Category Archives: Gratitude

Asking is better than wishing

wishing-for-windI work part-time at a local library. Almost every day I witness a scene like this:

A child about 7 or 8 years old enters with a parent.

“Mommy (or Daddy), do they have books about (dinosaurs . . . Lego . . . dolphins . . .),” the child says.

“You’ll have to ask,” the parent replies.

The child slinks behind the parent’s leg. “You ask.”

“No, you go ahead,” the parent urges. “It’s okay. They won’t bite.”

The child peers out from behind the leg and faces the scary prospect of talking to an adult.

Last week a scenario exactly like that unfolded right beside me. As I worked I heard a young boy ask his father about a book. His father told him to ask me. The boy took some time to work up his nerve. He said:

“Do you have The Mysterious Benedict Society?

“Yes!” I said. “Right over here.” We walked together to pick up the book he wanted.

“See?” his father said. “Asking is better than wishing.”

The boy and his father left with the book and I went back to work thinking, What excellent life advice: Asking is better than wishing.

The rest of the afternoon I pondered, Have I been wishing for things without doing the asking? Could receiving those things be as simple as voicing the request?

Something to think about: Asking is better than wishing. 

Gratitude for that which endures, on Thanksgiving

buddha-board

The Buddha Board my daughter gave me for my birthday reminds me of what endures, and what doesn’t.

A few weeks ago one of my favourite bloggers, Tuesdays with Laurie, celebrated a birthday by posting a list of 59 things for which she is grateful.

I thought of Laurie’s list on Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday when the minister at my church spoke to us about gratitude. In her reflection, our minister encouraged us to ponder mindfully where we focus our gratitude. Are we thankful more often for material things that perish at day’s end—life’s manna, if you will—and do we remember to express gratitude for those aspects of our life that endure?

Laurie’s gratitude list impressed me because so many of the items on her list are those intangible qualities that a person cannot hold in a hand, and yet they somehow endure: connection, creativity, healing, safety, peace, kindness, spontaneity, imagination, comfort with being alone, dreaming, curiosity, enjoyment of learning something new . . .. Other items on her list require some physical element to achieve them but still lead to something that endures: photography, mental acuity, travel, music and singing, laughter, glasses with which to see clearly . . ..

In the comment section of her post I wrote that I’m grateful to work in a place where I see children. Their uninhibited approach to life and their infinite creativity inspires me; they are physical beings who give me a gift that endures.

Uninhibited creativity

I love the uninhibited creativity of children.

I’m grateful for inspirational books that enlighten me and brighten my days.

three-questions

I’m grateful for the Famous Five who made my life as a woman so, so much easier and more fulfilling.

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I’m grateful that my friend, Jennifer, gave me my two-word poem: Laughing Thinker.

postcard poem Arlene

And at this time of year, I’m grateful for baseball. The players, the teams, the stadiums may change, but the character development that comes from participation in sport endure.

Peanuts-Charlie-Brown-baseball-sun-600x127

Our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and pumpkin pie are almost gone already. In a few weeks the baseball season will be in the past. When that happens, this Laughing Thinker, a woman who enjoys full benefits in our society, will be pondering wisdom she gleaned from inspirational books and learning life lessons from those fabulous children she sees at work every day.

Those are wonderful gifts that endure on Thanksgiving and all year round.

From war and hardship to pleasure cruising: Thoughts on Colonel By Day

Yesterday most Canadians celebrated a civic holiday. Not every Canadian (some provinces don’t have a long weekend in August) and not all for the same reason.

Because there is no specific occasion for a holiday in August (other than it’s really great to have a long weekend in the summer) provinces and municipalities have creative licence. In British Columbia, it is British Columbia Day. (Okay, maybe not so creative.) In Alberta it’s Heritage Day. (Better, if a little vague.) In Toronto it’s Simcoe Day. (For John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.) Here in Ottawa we designate the weekend as Bytown Days and Monday specifically as Colonel By Day.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

Ottawa’s original name was Bytown, in honour of Lieutenant Colonel John By. Colonel By, a military engineer, was the first city planner, and he laid out plans for the area that has become our downtown core. He oversaw the construction of the first bridge across the Ottawa River, a vital link between the provinces of Ontario and Québec. Most famously, he engineered and supervised the building of the Rideau Canal and the lock system that connects the Ottawa River to the Rideau River. (Here in Ottawa, Rideau is pronounced REE-deau, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Pronounce it Ri-DEAU and we’ll know you’re not from here.)

Canadians first had the notion that a navigable trade route other than the St. Lawrence River might be a good idea after the war of 1812, when American/Canadian relations were a little more fraught. At the time, the unquestioned need to maintain water transportation avenues that could be protected from American attack made the prospect of carving through 125 miles of bush and swamp and rock seem not only possible but imperative.

For six years, thousands of Irish and French Canadian labourers and skilled stonemasons endured hellish working and living conditions with high incidents of accidents, disease and death to build the canal and the lock system. Malaria, of all things, was a major threat. They did it because they needed the work to survive, and they believed that their labours would ensure the survival of future generations.

These days we are at peace with the United States. These days our supplies travel by airplane or highway or train. These days, the trade route that Colonel By envisioned, that water transportation link that people lost their lives over, is a place for pleasure only. In the summer yachts fill the locks and cruise the canal.

Pleasure craft on the Rideau Canal.

Pleasure craft on the Rideau Canal.

In the winter skaters laugh as they glide way between Beavertail stands.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Rideau Canal Skateway

I wonder, what would Colonel By think of how we use his creation today? I walk beside the canal and the locks on my lunch breaks in downtown Ottawa. As I stroll in peaceful, malaria-free Ottawa,  I imagine Colonel By surveying his city from his vantage point on the great cliff at Major’s Hill Park where his house used to stand. I envision his stiff British bearing as he peers down to watch us walk and bike and boat in the same area where men suffered and died.

I wonder if Colonel By, a man who lived in harsh times, would despair at how we luxuriously and thoughtlessly take his engineering marvel for granted. Perhaps he would scowl over our carefree abandon. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he would commend us all for shaping our city into one of safety and freedom. Maybe he would give us a rousing Hurrah! for creating a vibrant, economically progressive, multicultural and compassionate city to honour his name.

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Read more Rideau Canal history here: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/history/hist-canal.html

Training ourselves to be kind

If you want to spend your day in despair over the state of humanity, the fastest route to that sentiment is through the comments section on YouTube or any other internet site.

Comments sections put the meanness, pettiness, ignorance, judgment and narrow thinking of some members of our society on full display. I simply cannot read them, or I have to spend time after giving myself a chin-up pep talk.

unfoldingSociety needs a kindness injection. And there might be a way.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest we might be able to enhance our tendency toward kindness. All it takes is some meditation, some training and some practice.

Participants in a study worked at building their compassion “muscle.” Those who did responded to others in need with caring and a desire to help. They became more altruistic.

Goodness knows we need more people like that.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is not the first to propose physical, spiritual, mental and emotional benefits of meditation; it has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase serotonin levels, reduce pain, and increase creativity and mental sharpness. Their study adds another motivational level to begin the practice.

Okay everyone? Let’s change some brains.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2543812/Can-train-KIND-Just-seven-hours-meditation-rewire-brain-claims-study.html#ixzz3xcdrISBE

Faith, whether we claim it or not

More food for thought from Bishop Steve Charleston

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“We do not know what is around the next corner.

We do not even know what will pass in our lives between sunrise and sunset. Therefore, whether we claim it or not, we live each day in faith.

We believe. We believe in ourselves. We believe in our family. We believe in others who are close to us.

Some of us believe beyond that, to name a loving power that guides us, to walk with others who pray with us. But we all believe, in some way, in our own fashion.

Let that thin thread, that simple affirmation, bind us in a shared respect. We are not strangers in shadows, but believers searching for the light.”

—Bishop Steve Charleston

unfolding

Chance treasures: Waiting for the good stuff

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”

—from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In her time of simplicity at her beach house, Anne Morrow Lindbergh discovered that when she lay empty, open, choiceless as a beach, nuggets of insight, treasures of faith materialized in her mind like seashells gifted to the beach by rolling ocean waves.

“One never knows what chance treasures these east unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind, what perfectly rounded stone, what rare shell from the ocean floor.”

Relaxing by water opens one’s mind to ideas that wash into consciousness like waves to the shore.

For the next few weeks I’ll be enjoying some time by a lake. I aim to be patient and to lie empty, open and choiceless as a beach to see what washes in.

“But it must not be sought for or—heaven forbid!—dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose.”

—from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

new-horizons