Monday, November 26, 2012

After my tongue-in-cheek Turkey Day lament, I thought I would post something that speaks to authentic gratitude...mostly because my Thanksgiving turned out to be a pretty amazing 24 hours, during which I was reminded of all the things for which I am, indeed, thankful.

Josh Korda of Dharmapunx NYC did a modern riff on the traditional Theravadan Buddhist reflection. Thanks, Josh, for the modernity of your words.

Incalculable are those forced to toil without end, and who are driven by hunger and want.
I have enough to sustain my body and time to give it rest.

My day began at 4:30 in the morning, when I felt a gentle nudge on my shoulder. My four year old daughter was standing next to the bed, and whispered, I can't sleep. I sent her back to her room. "It's too early. I need some rest. We've got a busy day." And then I heard her, tossing about from the other side of the house...and I remembered that feeling as a child, of waiting awake in the dark for the sounds of movement, the loneliness of being alert in a house where everyone else was dormant, and I was moved out of bed. I crept back to her room, watched as she peered at me in relief, and I took her tiny hands. I slipped her coat off the hook on the wall, and grabbed her snow boots. Where are we going?

The only thing open on Thanksgiving Day at this hour of the morning is a doughnut shop down on Main Street, a few blocks from our home. I sipped a cup of bitter coffee while she ate a vegan chocolate cake doughnut with orange and brown sprinkles, and downed a cup of apple juice. She was delighted.

As we left, I ran ahead to open the car door for my daughter, cradling a doughnut for her brother. I turned just in time to see her spin around, and wave to a homeless man, counting change to buy a cup of coffee as he walked in to the warmth of the doughnut shop. He looked back at her tiny, beaming face. He smiled gently, came back through the door, and said, You have a Happy Thanksgiving, Sweet Pea. She nodded and wished him well in return.

Countless are those are born without physical or mental health.
I have been born with all limbs and faculties complete.

I went home, threw on my bibs and a workout shirt, and headed to Breakaway for my morning training ride. Pyramid intervals with Zach. I was about to earn my pecan pie. I changed in to my spinning shoes, and checked my blood sugar one last time. The guy next to me glanced over, seeing my bibs and meter. You must ride for Team Type 1? He unzipped his jersey to reveal a medical alert medallion. I've been diabetic for 34 years, with no complications. I blame it on the bike. No more racing, but I still ride five days a week. You guys are awesome. What you do? It's amazing.

We sat alongside one another and rode out a brutal session in the studio. 

Many are those who live in lands of strife and conflict, and who are deprived of security and safety.
I am living in a place where there is peace.

I turned on NPR on the way home, and listened as The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee stated that former CIA Director David Petraeus had agreed to testify to Congress about the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. And then, I remembered the sadness of this picture, both because this young woman was living in the middle of such violence and, more importantly, because she felt the sting of judgement for a faith misunderstood by many. I wished that I could reach out to her and assure her that no thinking American would assume otherwise.

Without number are those who live in regions where the light of the truth does not shine and its message is not heard above the racket of doctrines that cause suffering.
I have heard the good teachings.

I enjoyed the rest of the night in the company of my family. My daughter rode her bike with her beloved Great Aunt, and I sat and had a glass of wine with my father, who I don't see nearly often enough. My son lost a loose tooth, much to his delight. My Uncle laughed and told stories about me as a young child. In the warmth of that kitchen, in the sanctuary of family, my children played and giggled and chased the dog.

I saw that scores of people were waiting in the cold. Not for food or clean water or a much needed place to sleep. They were waiting for doors to open at Best Buy and Target and Wal-Mart. They were caught in the net of consumerism, in the idea that "more is always better," and that there is always something else a person requires to be content. I was glad to know have more than enough. I was glad that my husband and I belong to a faith that rejects those notions, and that we have refused to impart those values to our children. Instead, we retreated to our tiny, minimalist home and read stories, curled up on the old sofa with a warm cup of tea.

Truly precious and great are the blessings I enjoy.
Here I contemplate on my good fortune and the good of others.
To repay these gifts, I will use my efforts to overcome the obstacles of hatred, greed and delusion.

Afterward, I settled in with my husband, and watched this documentary. I had wanted to see it earlier in the week, but hadn't found the time. Thanksgiving was, perhaps, the perfect night to watch the film, which follows several young children and their families, and documents their lives as they struggle to survive in extreme poverty. If you've not seen it, you should.

I live in abundance. I have a lovely home of my choosing. I have beautiful children and a caring family. Our pantry is filled with good foods that nourish their body and spirit, as opposed to dead foods...or nothing at all. We are raising our kids in a place of peace, and with all the resources a child might require. My son, had he been born a world away or in a family without the same means, might never have spoken a word...might have been relegated to an institution. Instead, he is getting an education and has a college fund. My daughter might have died from a seizure. Instead, she has access to quality health care. I might not have been granted access to the tools I need to manage my diabetes. I might be blind, or in renal failure, or deceased. Instead, I get to race my bike.

The things we most need are not the things for which so many line up. Namaste.

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