878th Week: Appreciating the Life Around You
In a recent practice, we explored what it would be like to notice that everything we encounter is conscious in its own way and that we are in relationship with everything around us. I wanted to offer some examples of those relationships here, as well as another practice. This week’s practice adds another element.
One of the things that has added profound levels of richness to my life across my adulthood has been my sense that everything I encounter is a companion along the way. For some people, my way of living is too far out there and would land in a category of “fantasy”, I’m sure. I say this because I have relationships not only with the humans, felines, plants, and stone people who are part of my life, but I also have very active—and interactive—relationships with all my gadgets. My computers are always my friends and I bring a great deal of gratitude to them whenever we work together. My kitchen has a deep sense of how much I appreciate it and my vacuum cleaner has my constant appreciation and gratitude.
This may sound way out there or even silly, and I can understand that, but I can only say that to live in relationship with all that I encounter offers me a number of gifts. First, it invites me to stay conscious of how I’m interacting with my world and orients me to stay centered, grounded, and present even when doing mundane tasks. Because I feel I’m interacting with everything around me, I’m mindful of being attentive and present to what’s unfolding. Secondly, it keeps me oriented to a sense of gratitude, which is always a gift, as it is such a heart-opening state of awareness to be in. Thirdly, it nourishes a sense of relationship, which is also heart-opening and heart-nourishing as an internal state.
I also bring awareness to my relationship with nature. When I’m in Central Park, I acknowledge all the various lifeforms I encounter along the way, appreciating their presence and the beauty they bring into my life, as well as their contribution to the ecology of the park. I also express appreciation and gratitude to the park itself, as its own unique presence, acknowledging the amazing gift it is to this bustling city.
There’s a community in Scotland, Findhorn, that has had as one of its practices expressing gratitude to the implements of gardening and cooking. I believe one of the practices used to be—and may still be—to clean and bless all the garden implements at the end of each day.
Which brings me to the idea of blessing. This needn’t be a religious or even spiritual idea. Instead, it’s a way of offering thanks and gratitude. When I think of all the various things that make my life possible, it boggles my mind, and expressions of blessing, thanks, and gratitude enrich the quality of my everyday life.
And so, for this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to play with actively acknowledging the relationships you engage in your everyday life. If you love to cook, you might start with your kitchen, or with particular implements that are part of your everyday cooking experience. Or, if you have a garden, you might choose your gardening tools. If you have objects that are special to you, you might acknowledge how much they mean to you and how grateful you are to have them share your environment.
Whatever comes to mind, the key to this practice is to notice that you are in relationship with everything around you. For this particular practice, that recognition focuses on whatever specific relationships you have chosen for this time. Remember that what you’ve chosen radiates its own presence, brings qualities of its own that touch and affect you, and that your presence touches and affects whatever you interact with during the course of your day. You participate in a constant flow of reciprocal relationship in all your daily activities.
Another key element here is to notice what happens to the quality of your inner life when you engage the world in this relational way. Also, notice what it’s like to follow a practice that asks you to be mindful of the quality of your presence as you move through your daily activities. In some ways, this is reminiscent of a mindfulness practice, where you call yourself back to an awareness of the quality of your presence again and again.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise. Be sure to allow judgments to move on through without your having to do anything about them. And, if mixed feelings arise, which they may well do, be sure to allow them, as well, and acknowledge that they are part of your wholeness. They bring information about your beliefs, conditioning, and preferences, all of which are helpful to recognize and, when appropriate, to honor. Also, please remember to respond to the complexities of your wholeness with an underlying kindness and gentleness. These are powerfully important gifts you can offer yourself along the way…