Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: November 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Thankful for Enough

This time of year we usually sit down to a table abundantly filled with all the trimmings and gorge, a way of celebrating the many things for which we are thankful. So not to be too materialistic, “family and friends” usually tops the list of our thankful list, followed by the many things we have that keep us safe and warm and protected. Good stuff – nothing wrong with that.

This November, after having spent nearly an entire year with my view flipped upside down by Brene Brown exposing me to the way we live in a culture dominated by theoretical scarcity, it changes Thanksgiving. Scarcity tells us that we have what others do not, so we ought to be thankful. That line of reasoning ignites a fear in us that, perhaps, the tables could be turned. We could be the ones living without these things. So we should be thankful for what we have.

That’s not gratitude. That’s fear.

“Show an appreciation or risk loosing it.” That’s the dominant mindset of our typical American Thanksgiving. (And, oh, how often have I used that mentality in dealing with my children?! I hate when my writing means I have to start living my values.)

We sit at our tables on Thanksgiving day, often holding with tight fists the things we love most, declaring our thanks to them and holding them up for display. We have this. And we may not have that, but we do have this. And this.

Take out scarcity, and what do we have? If we believed in the concept of Enough – that the world is big enough to hold us all, that God and the universe can supply all our needs, that life is not a Zero Sum game – how would our posture change?

I think we would begin to realize we don’t have a corner of the market and we don’t have to mark of our territory. We don’t even have to fear loosing our blessings, that if we’re not thankful enough God will pry them from our fingers and hand them off to the next guy.

I think we would share more. I think we would open our tables and our hearts. I think we would live with a sense of humility, that what we have isn’t always a direct result from our hard work. I think we would celebrate a shared victory and even root on those around us – perhaps even those different from us.

Isn’t that what the Pilgrims and the Indians thing is all about? Two groups of people who lived as if the land could support both of them? These folks decided, instead of killing off another group to have what they have, to believe there was enough for everyone at the table. The original Thanksgiving was a day when Scarcity Theory didn’t win. They sat down to their turkey and stuffing (not completely true) and saw they had enough. They didn’t have to fight. They could choose harmony over hatred, and collaboration over competition.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can approach the table with open hands. Not with eyes on what others do or don’t have, but with what lies in front of us. This year I’m thankful for enough. There hasn’t been a day this year that we have run out of what we needed. Money in the checkbook, energy at the end of the day, love in our hearts, even health in our bodies (said the same time that pneumonia is ravaging one of us in this house). We still have enough.

We don’t have it all. But we don’t need it all. We only need enough.

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The Woodcarver

I’ve been reading a lot of Parker Palmer (A Hidden Wholeness, The Active Life) and in both of his works, this poem shows up. I love the reflection it takes me on in my own approach to my life – my work, my mothering, even keeping a house.

I hope you enjoy.


 

Chuang Tzu: “Poem of the Woodcarver”

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
and begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

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Hitchhikers, the News and Normal

When JJ and I were expecting the last baby, we were to deliver at a hospital downtown Dayton, where JJ had not previously visited. I requested a practice route, in fear I might be a tad busy laboring to give directions when the time came. So we drove to the hospital, up the ramp where I pointed to the parking garage, and back down again, headed to Thai 9. Just a typical date night for pregnant people, yes?

While at the stoplight, a gentlemen knocked on our window and explained he had just been released but no one was available to pick him up from the hospital. He had been treated for internal bleeding and didn’t feel he had the strength to walk the 3 blocks home and asked for a ride.

We, the small town people, did not know what to do. We looked at each other with eyebrows raised and came to a consensus of “Ummm….” Finally, in an effort to ensure safety, JJ asked the guy to show him he had nothing in his pockets and invited him to get in the back seat. JJ pointed out how extremely pregnant I was, and drove him the 3 blocks.

Later, we discussed this course of action. It was my first hitchhiking adventure and JJ’s first, if not ever, than at least with impregnated wife in tow. Did we feel safe? Should we have done it? What could have happened?

I explained that, for the most part, I felt fine with it. First, because we were driving the Pilot, which had withstood a mighty hailstorm, yet wasn’t valuable enough for the insurance company to fix, so we drive it around looking like a golfball. Clearly the dude was not going for a hijacking.

Next, I brought up the fact that the only hitchhiking stories we ever hear about tend to be the ones which go wrong.  Hundreds and thousands of people offer rides to strangers every day and it never makes the nightly news. Why? Because it’s not newsworthy. Nothing happened. Two (or more) people rode in the same car and they happened to not know each other prior to the car ride. How does that change people’s lives? It doesn’t. You can’t put an exclamation point on that story.

Fear grabs hold of us when we believe headlines are the only indication of our reality. The news is not a gauge of our normal lives, it’s a reflection of the abnormal things that happen in a given period of time. News is the exception to the rule. No one wrote a press release when your car started this morning. You didn’t update your status when the shower was warm or that you ate a bowl of your favorite cereal.

There’s a real danger in living by the fear established through a highlight reel – not in the dangers it describes, but in the kind of life it will lead us toward. You become addicted to playing out what could happen, and we live in a world with endless possibilities. That internal game can suffocate you if you’re not careful.

There’s a healthy place for fear, as Inside Out described. But don’t let it drive the bus. Don’t believe it’s the only way to see things. You can exercise common sense without making everyone the enemy.

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