Gratitude and “The Color of Truth”

Expressing Gratitude

I love the gratitude that is expressed at Thanksgiving.  All of the earnest offerings of Giving Thanks, spoken aloud around dinner tables across the US.  The thousands of Facebook posts, where friends declare publicly what they’re most thankful for.

I, like many of you, am grateful for my health.  When I stop to monitor my unencumbered breath in, breath out, I can’t help but be reminded that I indeed have my health to be grateful for: cancer-free.  The gratitude I have around my health is as vibrant, loud, and enormous, as any hot air balloon would be to the ant crawling up its tethered rope, just before its release.

Whispers of Gratitude

But it’s the small whispers of gratitude, the ones that have silently entered my life, with no fanfare, the ones that simply flow within me, that establish my internal rhythm of gratitude.  You know the kind — the kind of thankfulness that nestles in right below the surface of your skin, on the tip of your brain, and in the bounce in your step, all occurring at the same time, although you are not consciously aware of it.

It’s the gratitude I feel when I write.  While I’m focused on forming sentences, conveying a message, exploring my Truth, connecting with you —tucked right below the surface is gratitude.  I’m grateful I am able to do what I love, day after day, and do it in the conditions I prefer: sitting in my office at home, the only noises coming from the breathing of our yellow Lab and the faint ticking of my watch.

It’s also the gratitude I feel when I free my brain and read for pure pleasure.  As I sit on the couch adjacent to my writing desk, I delight in the words of Mark Nepo.  I can flip to almost any page of The Book of Awakening, and see something similar to this:

 

Gratitude

 

Highlights galore, sections with brackets containing exclamation points, an asterisk here, double asterisks there, handwritten notes jotted in corners saying, Profound truth.  Absolutely beautiful, on December 12th and Nepo is speaking directly to me here, on December 13th.  The teachings and beautiful prose used to convey our human resilience within these pages translates to the sort of gratefulness I’m talking about — the kind that lingers within me, even when I’m no longer reading his work.

For the Truth seekers and Truth sayers out there, here is a prime example of a piece of Nepo’s work that creates such a stir of gratitude:

“The Color of Truth”

December 6
The Book of Awakening
by Mark Nepo

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched…but are felt in the heart.”  ~ Helen Keller

There is an ancient Chinese art of painting on porcelain.  It requires, more than skill and precision, a deep trust and patience in the process.  It involves painting thin layers of pigment, one at a time, on the porcelain, letting each dry and soak into the porcelain itself.  But even when dry, the pigment doesn’t yet reveal its color.  You never know what the color will be until the porcelain is fired in the kiln — that is, until the pigment is burned into the porcelain itself.

This is remarkably like the life of questions that come from living.  We use the brush of our feelings to paint our questions into our heart.  But only after the fire of experience, only after our felt questions are burned by experience into our heart, only then do we see the color of truth emerge.

So there are no answers to the deeper questions of living, only the emerging colors of truth which we must find the trust and patience to live into.”

Gratitude

Joining BIG Gratitude & Whisper Gratitude

Recently I opened my email, as I’ve done hundreds of other mornings, and found an unexpected gift.  A gift that created vibrant, loud, enormous ‘ant on the hot air balloon‘ gratitude AND whispers of gratitude that nestled in under my skin, hung out on the tip of my brain, and put a bounce in my step that is still lingering…over a week later.  Thank you, Tony, for offering me the opportunity to interview Mark Nepo on his new book, Seven Thousand Ways to ListenI am grateful for your support, for your gift, and for your friendship.

More information to follow regarding the interview with Mark Nepo, due to appear in the next publication of the Holistic Networker.

gratitude

Receive your weekly dose of Trust delivered right to your inbox!  Subscribe by entering your email — and although it goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway — I’ll never spam you — just posts.  Love, Leslie

How To Stop Feeling Annoyed

Oh, How This Synchronicity Wowed Me!

Do you ever have days when you just feel IRRITATED — BY — EVERYTHING?  Like everyone on the planet is conspiring to annoy you?

You go, sit with your cuppa tea, dog at your feet, and breathe.  (Not that this is me I’m writing about — heavens no!)

But the cuppa doesn’t help.  The breathing doesn’t help.  Okay, stroking the dog gently with my foot does help….  So I stroke some more.  I feel her warmth.  Her peace.  I rest my foot lightly on her torso, observing the rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.  Before I know it, my breath is aligned with hers.  I shut my eyes and smile.

Grateful.  Grateful.

Except, I never got to the bottom of the annoying feeling.  There was no pinpointing as to why it was there.  My guess is that some therapist would tell me the feeling would come back shortly because I didn’t identify the root cause and address it.

Perhaps.

Probably.

But what if life doesn’t have to be that complicated?  What if I’m simply dehydrated?  Or hormonal?  Or had poor sleep last night?  Or my ponytail is too tight and I just haven’t realized it yet?

Stroking the dog, aligning my breathing, those things help to calm my Being and put me in the right space to be grateful.

Pause….  At this point, I should tell you that the original title of this post was, “How to Self Soothe When You’re Feeling Irked.”  But I got here, to this point in writing, and noticed that my usual Grateful Practice wasn’t working.  So I continued to explore….

Taking it a step deeper.

Let’s say mere minutes after offering gratitude, your smile begins to fade, and annoyance sets back in.  You think, Damn, didn’t I just get rid of that?!

Hmm… this time you wonder, What’s at the root of this?  You remember a conversation with your spouse or the lack of conversation with a friend.  You recall a co-worker who not so gently gave you feedback (in your mind, code for criticized you).

If you’re anything like me, it’s typically not one event that causes this stir, but lots of little ones that have piled on top of each other, making the pinpointing even harder to identify.

Around this time, you look down on your desk and see this stone your mother-in-law gave you.  It sits to the left of your laptop as you work.

Yes, it has a nice, bright word on it, but more than the word, is the stone itself.  It shines so much it’s almost glossy.  Your brain itches with the trigger of the stone, the words shiny, glossy….

That’s it!  Polished!!

All at once your brain connected the dots and you remember Rumi’s words (because he’s one of your favorites!):

With the Laws of Synchronicity dancing around my head, here is the rest of my true story, unfolding real time.

Current Day & Time:  Tuesday morning, 6:06 AM (I’m writing this  post for tomorrow).

Reading Rumi’s quote, over and over, thinking how I’d like to conclude this post, I am struck by how the quote came to me, how the brain** works.

First, I was writing about feeling annoyed.  I thought gratitude had fixed it (it usually does).  Then the feeling reappeared.  I looked down and saw a stone.  Its shiny and glossy appearance reminded me of the word, “polished”.  Which triggered my brain to Rumi’s quote.  And with his words, there really isn’t much more to say.  That did it for me.  I don’t feel annoyed anymore.  I see.

(But I still need an ending to this post.  And a new title to go along with the shift I’ve taken.)

The peace I felt after reading Rumi’s words soothed me, reminding me in very simple words why we are sometimes irritated.  But how could I end my article like that?  Sure, those words did it for me (in this instance), but I’m here to share stories that I think will also help you.  And what if that just doesn’t cut it for you?

Feeling stuck, I distract myself by checking email.  Not because I want to, but because I feel drawn to.  (I rarely check my email when I’m in the middle of writing.)

I read the following comment from a reader, which was sent six minutes ago:

“Well that’s right on the mark, exactly what I needed today. I think I’ll go find a nice stone to put on my desk today. Love Nadia”

(Just to be clear, I’m writing this post, tomorrow’s post, in Pages, Apple’s version of Word;  this article has NOT been posted at the time I’m reading Nadia’s comment.)

You know that little feeling when your heart skips a beat?  Mine did that.

How did she know just minutes ago I wrote about a stone?  On my desk?!

And now she’s going to find a stone.  And put it on her desk.

While I was sorting out what had happened: that she was commenting on my most recent post about Stone Stepping, I couldn’t help but wonder:

Why had this synchronicity occurred?  She didn’t say rock, she said, “stone”.   She didn’t say she’d keep it on her vanity, in her car, or in her purse — she’d put it on her desk.  The wording and circumstances are much too EXACT for me to shrug them aside.

And I now see the bigger picture.

**It wasn’t my brain at work, as I formerly stated, it was something much, much larger.  It was how the Universe, how the Divine within each one of us “works,” that aligned all of these dots in order to teach me there’s something bigger than being annoyed or not being annoyed, and yes, that something is Trust.

Trust was the foundation holding everything together:  the stone, leading to Rumi, his words being the ones where I ‘got it’, Nadia’s comment mirroring back what I had just written — all reinforcing that without even making a conscious effort to Trust, I do, and therefore, Bam!  It all came together, annoying feeling gone, with the reinforcers of the Universe surrounding me.

At this point, I’ve gotta tell you, I’m laughing out loud as I type.  Can you imagine what an odd sensation this is to me?  To be writing and not know what words I’m going to type next?  To not follow tried and true writing techniques?  To ditch my subject, my title, and go with what the Universe is presenting to me real time instead?

And why would I ignore such a lesson, a blessing, a gift?

I wouldn’t.

I share this gift with you now:  Look, see, be aware, embrace.  Trust.

 

Thank you, Nadia, for sharing your comment and this gift with me.

And thank you, TLT readers, for sharing this post with others.  Lessons and gifts, man, I love this stuff!  Love, Leslie

Being Wrong Ain’t Always Bad

Doctors, Doctors, and More Doctors

Between my older son and I, we have almost every ~ologist, as he calls them, that you can imagine.

Endocrinologist, nephrologist, radiologist, neurologist, pediatric ophthalmologist, dermatologist, gynecologist, audiologist, and now, an oncologist.  Then there are the non-ologists: ENT, geneticist, breast surgeon, and a few others I’ve probably forgotten, but these are the regulars.

Although I never dreamed our family would have the need for a pediatric endocrinologist (to monitor a completely non-functioning thyroid in my son), two nephrologists (kidney doctors), a geneticist (to tie this lovely mess together for me), or many of the other doctors, I must say, I really never dreamed I’d need a plastic surgeon.

And, I’m embarrassed to say, I never knew how much I could appreciate the profession.

Plastic Surgery?  Really??

In college I had a close friend who wanted to become a doctor.  Over the years I’d watch his choices in schools, in fellowships, in specialties, always curious to see where he would land.  And after many years of basically trying it all, he chose plastics.

Plastics?, I thought.  Cool, and I do mean cool choice, but why?  He’s brilliant!  I didn’t get it.

See, I didn’t understand the depth of the profession.  I thought it was just about looks — the cosmetic stuff.  And although I certainly knew there was a reconstructive piece to plastic surgery, I suppose I really didn’t give it much thought.

To be clear, let me touch on something I just said:  “I thought it [plastic surgery] was just about looks….”  First of all, I know there’s no “just” about anything having to do with looks.  Think about how much time we spend daily showering, shaving, make-uping, fixing our hair, our nails.  Our total grooming time is substantial!  There’s no such thing as “JUST” when it comes to looks.  I do understand that.  Yet still, I never gave much credence to the plastic surgery profession.

Until I met Dr. Antonetti.

Interview MORE Doctors?

When I first met Dr. Antonetti, the man who would be performing my reconstruction, it didn’t occur to me to even interview him — that’s what little attention I gave to the role of a plastic surgeon, to plastic surgery in general.

I had done some serious homework on choosing my breast surgeon.  After our first few meetings, she leaned over her desk, handing me a list of names saying, “I only work with three plastic surgeons.  Here are their names.  After you’ve interviewed each, you can let me know which you choose.”

Interview more doctors??  No.  The process to choose her had been arduous enough.

Without glancing at the list, I handed it back and said, “You know my personality.  You choose the one you feel is right for me.”

Yes, it was an act of Trust.  It was my way of saying to her, “We’re a team.  I trust your judgement to do what’s best for me.”  And if I’m really honest, there was another element at play.  It was indicative of my dismissive thoughts on the role of the plastic surgeon.  I mean, really, if she only works with three, they all have to be good at what they do, right?  Does it really matter who she chooses?  Will it really make a difference?

I’m sure the other two would have been just fine.  Each would have performed brilliantly with a scalpel in his hand.  But now I  understand something more.  The way we look at ourselves and truly SEE ourselves is hugely important on an emotional and psychological level.  My plastic surgeon understands this.  And in his gentle, understated way, he taught this to me.

My Medical Anchor

He calls me his little Rock Star, in terms of my healing.  And although my belief system is at the core of remaining positive throughout this whole cancer chapter, he, Dr. Antonetti, has been my medical anchor.  He reminds me every week that my healing is going fabulously.  He monitors my physical well being, as well as my emotional.  And every step of the way, whenever I’ve had doubts, he has been the ever patient soul to guide me through it.

Shame On Me

How quickly we make up our minds about people, professions.  How humbling to find out we were wrong — that I was wrong.  It’s through the wrong, that I’m able to grow.  Being right all the time may feel good for a moment, but those waters will soon become stale, stagnant.

Dr. Antonetti, you tied this whole experience together for me.  You were the one who prescribed all of my medications, monitored me on them, told me when I could drive, when I could exercise, walk the dog, do yoga.  You changed all of my dressings yourself, each and every time.  And you taught me how I could see myself differently.  What an incredible lesson that I will be forever grateful for.  Thank you.

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, I went from not thinking too much about plastic surgery, to understanding that it’s what grounded my entire experience, what grounded me;  it was eye opening.

Yep.  Being wrong ain’t always bad.

plastic surgery

Grateful: The Big, The Small (and PLENTY in-between)

What do getting rid of Spanx, dog walking, hair, breathing, and Trust all have in common?

Based on today’s title, if you guessed: Things Leslie is Grateful For, you’d be 100% correct!

 

I was released yesterday by my plastic surgeon to:

  • begin light weight bearing exercise (up to 5 pounds) – yes
  • walk the dog – Yes!
  • ditch my Spanx – YES!!

For those who are unfamiliar with the lovely world of Spanx, I wouldn’t mention this to its founder, but I see them as a glorified girdle.  Although not keen on the idea of wiggling into this compression device, when the surgeon said I needed to start wearing them immediately following the surgery, on they went.

And they stayed on NINETEEN DAYS straight.  24/7 (minus showers).  Yes, that’s all day, all night.  Though they served a much needed medical purpose,** I quickly grew to loathe my Spanx.

So how did I feel when Dr. A told me I was done with them?  Elated!!  Grateful.

Moments later, he told me I could walk my dog, an activity I’ve missed terribly!  Other than the fact that both of us are starting to look rather like sausages from lack of exercise, walking Libby is when I do some of my best thinking, my best writing… in my head.  I’ve missed my alone time in my head.  With the air and trees around me, the cobwebs are swept away, and thoughts flow freely.

I’m grateful to be able to walk my dog.

 

I got my first haircut in over five months yesterday.  My hairstylist has been out with a broken ankle and I’ve been diligently waiting.  I call once a week to ask about her return, just to be reassured she’ll be back next week.  This has happened five weeks in a row.  Normally this would have irritated me to no end.  But not now.  As soon as I reminded myself that without having to undergo chemo treatments, I have hair to cut…well, talk about instant perspective adjustment.  (I went to a new person and she did a fabulous job, btw!)

I am grateful for no chemo treatments.  I am grateful to have my hair.

 

Although only two and a half weeks have lapsed since switching out the implants, I’ve already written several times about how grateful I am to be able to breathe with ease.  No more gasping for air when I talk, no more elephant on my chest, no more shooting pain in my chest from nerve regeneration (well, perhaps only once per day now; it used to occur between 5-10 times per hour).

I am ever grateful for each and every breath, so effortless, so beautiful.

 

And Trust.  I write about Trust.  I mentor on Trust.  I share written and oral stories about Trust.  I am grateful to be given the opportunity to live Trust each day.  Living Trust.  Interesting really – – – isn’t that the same as saying Trust Life Today?  I believe it is.

As far as gratitude goes, these examples of what one might slot into categories of Big and Small are just the tip of the iceberg.  As 2011 comes to an end, knowing what I know about how the past year has progressed, I can’t begin to include all of the things and reasons I’m grateful.  This has been one incredible year.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences, my stories, my words with you.  Thank you for your support and love.  I am truly grateful.

Love,
Leslie

Spanx in my right hand, Libby's leash in my left... sporting my new haircut!

** Regarding Spanx – I just realized that you may be wondering why I was asked to wear Spanx for reconstructive breast surgery.  Fair question.

It’s common procedure after mastectomy to take fat from various areas (in my case, inner thighs and hips) and inject it in the breast area to smooth out any imperfections that occurred after the initial surgery.  It makes for a more natural look.

So, there you have it – – in case you were curious.  :-)