Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Risking the storms

Doesn't this look like an incredibly idyllic retreat?  I know nothing about it; just spotted it while photographing some nearby boats.  But to me it looks like the stuff of dreams...

But I wonder how the people who live there feel about it.  Do they grow immune to the pleasure and beauty of it over time?  Do they get to spend much time there?  Is it a vacation home, or a full-time residence?  I imagine the pleasure of falling asleep listening to the waves beneath the cabin.  But what would it be like in a storm?  Is this cove reasonably sheltered, or do they regularly get buffeted by fierce winds?

Or, maybe, to put it in more personal terms: if this house were for sale, at a reasonable price, and I were looking for a home, would I be tempted to purchase it?  Or would I look for a safe place, away from the wind and waves?  Because it looks to me like this house would be both more fun and more scary to live in than the average suburban residence.

I am reading this morning about gratitude, both in the Spirituality and Practice website's course on Interspiritual Meditation and in Brene Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection.  And they both point out that gratitude is more of a practice than an attitude: we need to be consciously thankful for the gifts in our lives.  And those gifts include, not just the peaceful mornings like this one, but the stormy ones as well.  Because the storms -- and the fear and anxiety that accompany them -- have their own gifts to bring us.

And here's one of the most important things Brown has to tell us about that: if we attempt to numb ourselves -- whether through drugs, or alcohol, or excessive use of the internet, or overwork, or shopping, or eating -- so that we don't feel the impact of those storms, then that numbing also makes us immune to the joys and pleasures at the other end of the spectrum.  Which in turn deprives us of the sustenance we need to get through the next storm. 

If we open ourselves to feelings at one end of the spectrum -- the emotional equivalent of buying the house on the water -- then we open ourselves to the storms as well.  But if we close ourselves to the storms -- the emotional equivalent of buying the safe house -- then we cut ourselves off from the pleasures of life as well.

We have to be willing to feel, not just the good stuff, but the bad stuff, too.  And it seems clear that if we make a practice of gratitude -- of noticing, and being thankful for, both the blessings and the challenges of life -- life will prove to be a much richer and more colorful experience. 

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