Prepare to be Amazed

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Awareness is one of the most important elements of joy. Wonderful things happen all the time. If thousands of astounding things weren’t happening inside you right now, you would be dead. People do astonishing things, too. I’ve written about some of them in this book.

Most of the time, we don’t notice the wonder or don’t stop to appreciate how awesome it all is. We notice pain, fear, guilt, danger and sadness very well. We really don’t have to give them special attention; our brains are made to remember them. If we don’t have real reasons to be afraid or sad, our brains make some up for our own “protection.” But good things slide right out of our consciousness if we don’t make it a priority to be aware.

A fabulous thing happened to me last night. A nine-year old neighbor came over for some reading tutoring. She has a lovely smile, flashing eyes and learning disabilities. After reading, she asked to dictate a thank you note for her mother, since she can’t write.  The mother has been crack addicted for maybe ten years, during which time she has had five children whom she abandons to their physically sick grandmother. When she would come by, she usually screamed at everyone and left quickly.

Five months ago, she came home because she was pregnant again, and has lived there since. But this time, she’s making a real effort and is doing better. Instead of screaming at her kids and her Mom, she is cooking, picking them up from school, caring for her new baby. Instead of cursing, she is smiling much of the time.

Here is what this nine-year-old girl told me to write: “Thank you Mother for being here. Thank you for feeding us every night. Thank you for sleeping with us at night time. I appreciate that you come to the bus stop with us in the morning. I appreciate you stopped screaming.  I appreciate you stopped fighting with Grandma.”

How touching is that? With her approval, we looked for and added a couple of clip art hearts and printed the letter out. Mother was thrilled to tears. I was grateful to have been part of it.

In fact, I’m finding that the more things I give thanks for, the more time spent in gratitude, the better everything feels.  Some people practice thinking of five things to be thankful for each day. That works. When you get used to it, it’s possible to think of five things before breakfast.

Joanna Macy, author of Active Hope, writes that we can do more than just say thank you for whatever we appreciate. Be specific. Using your food as example, think of and thank the animals and plants, the farmers and farm workers, the bees and worms, the sun and moon. Pretty soon you start to feel connected in ways you hadn’t noticed before.

Enjoy our bodies
Our bodies are our most precious gifts. Even when they hurt; even when they lose important abilities, they are managing the world for us, keeping us alive, giving us pleasure if we stop to notice good feelings.

I think the first way to enjoy bodies is to pay attention to your own.  Try to stay comfortable and relaxed, move in pleasurable ways, notice where it feels good and where it’s tight or painful. Give it some compassion and appreciation for the way it keeps going despite its difficulties.

When bodies are healthy, they can do much more. Being or watching athletes or dancers brings joy to many. Ordinary people in motion are can also be beautiful. My favorite celebration of bodies is Carnaval, a street parade and festival in San Francisco. Based on Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, the weekend is an outpouring of color, rhythm, music, costumes, and positive spirits. People work all year on their floats, their dance moves and the art they carry. It’s a beautiful day of samba, reggae and fun.

Much of Carnaval is about sex, and to me, sex is a miracle. The drive to make new life out of old life, how does that happen? What cosmic force allows two old people to come together and make a new one, a blatant reversal of entropy? Science has explanations of how eggs are kept in the ovaries for 20 or 30 years, with other cells taking care of them. But they’re still old, so how do they make new babies?

Sex must be a powerful force. Maybe it’s the same force that drives the creation of music and art; the force that connects us with the universe and everything in it. If all creatures have a common ancestor, we are related to all life through sex and evolution. We’re all cousins. (Even snails are sexy, as you can see in this video.)

Other related ways to appreciate the miracle – watch children playing. Don’t evaluate or intervene; just watch. It’s kind of like watching the meditators breathe – seeing the force of life coming through them, expressing itself in a variety of forms.  Watching our granddaughter Anaya learn, grow, and discover the world makes me feel like I’m seeing it all again through her eyes.

Astonishing things surround us. The Internet is a major source of connection and a major thing to celebrate, bringing us beauty, stories, images and information that enrich our lives. Our world is not only infinitely large and varied; it’s getting bigger and more complex all the time.

Peace and what’s beyond
When I started this journey, I was looking for peace. I thought that is what was missing. Peace is good, but I learned along the way that if all you want is peace, dying will take care of that. When you are dead, all the painful things drop away. But there is also no pleasure, nothing to do, no chance for growth. There will be peace, but being alive in a body is a precious opportunity to learn, to love, to grow.  So we should make the most of that opportunity.

It’s true that life is often hard. Horrors happen every day, and they are not likely to stop. But magnificent things happen every day too, and more wonderful ones are certainly on the way. And unbelievable, startling, totally unforeseen things will happen too. That’s life; that’s the age we are living in.  I hope you enjoy it most of the time. I hope it inspires you to realize you are amazing too, and to share your beauty with the world.

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8 Responses to Prepare to be Amazed

  1. June says:

    Thank you for this. You have given my life more significance. It is magnificent even tho I have so little to offer anymore. Just being is a miracle.

  2. Pat Gray says:

    thank you for these words of good advice for us. I really like the suggestion of us saying thank you more specifically–to think more of what we are thankful for. The note your neighbor girl wrote to her mother was so touching in her mentioning the reasons she was so happy her mother was there with the family.

    While my health is not so good right now, I still have so much to be thankful for and I will try to pay more attention to the good stuff. It is easy to get bummed out by the bad stuff that we neglect to notice the good.

  3. Patricia Monagle says:

    Such a beautiful, thoughtful piece, David. I enjoyed the way your article just naturally flowed from one vignette to the next seamlessly uniting them into one lovely tale It is truly inspirational and beautifully written. Well done.

  4. Angelee says:

    Okay, okay… so it’s taken me 2 1/2 months to finally read this blog, but is that reason enough to be dumped into purgatory? Wondering day in and day out, “What are the ways people find to “live in a constant state of amazement?”

    Page three won’t load… 😉

  5. Sorry page 3 won’t load for you Angelee. It seems to be working for other people. I will send you the page by e-mail so you can read the rest. Hope you like it.

  6. Peggy Boatright says:

    God bless you David. You are helping us to focus on what is important in life.

  7. Lore Tilley says:

    Hi David 4 Peace,

    With your amazing article you have just transformed my life, … and the awesomeness of my body. Thank you!


  8. judy says:

    I think your mumbo jumbo should be spewed somewhere else. There is no morality in this piece. Sex is not to be taken lightly. We as humans are not to act on how we feel all the time, read the bible. Your running diatribe doesn’t even come close

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