Gratitude for that which endures, on Thanksgiving


The Buddha Board my daughter gave me for my birthday reminds me of what endures, and what doesn’t.

A few weeks ago one of my favourite bloggers, Tuesdays with Laurie, celebrated a birthday by posting a list of 59 things for which she is grateful.

I thought of Laurie’s list on Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday when the minister at my church spoke to us about gratitude. In her reflection, our minister encouraged us to ponder mindfully where we focus our gratitude. Are we thankful more often for material things that perish at day’s end—life’s manna, if you will—and do we remember to express gratitude for those aspects of our life that endure?

Laurie’s gratitude list impressed me because so many of the items on her list are those intangible qualities that a person cannot hold in a hand, and yet they somehow endure: connection, creativity, healing, safety, peace, kindness, spontaneity, imagination, comfort with being alone, dreaming, curiosity, enjoyment of learning something new . . .. Other items on her list require some physical element to achieve them but still lead to something that endures: photography, mental acuity, travel, music and singing, laughter, glasses with which to see clearly . . ..

In the comment section of her post I wrote that I’m grateful to work in a place where I see children. Their uninhibited approach to life and their infinite creativity inspires me; they are physical beings who give me a gift that endures.

Uninhibited creativity

I love the uninhibited creativity of children.

I’m grateful for inspirational books that enlighten me and brighten my days.


I’m grateful for the Famous Five who made my life as a woman so, so much easier and more fulfilling.

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I’m grateful that my friend, Jennifer, gave me my two-word poem: Laughing Thinker.

postcard poem Arlene

And at this time of year, I’m grateful for baseball. The players, the teams, the stadiums may change, but the character development that comes from participation in sport endure.


Our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and pumpkin pie are almost gone already. In a few weeks the baseball season will be in the past. When that happens, this Laughing Thinker, a woman who enjoys full benefits in our society, will be pondering wisdom she gleaned from inspirational books and learning life lessons from those fabulous children she sees at work every day.

Those are wonderful gifts that endure on Thanksgiving and all year round.

Riding the tiger

Photo courtesy of jinterwas on Flickr

“The one who rides the tiger can never get off.” —Chinese proverb

What does that ancient wisdom mean to you? After I stumbled upon the proverb recently I found different interpretations.

1.Once you decide to tackle a powerful challenge, you can never give up.

Very few people choose to “ride the tiger,” or take on powerful challenges. Why would they, when a comfy life without peril is an option? Most people choose paths with multiple outlets,  and contingency plans. Safe, but not very interesting. Those who do step up to the fierce and noble animal must do so knowing that they are in for a wild ride that they must see through to the end.

2. If you connect yourself with something dangerous, it will attack you if you decide to disengage.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” Michael Corleone says in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. We need to choose our companions carefully, because the dangerous ones don’t want us to stop the wild ride. Wrong associations, drugs, bad business deals, and many other choices entrap us. They are a tiger that allows petting at first but once mounted shows its fangs.

3. Once you set yourself on the path of enlightenment, you will not be able to stop. 

“One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions,” Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr wrote. He wasn’t referring to spiritual growth but it applies, because once a person opens up to enlightening ideas, they can never go back to the way life was before.

4. People often set off on paths that lead them to get trapped by their own wants, desires or prejudices.

Life can eat us alive. The title, position, status, or persona we have built may choke us, but we refuse to relinquish it.We may take on more and more until we are overloaded and incapacitated. We refuse to stop or escape, making us a prisoner of our own keeping.

5. Society is addicted to technologies and science.

We rely on our fume-spewing automobiles. Could we imagine life without our power-depended gadgets? Each scientific advancement brings the need for more science to solve a new problems born out of the new technology, in an endless quest for utopia.

That’s a wide variety of interpretations for sure, and all apt in their own way. What does riding the tiger mean to you?


New beginnings and the power of habit

September—the word, to me, is a calling-to-attention for my brain. After allowing said brain to go fallow for most of the summer, September re-snaps my focus. Forward momentum rolls on new beginnings.

This year in particular the “new beginnings” theme resonates with many of my friends and acquaintances. With the whir of the passing of time come new retirements, new jobs, new universities, new courses, new living arrangements, new projects  or new health challenges. Around me friends and acquaintances thrive or survive in changing circumstances, finding ways to fill empty spaces or empty full spaces. Like unicycle riders, afraid, excited, overwhelmed or uncertain, they hold arms out for balance and find a way to peddle forward.

9780385669757In such times, the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg comes to mind. At times of upheaval we need to mindfully form or change our habits to shape our days in the most positive way.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down the three-step loop: Cue, Routine, Reward. A habit is triggered by an external cue (a particular location, a time of day, a certain mood, other people, or an activity), the external cue sets a routine in motion, and at the end, we receive a reward. For example, an alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., a person puts on jogging clothes and goes for a run, and then enjoys the runner’s high and a strawberry smoothie. Or, at 3:00 p.m. every workday, a person, bored and restless, leaves the desk and visits the vending machine for an afternoon chocolate bar boost.

Many of our habits serve to sustain us as we navigate daily life. Putting on our clothes, making our toast, or driving our cars requires a series of habits. The first time we do any of these, we think through each step. Cued by a feeling of cold, a hunger, or a need to get from one place to another, we work through every step of managing buttons, setting the right toast preferences and backing out of the garage. Eventually these routines become automatic “habits,” so our brain doesn’t need to think about them anymore. In other words, we need habits or our brains would be overwhelmed. “Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”

Because habits are so necessary, and because our brains are constantly seeking to create new ones, habits have a powerful influence over our lives. And once a habit takes root, it doesn’t disappear. Duhigg writes: “. . . unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”

What it means for us? We can examine our daily lives, identify our habits, figure out which ones serve us well and which ones could bear re-routing, especially during this autumn time of new beginnings.


Labyrinth: Ready, Release, Receive, Respond, Reflect

I spent the weekend at the Galilee Retreat Centre in Arnprior, ON. It is a multi-faith “welcoming holistic spiritual life centre that is an oasis of peace, care and comfort.”

Part of the labyrinth at the Galilee Centre

Part of the labyrinth at the Galilee Centre

While there, a person may choose to walk the labyrinth. According to the Labyrinth Society, a labyrinth is “a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation.” Unlike a maze, which is a complex puzzle created to confuse or challenge, a labyrinth is a single path with a clear destination. A labyrinth doesn’t confuse: it clarifies.

Labyrinths are not some New Age loopy out-there phenomenon. They are an ancient tradition, and walking one can soothe a scattered soul. Different people need different things, so there are no firm “how to” rules for a labyrinth. But if you’re unfamiliar with the practice it might be helpful to make use of the five Rs: Ready, Release, Receive, Respond, Reflect.

  1. Ready. Before entering the labyrinth, think about a question you have, a worry you’re carrying or an intention. Come up with a phrase, a word or a question to carry in your mind.
  2. Release: Enter the labyrinth and walk at a pace that is comfortable for you. Don’t overthink it. Just walk. As you walk silently repeat the phrase, word or question that you chose.
  3. Receive: When you reach the centre of the labyrinth, stop there. Spend some time receiving whatever comes to you in whatever way it comes.
  4. Respond: Leave the centre of the labyrinth and as you retrace your steps out, respond to what you received.
  5. Reflect: When you finish the walk, spend some time reflecting on the experience.

As you can see by the picture, the Galilee Centre labyrinth is grassy with stones outlining the path. From my labyrinth walk on the weekend, I learned this:

  • The path is not always clear.
  • There are weeds on the path.
  • There are flowers on the path.
  • Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever reach the destination.
  • Sometimes you think you’re almost there, but then there is an unexpected turn.
  • At the destination just “Let It Be.”
  • You don’t need to make the path.
  • You don’t need to tend the path.
  • You just need to walk the path.
  • If you’re really lucky, at the end of the walk there will be a dragonfly on your shoe.
Credit: Pascal Gaudette (Doundounba on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Credit: Pascal Gaudette
(Doundounba on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Believe in the positive: The Cathie Barash Blog

I am enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off I am sharing posts from some of my favourite blog sites. Today’s is from The Cathie Barash Blog. I love the final quote: “Children are happy because they don’t have file in their minds called ‘All the Things That Could Go Wrong’.”

Believe in the Positive

I’m sure we’ve all had our turn at disbelieving the power of positive thinking, and finding negative thinking to be more realistic. In actuality, negative thinking is the lie that tells us that we aren’t smart enough or deserving in some way and . . . read more here . . . Believe in the Positive

The 11th Summer of My Discontent: Roughwighting

I am enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off, I am sharing posts from my favourite blog sites. This week is from Roughwighting: Life in a flash – a weekly blog on daily living. This is a story that anyone with a sibling can relate to.

The 11th Summer of My Discontent

It all began on the Saturday of the Tri-County Swim Meet. A glorious turquoise sky bled into the waters of the pool where people screamed in excitement as my brother won trophy after trophy, culminating … read more here . . . The 11th Summer of My Discontent

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