A weekend of gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought I’d write a post about gratitude.  This was a weekend full of gratitude for Diana and me.

We spent Saturday at an all-day meditation intensive at Eldorado Yoga Ashram.  This was my first intensive, so I was a bit hesitant about spending an entire day meditating.  I kept bugging my wife all week about what it would be like.  Would I be able to do it?   What clothes should I wear?  Would I embarrass myself doing yoga with a bunch of yogis?  I had been doing some 1 hour meditation classes up there, but wasn’t sure I would be able to spend a whole day meditating- especially since it was a day of silence.

It turned out that the theme of the day was gratitude.  I had learned the Gratitude Meditation that was taught there in my class, so I had a leg up there.  And there were plenty of (silent) breaks for snacks and absorbing what we had been experiencing.  We got to spend time with the Sri Shambhavananda – the founder of the ashram – during some of the sessions which was a real treat.  By the end of the day, my hips were sore from sitting and I was having trouble with some of the meditations (because I kept thinking about how sore my hips were), but I am very grateful for the experience and look forward to the next.  It was a time of wonderful music, meditation and inspiration.  I learned some new things and enjoyed meeting and (not) talking to some wonderful people.  And, I didn’t embarrass myself in the yoga class!

Sunday was a different gratitude experience.  On the Sunday of Thanksgiving week, our church celebrates “Gratitude Sunday” where some members of the church are able to get up before the congregation and tell what they are grateful for in their lives.  I offered to be one of the speakers this year.   The two other speakers were amazing – one talked about the medical scare he had this year with his newborn baby and the gratitude he found from that experience, and the other talked about her past and what gratitude meant to her.  She also sang an amazing song that she wrote.  (I am truly in awe of people who can write music and sing).

I’ve been through a lot the past couple of years, but through it all, I’ve found so many things to be grateful for.  Here’s what I said (more or less):

“The last 2 years have been quite a roller coaster ride for my wife Diana and me. In 2014, we both lost our fathers, one expectedly and the other not. Losing a parent is never easy – expected or not. It brings up all kinds of emotions – some good, some not so good – and we’ve had to deal with those. But, there were some bright spots to 2014 also. Our oldest son, Geoff, graduated from college and is living on his own. And last fall, Diana and I finally got to take the honeymoon we never had, after 25 years of marriage. I’m grateful for the lives of our fathers and the joys of our life together.”

“2015 brought more ups and downs. In February, I was diagnosed with intermediate-grade prostate cancer and to top that off, in September I had hernia surgery. Over the last 10 months, I’ve been poked and prodded, undergone radiation and surgery, had way more doctor visits than I would have liked, and am still dealing with the side effects of testosterone deprivation (or as we call it – The Evil Lord Lupron). But, I’m grateful that this all seems to be working. My PSA is down, my hernia no longer hurts and generally I’m feeling pretty good. I’m looking forward to 2016 as the start of a full recovery.”

“During my cancer journey, I have been blessed to hear from other church members in the reluctant brotherhood who shared their prostate cancer experiences with me. It was a great help while I was discerning what treatment was best for me and I’m grateful for their continued concern and support. I’m also grateful for other cancer survivors who understand the fear and uncertainties that this disease brings, and who have reached out with their loving kindness to Diana and me.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunities this church provides for me to serve. It’s been a good distraction at times from worrying about my health issues. There are so many opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of – organizing the highway cleanup, serving in the EcoMinistry, organizing progressive dinner, helping in the soup kitchen (which I’m doing right after the service), and attending small groups. I encourage you all to take advantage of the many opportunities this church provides – you won’t be disappointed.”

“Despite hard times, there are always things to be grateful for and acknowledging those is good to do. After my brother-in-law died of cancer more than 10 years ago, his youngest son who was in his early 20s at the time started an annual fundraiser for the hospice center that had cared for his father. The theme of the Party for Poppa K is “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This year, he raised 15,000 dollars for hospice in gratitude. That’s some pretty tasty lemonade.”

“Soon after I was diagnosed with cancer, I started a daily meditation practice as part of my healing. I had watched Diana meditate every day for the past several years, but never thought it was something I would do. (I was more annoyed that I felt I had to be quiet and tiptoe around – something that was all in my mind, not hers.) It’s funny how adversity can open new avenues for us. Meditating has reduced my blood pressure and my stress. It’s been a new way for Diana and I to connect on a very deep level. Shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, I was given this prayer shawl by this church’s knitting ministry. I use it every day when I meditate. I’m so grateful for the love with which it was knitted and feel the warmth of the congregation as I sit and meditate.”

“At one of my meditation classes, I was introduced to the Gratitude Meditation where you meditate on what you are grateful for.  As you express your gratitude from your heart, you lift it up to the heavens so that it can be shared with the rest of the universe. I’ve incorporated this practice into my daily meditations, because I have so much to be grateful for.  So, I’ll close today and share a Gratitude Meditation with you:”

“I am loved. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been able to live already – I truly have been blessed with a wealth of opportunities and experiences.  I’m grateful for my wife, Diana, who is a source of strength and love for me – even while these ordeals have taken a toll on her.  I’m grateful for my sons – Geoff and Patrick – and the care and tenderness they have shown me through this time. I’m grateful for my siblings and cousins and extended family for their support. I’m grateful for my parents and the life and love they provided for me. I’m grateful for my friends near and far who have expressed their support for me and for people who I don’t even know who have been praying and saying healing mantras for me.  I’m grateful to the physicians and their assistants who are curing me. I’m grateful I have a house to keep me warm, food to nourish me, and a job with a good boss that makes those things possible. I’m grateful for my bees, which provide wonderment and honey. And I’m grateful for this church community, which gives me an opportunity to serve and surrounds me in love. Truly I have been blessed and I now share that gratitude with you.”

Amen.

Namaste.

I wish you all the best this Thanksgiving season.  I hope you are able take some time to think about what you have to be grateful for and share that with the universe.

 

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5 Responses to A weekend of gratitude

  1. Julie says:

    Well said, Don!

    A number of years ago, an immigrant neighbor of ours told us the story of how he came to this country and the obstacles (both figurative and literal) he overcame. In the 20 or so years he’s been here, he’s made a comfortable life for himself and his family, and he said something profound that has always stuck with me. “Everyone is so busy climbing the ladder and looking at the people on top, and they get jealous and frustrated. People should spend more time looking back to see how far they’ve come.”

    You and Diana have had such a roller coaster of a time, but you are so blessed to have each other and the support of friends. And through all this, you still take time to be generous toward others! You’re an inspiration!

    Thanks again for this great post. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • Don says:

      That’s a great story and speaks to the fact that we not only need to stop and smell the roses (and look at all the bees ;-)), but also think about all we have and where we’ve come from. Especially those of us who live fairly comfortably – most people do not.

      I used to run the Sunday Soup Kitchen at our church (which wears on you after a few years), but now I enjoy helping out occasionally – especially for the Thanksgiving Meal with turkey and all the fixings. It’s heartbreaking to see the same people come in year after year – many with severe mental health issues that are not being managed or treated well. Yesterday it was a joy to see my son and his girlfriend helping out as well as many other kids – some of them Haitian immigrants/adoptees. The kids get so much out of helping and seeing how fortunate they are compared to the people they are serving. There was one homeless woman who pitched in to help when the water pitcher ran dry. She came back into the kitchen with a huge smile on her face (and not many teeth in that smile), saying she’s thankful for what we do and was so happy that she could help out. Those are the moments that make it all worth it.

      I’ve especially been thinking about all the places I’ve been able to travel to in my jobs. Those are experiences that most people don’t get. Heck, I was in Tibet in 2009 – how many people get to go to Tibet! There I saw the most devout people I’ve ever met – people with little to nothing spending a few coins on some yak butter to pay homage to their deities. I wished I had known what I now know about Buddhism/Shaivism – it would have made me appreciate the experience even more.

      But the thing I am most grateful for is my family and friends. All the rest is just (Thanksgiving) gravy.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family (and your bees!)

  2. Carol says:

    Through my tears I am writing this comment. Thank you. Thank you so much for the gift of this post. You and Diana are inspirations to so many people- and I feel so grateful that Den and I have gotten to know you both through your musings and postings, both serious and silly. Laughter and tears- and laughter through the tears and vice versa- you and your family are very special to me. Thank you. Here’s to the joyous gratitude that you are in our lives!

    • Don says:

      I didn’t mean to make you cry. 😉 You and Den are part of the family I’m so thankful for and I’m glad we’ve reconnected in the last few years. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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