT OF CONTACT:
ONE HAND RECEIVES AND FEELS,
ONE HAND GIVE AND FEELS.
SENSE BOTH, BACK AND FORTH
Rest and notice the difference in yourself overall, and the difference from hand to hand.
Perhaps experiment with the idea and actuality of “breathing into” each hand, one at a time.
Three: In some way, or ways, touch and explore with some or all the fingers of the NON-HABITUAL HAND up and down each finger of the USUAL hand, one at a time. Pinkie. Ring Finger. Middle Finger. Pointer. Thumb.
Give each at least one up and down caress/ squeeze/ exploration/ massage-like touching.
Take your time with each of these.
Keep delighting in noticing the two differences:
Hand to hand differences.
Start of the game vs now differences.
HINT: IF YOU WAKE UP IN INSOMNIA LAND, THIS CAN BE VERY KIND AND VERY SOOTHING TO YOURSELF
Touch Game/ Exercise #2
Next time you are awake at night and want to feel more peaceful..
Let one hand explore, caress and otherwise enjoy the other hand
Follow and deepen your breathing as you do this
Notice and deepen your awareness of the bed as appreciating you and hold you up as you do this
Hands, both as feelers of sensation, and as handy givers of the touch, and as skilled movers around in the world, are a HUGE part of our brain’s wiring.
To rub one hand with another sets up neurological connections that could well be vast enough to push aside the usual yammer/ worry/ and planning that fill the brain with worthless words in the head when you can’t sleep.
And, if you have a partner, and are halfway normal, you will have times when things get a little funky between you.
Sex might clear and heal, but you are too annoyed to soften and let that happen.
And so, hand touching to the rescue.
And here’s an optional game, because as the book progresses, we’ll have more and more ways to calm the waters between couples. And to sweeten the waters.
And for now, though, if you want, take this as a premise that you can explore:
Most of our “arguing” involves getting stuck in a bunch of words in our head that are either feeling sorry for ourselves, or wishing/ demanding that the other change.
There are many, many ways out of this oh, too human trap, and one of them is to simply shift the focus of attention away from your head and your wounded heart. (Another premise for you to check out: we have a real heart, full of love, joy and compassion; and a wounded heart, full of pain, bad memories, bitterness, fear, anger, all the usual crapola.)
Touch/ Healing Game #3:
IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER AND YOU JUST CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO REPAIR SOME EMOTIONAL STRAIN IN THE GAME of living with and “loving” (usually) another person….
Take YOUR TWO HANDS TO ONE OF THEIRS, and touch your way back into the present of the present
Explore, caress, massage, connect with your two hands to one of theirs, preferably the dominant, since it tends to work too hard
Moaning with pleasure is okay.
ALERT TO THE READER/ NON-DOER IN US ALL >>>>
If you haven’t at least rubbed/ explored/ discovered one hand with the other, DO IT NOW.
And here’s a game for connection, which is what we all crave, right?
Partially, again, we are mammals and meant to touch.
But this next game allows us to share our real heart with each other while touching, and that’s a rare and wonderful thing.
So, let’s give this a go.
Your partner is the first mate in this game, but if you have no partner, or want to expand this out, this can be with younger children, or adult children of the same sex, or with your parents, or with a sibling. Or a work mate. Or a friend.
It’s a little weird/ intimate, and isn’t that okay?
You decide for yourself. And venture forth if you’d like.
Touch Game/ Exercise #4
TOUCH PLUS GRATITUDES
Sit or stand across from another person.
Your partner, your child, your parent, your friend, your sibling. This could a a stretch.
Breathe deeply for three or four breaths.
And then take turns saying three gratitudes each.
Three times at least.
See what this is like.
Feel/ sense the connection at the hands.
Feel/ sense if something opens in your heart area when you share gratitudes while holding hands.
And how did it go?
AND WHAT ABOUT “ORDINARY TOUCH”
Like shaking hands?
It’s a start.
Hugging can be misused by some, and most readily welcome a chance for real and closer contact. Again, within the limits of your own comfort and willingness to stretch, find safe and kind people, and hug more.
Enjoy your day.
Week One — Day Three:
Light & Sound
We are alive.
You are alive.
As the now flows into a new now, each instant being too short to capture, but the flow of our experience in the moment is our life.
If we aren’t present to that flow, we aren’t present to our life.
So often, we loose life in an internal yammer, and an external hurry, an internal worry, and an external moving ourselves around without awareness. And life is going on. There are colors to see. People to appreciate. Our own aliveness to be thrilled about.
Play this game now . . .
I AM ALIVE Game/ Exercise #1:
Hold your breath.
Keep holding as long as you can.
Within this holding see if an awareness sparks in you: I am alive and I need to breathe to stay alive.
This is a fundamental truth, and as the saying goes, “the truth will set us free.”
We are alive.
Without breathing we die.
And breathing is very much like this ongoing, moveable, delicious now. Breathing in leads to a pause or to breathing out. Breathing out leads to a pause or breathing in.
We can direct the breath, and luckily, it flows in and out without us just fine, or we’d die in our sleep.
When we follow our breathing we have a place to put our attention.
Mindful is thrown around a lot, and one way to hone in on it, is to compare it to its opposite: mindless.
WE CAN BE MINDFUL OR MINDLESS.
Mindless is the usual life of inner yammer. Words in our head posing as “thinking”, but instead a mishmash sentences and stories and rehearsals and dramas that have nothing to do with right now. Yammering away.
And usually yammering not about how great life was yesterday, or how great life could be today. No, the usual yammer is: this went wrong, that could go wrong, this person done me wrong, that person “should” blah blah, that person “shouldn’t” blah blah, poor me, I’m so overwhelmed, I’m going to be late, and on and on and on.
And this doesn’t even include stewing over the news, which in this the time of Trump and global warming, can be a bit harrowing.
And where to go to escape this chatter, this inner yammer, this bad news words in the head non-thinking parade?
To the now, to the now, to the now, now, now.
Which is changing, moving.
Being “in the now” is like surfing, the moment is always changing and in a way, it’s thrilling to be right there with it.
Nice treat about this moment now thing: it’s always here. Changing into the next now moment, sure, but so what: this moment is always here and we can experience our lives in the ongoing changing now.
This is the easiest way: Follow your breathing.
It’s the easiest meditation.
Following your breathing is not just a great starter meditation, it’s:
A great way to do the dishes.
A great way to drive.
A great way to listen to music.
A great way to listen to another person.
A great (though quite difficult) way to read. Like now? Sure try.
And . . .
It’s equal to gratitude as a way out of trouble, worry, and inner obsession with all the ways we waste our inner attention.
Awareness Game/ Exercise #2
Sit in meditation, eyes open or closed.
Or stand or take a walk in nature.
Or lay down and let this fall into a nap if you wish.
Or do this at night if you wake up and don’t want to sabotage yourself in the usual way (a bunch of…. “I need to get back to sleep” worry words in your head)
THE GAME: FOLLOW THE SENSATION OF BREATHING IN AND BREATHING OUT. COUNT THE BREATHS UP TO SIX. THEN AGAIN. AND AGAIN.
As you breathe in notice what is shifting and changing in your body and in the flow of air as you breathe in. Relax your body a little more.
As you breathe out, smile, feel what shifts your body makes as you breathe out, feel the air going out and say….One.
Two: As you breathe in notice and sense what is happening to your body and to the air. Relax a bit more.
Breathing out, same: notice and sense your body, feel the air, keep smiling and count…Two.
Three: As you breathe in notice and sense what is happening to your body and to the air. Relax a bit more.
Breathing out, same: notice and sense your body, feel the air, keep smiling and count…Three.
Four: As you breathe in notice and sense what is happening to your body and to the air. Relax a bit more.
Breathing out, same: notice and sense your body, feel the air, keep smiling and count…Four.
Five: As you breathe in notice and sense what is happening to your body and to the air. Relax a bit more.
Breathing out, same: notice and sense your body, feel the air, keep smiling and count…Five
Six: As you breathe in notice and sense what is happening to your body and to the air. Relax a bit more.
Breathing out, same: notice and sense your body, feel the air, keep smiling and count…Six.
Then start over again at one.
If you get lost, so what? Start again at one.
Watch out for and be amused by inner yammer telling your to do better.
And if other yammer wants to come, don’t try to force it away. Instead keep the undercurrent of your attention on the ongoing now of breathing in and breathing out.
This can be VERY ENJOYABLE.
Try this for at least ten minutes. Preferably twice today.
And once is great.
Enjoy whatever length you pick.
Smile extra deeply when you catch yourself having lost the count.
As Einstein said: Show me someone who has never made a mistake and I’ll show you someone who has learned nothing.
And what is you are saying, “The hell. Who has ten minutes?”
And, try this breath counting at other times:
Well, try these three sets of times:
One BETWEEN THINGS.
Carol, my wife whom I met as part of several of the magical tools I’ll be presenting in this book, and I study meditation under an enlightened American Zen teacher of the name Adyashanti. His workshops are fairly large (and amazingly worthwhile) and he tells of his teacher, a woman in her fifties when teaching him, who was raising five children. Her “quiet” time was often walking down the hall between one child’s room and the next.
Two : SLOW DOWN, during EXTERNALLY IMPOSED PAUSE TIMES
Like a red light
Like waiting for someone who isn’t ready yet
Or, is late to meet you.
Three: THE SIMPLE TASKS OF LIFE
Putting away groceries.
Easting. (Eating is hard, you might find.)
And best of all: Listening to other people.
Awareness Game/ Exercise Life Transformative Practice #3
While listening to people, restrain your urge to say the wonderful, brilliant thing you are so anxious to say.
Count and follow your breathing while you are listening to them.
How few of us are really present with our friends, our co-workers, people in shops, and most of all . . . our loved ones, children, mate, parents.
Listen and breathe.
Listen and be present.
YOUR PRESENCE IS REALLY THE BEST GIFT YOU CAN GIVE. LOVE IN ACTION. SO SIMPLE. SO UNCOMMON. SO TRANSFORMATIVE
Enjoy the ongoing now.
Enjoy know the truth: you are alive, breathing in and breathing out.
MORE AWARENESS: GRAVITY
Awareness/ Wake Up Game/ Exercise #4:
Take a walk
Either in your house where you can watch out the windows into some nature as you walk
Don’t drive to nature. Just walk and be under the five mile high sky.
Notice your breathing and count to six
Notice gravity and which leg/ foot is pressing down into the Earth
Notice gravity and notice how the Earth is pushing up into one leg/ foot at a time
Enjoy breath plus gravity
Welcome to Life on Earth
MORE AWARENESS: LIGHT AND SOUND
Awareness / Wake Up Game / Exercise #5:
Take a walk
Count your breathing to six as you walk
Notice your feet and legs in gravity
Pay attention to what you are seeing and hearing in the moment
NOTICE THAT EVERYTHING IS CHANGING
BREATH IN/ BREATH OUT
WHICH LEG IS PRESSING INTO AND BEING SUPPORTED BY THE EARTH
THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF YOUR WORLD
This can be a lot of fun.
And notice what is missing in all of this:
Worry about yesterday
Plans for tomorrow
The usual yammer chatter of words in our head.
What is present: Earth below and our connection to it; air in the middle and our life connected and dependent on it; light and sound giving flavor and delight and variety and much much more to our lives. Gravity, air, light and sound… Life on Earth.
And the miracle of awareness to know, feel, sense this.
Enjoy your day.