Thursday, February 26, 2009

Being grateful TOWARD (not for) our lives

In recent days (okay... weeks), I have only had enough time to read or to write, but sadly never both!
While writing is a luxury for me, reading seems a necessity, so I am still reading. And for this post, I am borrowing (okay... cheating) to share some thoughts I can not put to paper until someone comes to rescue me from the dungeon of WaMu HP rebrand. :)

This comes from Gwenyth Paltrow's website,, and was actually posted Thanksgiving Day. Although the timing isn't quite relevant, the message rings true.

Today is a day when we are meant to give thanks - which seems quite general. In your opinion, what are we giving thanks for and how can we genuinely activate that feeling of gratitude?

Cynthia Bourgeault replies:
A: Speaking quite personally at first, I would have to say that this Thanksgiving Day I will be giving thanks in a heartfelt way that sufficient numbers of my fellow Americans were able to say “yes” to the invitation to move beyond fear and isolation and stand as a single human family on the threshold of new hope. It is a delicious moment for the world, a miracle of new beginning, and I celebrate it with all due solemnity.

When something so manifestly good and generous happens, it is natural to respond with gratitude. But in a way, the very naturalness of this response has its down side, for it appears to confirm the notion that gratitude is a response; it is evoked by a prior action. And it is exactly this notion that the great spiritual teachers of all traditions have consistently challenged. And precisely in this challenge lies our freedom.

Yes, it’s easy to be grateful when something good has been done for you (although, sadly, even this healthy human response seems increasingly under challenge nowadays in our escalating culture of entitlement and victimhood). But have you ever thought about gratitude not as a response but as a force in its own right; an initiating and healing energy that is not dependent on external circumstances but is rather an innate power of the human soul? When understood and wielded in this fashion, it has the power to liberate us from our self-imposed prisons of self-pity and envy and to actually change the energy fields (and hence, the outcome) of our circumstances.

In plain words, we can actually change our reality by being grateful first; not as a response but as an innate way of being.

It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of this motion, to learn the “not grateful for, but grateful TOWARD” motion. As in most things spiritual, it’s learned more easily in the domain of sensation than feeling. A lot of people will tell you to make up lists of things in your life to be grateful for (“counting your blessings,” as they call it). But have you ever noticed that counting blessings sometimes feels no more inspiring than counting sheep? It’s hard to cajole your feelings into logical response; feelings are not logical.

Instead, I’d suggest simply being quiet inside, paying attention to the rise and fall of your breathing, your heartbeat, the sensation of your feet on the ground or the breeze against your cheek. Let your story go for a few minutes, with all its wants and needs, and pay attention “not to what you are” (in the words of one medieval Christian mystic) “but THAT you are.” That deep sensation of “I AM” reverberating in your being is connected to the “I AM” reverberating in every other sentient being, and in all of life itself. Through it, you are connected to Being itself, and in that connection lies the true source of your abundance and the wellspring of gratitude.

My friend Kabir Helminski, a well-known contemporary Sufi teacher, summarizes this teaching well: “If you can learn to make all cares into one care, the care for simply being present, you will be cared for by that Presence, which is itself creative Power and Love.” You don’t have to conjure up lists of things to talk yourself into being grateful for; simply
tune into that living stream of Being within you and pay attention to how it moves. Gradually you will come to see that gratitude is not a response; it is a river that is always flowing through you, and that you can learn to flow with. Wherever your external circumstances may appear to be heading, it will always be carrying you inwardly toward fullness and love.

Whoever has learned the secret of proactive gratitude taps into that famous “living water” described in the New Testament, that becomes a source of healing both for one’s own life and for the whole world.

– Cynthia Bourgeault
Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, writer and retreat leader. She is founding director of the Aspen Wisdom School in Colorado and principal visiting teacher for the Contemplative Society in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Will Haskett World Tour

Happy Phi Kappa Psi Founders Day to one and all!

Okay, so the sentimental feeling probably isn't there for most frequentors of this blog, but this is the "busy time" of the year for me at work, and in the next 48 hours I will be in Houston, Toledo and Chicago to attend some celebrations. Next week it's Birmingham, followed by an extensive stay in Cabo San Lucas. I can taste the tortillas, tequilla and tecate already!

Today though, the adventure begins. Normally, I am not one for blogging from the road, but the fine folks at Hampton Inn are holding tight to their 3:00 p.m. check-in window and don't have a room. But, the business center is lovely!

It's actually been quite an eventful little day. Up at 4:30, to the airport and off at 6:40 to Detroit. To say that the flight was a little bumpy would be an understatement. Remember Stretch Armstrong? I felt like my body was made of that material, and I was put in a paint mixer. We had a triple-clutch landing. First time the wheels got close, gust of wind turned us a bit sideways. Try again, hop, and boom, finally made it down.

But, am I upset? No way. Why? Because life pays you back. Get the unexpected first-class bump on the big flight to Houston (complete with a delightful fake omelette) and a smooth ride into the land of "Do It Big." But, here's the clincher... Land, and I am the 2nd person off the plane. Walk through the terminal, down an elevator into baggage claim.

Ah, baggage claim. The place where you are mystified by people actually behaving even more selfishly than on the plane. Where the art of crowding the front is like you are trying to touch Mick Jagger's leather pants. My favorite is when some poor, small person is trying to lift a 2,000-pound bag in between two people loitering at the carousel. They drag it over the edge, knock the people a few time in the shins, but those people stand their ground. Heaven forbid they see their bag moving at a whopping 4 miles-per-hour from five feet away and can't catch it. 'Oh no, where might it go?!'
Anyways, I digress because I think it's funny. I walk down into baggage claim (first person there) and without breaking stride, my bag is the first one off the belt. I immediately grab it, walk away and then stop. My body actually shut down for 15 seconds from the shock. I had never experienced anything remotely close to that kind of efficiency in an airport. My pants could fall down during my speech tonight and I would still be smiling.
Well, off to double buckle my pants...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

hearts, rainbows and unicorns

Will, you are a tough act to follow! I am so hesitant to top this sweet Valentines Day post so I am going to keep mine short.
We had a great 10th (gads!) Valentines Day, which started with some delish Apple Strudel Pancakes cut into heart shapes of course, and a long walk with our Gracie, who also snuck a pancake or two herself. We had an early (3:45) "dinner" at St. Elmo's where we pigged out on the incredible cuisine (ahi tuna, filet, shrimp cocktail, king crab macaroni and cheese, Goose Island....) to the point where I wondered if I could swallow another sip of water without one of my pants buttons popping off and nailing Will between the eyes (albeit a hilarious visual). After, we saw Coraline in 3D. The glasses have a come a long way and were surprisingly comfy and cute. The movie was beautifully done, perfectly creepy and a true treat to watch. Check it out...with someone you love.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day.... Early

Well, a long layoff without the male voice of the family posting on here. You would expect that in travel and college hoops season. Life is crazy!

But tomorrow, we get to celebrate Valentine's Day, and as much as I shrug off the importance of this day like every other wannabe-macho man, it's nice to have a holiday to really make you think about love and how it has shaped your life. So in that regard, thank you Hallmark! Instead of stimulating the economy and buying a $3.95 folded piece of pink paper, let this be my public Valentine to the love of my life...

I always joke that I wasn't hugged enough as a kid (I'm kidding Mom & Dad!), but my beautiful wife has brought the concept of love and affection to a different level in my life. For every bad day, there is a hug. For every good day, there is a hug. For every normal day, there is a hug. You take those for granted when you are younger and immature. My wonderful wife never has. She fits perfectly in my hug, something we have always noticed over 10+ years of practicing hugs, and it never gets old. Thank you baby, for hugging me.

I look back at pictures of Mandy and I when we were in high school and laugh. What were we thinking? How did I become me? How did she become her? How did we become us? My amazing wife might be the single best judge of character I know. While we have battled through our own lives, developing our sense of self and becoming the people we are today, she has been right there with me. She continues to point out the good and work with the bad because she sees something that maybe I can't see myself. It's taken me a long time to accept that, but I love her for it every day. Thank you baby, for sticking with me.

My wife loves love. It is the aura around her and the bounce in her step. While she is amazed at my ability to stay calm in almost every situation, I am more amazed at her ability to be emotional at the same time. She loves me and she loves cheese. She loves Grace and she loves fresh-cut grass. She loves her family and she loves coffee on Sunday mornings. If their was an ambassador of love, she'd be appointed without a Senate hearing necessary. And in her own way, she has had more of an impact teaching me about love than she'll ever know. Convincing me to get a dog may have been her final exam, because nothing has taught me more about unconditional love like our furry G. Thank you baby, for love.

On our first Valentine's Day date in 1999 we..... ummm..... yeah....... I think we went to Puccinis (safe guess). Either way, here we are now and we would take a meal at Puccinis any day of the week if it meant we would be together. I love my wife more and more each day and am the luckiest guy in the world to share Valentine's Day with her again for the 10th straight year!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"..Apple bottom jeans; boots with the fur..."

In the time that has passed since our last post, we enjoyed a winter wonderland in the Midwest, and as of this morning, it's all gone except for what my dad calls "parking lot tits"-- large heaps of snow that will melt in June. Charming, right? :)

We have stayed cozy by cooking, building snowmen (well, man), snow-swimming with Gracie, and hanging out with good friends. Here are a couple pics.