One of the promises I've made to myself during this incarnation of my daily practice of joy is to lighten up. The first two years of my blogs always brought me to joy, but they weren't always joy-filled. Which is to say, sometimes I had to push through a lot of deep doo-doo to remember my joy from day to day, week to week.
That hasn't altogether changed -- but I will say that, since I have embarked on this path of intentional homelessness -- I do wear life like a much looser garment. Somehow releasing so many of the things I spent my life thinking important has made me appreciate the simple things in life so much more. And doing that makes every day, well, lighter.
A few days ago I read that the price of avocados has gone up -- just in time for Cinco de Mayo! The blame has been squarely placed on people like me -- who now eat avocado for breakfast. But really, this isn't the first time the demand for avocados has caused price fluctuations. As a lifelong avocado lover, I have long been aware of the vicissitudes of the avocado market. So when I read the article, I did not beat myself up with guilt. Nor did I run out and stockpile avocados -- which would have been hard to do anyway in this life of mine, driving from place to place. Instead, I just decided that, whatever I have to pay for avocados will encourage me to enjoy them all the more.
As anyone who knows me knows, I am a finicky eater. So for me to love something enough to eat it every day -- a teensy category pretty much reserved for eggs, arugula, spinach, dark chocolate, and avocado (though I WOULD eat potato and tortilla chips every day if my better angel didn't drop by to offer timely advice just when I'm about to dive headlong into a large crinkly bag) -- will tell you just how much I love avocados. In pretty much any form -- sliced, in smoothies, on paleo toast with cracked pepper and olive oil, and of course, in guacamole (which requires chips, glorious chips!). But despite my ardor for avocados, do I really remember to be grateful for the joy I find in them every day?
We read so many headlines -- most of which are NOT filled with good news. To be sure, the rising price of avocados is the LEAST of anyone's worries. But using that minorly bad news to remind myself to feel grateful for all the good in my life IS actually a major reminder. Because gratitude for avocados, or grapefruit, or eggs, or certainly chocolate, is easy. Much harder is to face the truly horrendous news we ready every day, and instead of letting the headlines take us down paths of fear, anger, judgment, anxiety, instead -- respond in our hearts with gratitude for all the good we do have in our lives.
But why does this matter?
There are countless books and articles out there about the "benefits" of gratitude.
When we feel gratitude, we are more present. This means that we are less likely to let the future-based fear the news can make us feel affect who we are right now. This means that we can go out into the world feeling presence and love instead of fear and anxiety.
When we feel gratitude, we open ourselves to more good. If we approach the world from a place of lack and fear, then we see it and affirm it wherever we go. But if we can be genuinely grateful for what is happening right now -- right now, the sun is coming up, and my sweet dog is sleeping next to me, and I am waking up to face a new day -- then the rest of our day is imprinted with that stamp of good. We greet everyone we meet for the rest of the day from that place of good.
I have always loved this quote by Meister Eckhart: "If the only prayer you ever say in your life is 'Thank you', it would suffice."
So, today -- in the face of all the fear we could feel about political posturing, nuclear escalation, health care, deportations, dictators -- I am going to begin by eating my avocado for breakfast in mindful gratitude for everything I have in my life. And no matter what headlines try to tempt me with fear and anger and judgment and loss of hope, I will call to mind the avocados and stay in gratitude. For, as Brother David Steindl-Rast reminds us, "It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful."