So, I've been keeping this blog for several years now. Along the way I've blogged daily, skipped it for days, even weeks at a time, sometimes caught it up, sometimes not.
I've gone looking for some one thing to be the "gratitude winner" of the day, holding it on a pedestal until some other thing ousted it from its prize place. Alternatively, I've let myself be more loose and unstructured.
This morning, while home sick from work (because exhausted), I got into a long talk with my partner Alissa about it, and other things, and realized that I've reached a new plateau in my gratitude journaling practice.
I've reached the place that is no place at all.
The who what now?
Let me explain, by diverting altogether for a few moments. As an author, and someone who writes code for a living, I'm very well aware of how ephemeral, fleeting, and elusive an idea is. I'll be in the midst of talking to someone, or doing some other thing, when suddenly that code problem I was having becomes crystal clear, or an idea for an entire novel drops in my head, right there.
And if I don't write it down, or get some traction on it, right away, it just sprouts wings and flies away.
Often when that happens, I'll torture myself, in a vain attempt to get the idea back. I even have a sort of funny mantra for it, something I tell myself, and often tell others when they find themselves in a similar situation.
"Don't think of a pink elephant."
That is, try hard to not think about a thing you weren't even thinking about in the first place. It's the mental equivalent of looking for the car keys you dropped in the darkened movie theater, while still watching the movie. A lot of the time it even works. Your mental hand slips through the detritus of spilled popcorn and sticky unmentionables, moving in a direction you weren't even considering and VOILA! You stumble across the idea, or a piece of it.
The problem with this sort of thing is that it's still a shenpa, an expectation and attachment. And whether you're successful or not, you've still been really unkind to yourself about the whatever-it-was that made you have the shenpa in the first place.
Today, just a bit ago while talking with Alissa, I realized that my entire 365 Gratitude practice had a flavor of that to it.
Because I have previously always been aiming at a sort of built construct, an end-goal. "Hey look, I blogged every day, look how grateful I was!"
But, and I say this lovingly, gently even, there's no there, there. It's not just about the words left behind, the record. Certainly, that part DOES matter, does help others. But it's also about the practice itself.
A HUGE part of the practice of gratitude has to do with what Buddhists call maitrī, or loving compassion for the self. It's one of the three jewels of the Tao, too. (The first one, 慈, t'zu. I've written about it before.)
I am often so gentle and kind to others, while being terribly hard on myself. This is not the first time I've seen this either.
What's different today though, is what I see I can do about it. I can change my approach to this long exercise I have been doing for many years now. I can keep the blog, keep writing in it, keep practicing my gratitude, but do so in the manner which also encourages me to pay attention to my self-compassion. Not because there's some level of mastery to unlock, some achievement to note, but because just like eating, sleeping, and breathing, the practice of being good to myself is vital. When? Now.