It's always easier for me to be grateful to someone else than to be grateful for my own good heart. And yet we all have such good hearts.
On today's Wake Up Call, which is prerecorded, I want to offer space and time for you to be grateful for your good and beautiful heart. I hope you give yourself that time and space.
You can listen to today's recorded Wake Up Call here, and wherever you get your podcasts.
Hi everyone, it’s Judi Cohen and this is Wake Up Call #327, for November 25, 2021, U.S. Thanksgiving Day and the day before Native American Heritage Day. Today I want to offer a short talk and combined meditation – just about 10 minutes, total. I hope you enjoy.
Last week in this “Gratitude Mini-Series” I’ve been offering, I talked about what I’m calling the 5 Habits of Highly Grateful Lawyers: slow down, remember we’re just here for a moment, be humble about privilege & wealth, practice mental subtraction, and practice gratitude out loud. Today I’d like to suggest we point towards the parts of ourselves we’re grateful for.
This might not come easily – I know it doesn’t come easily for me.
It’s almost like, no matter what I’m doing or how well I’m doing, no matter how much I do for others or for the planet or to wake up as a white, Jewish, woman, I feel like I can definitely do a little bit better. I think of Suzuki Roshi, the founder of San Francisco Zen Center, famously saying, “You’re all perfect the way you are and you could all use a little improvement.”
But in that delta between whatever we’re doing to take care of ourselves, each other, and the planet…and what’s possible; and in the even greater delta between what’s possible and what’s needed; still, there’s room for gratitude.
So right now, take a moment and call to mind something you’ve done for someone else in the last hour maybe, or day, or week, or month. It might have been as small as holding open a door, or making soup for a person who wasn’t feeling well. It might have been letting a friend cry on your shoulder, taking care of an older parent, baking cookies for a child. It might have been covering a hearing for a colleague or even just agreeing to an extension even though you’d have rather had the thing done. It might have been supporting a staff member in some way, or voting in favor of promoting a young person at your firm.
Notice how it feels right now to call this thing to mind, this good deed, in Yiddish we’d say, this mitzvah. Are you having any of what I described – any, “yeah, but I could have done more?” Let that go, so you can clearly see the mitzvah, the act of kindness.
Did you do this good deed spontaneously or did you have to overcome an internal objection? Are you having anything come up now, like sorrow that you weren’t able to do more? Or frustration that you had to give up something in the process? Or confusion? Or any other reaction? If the answer to any of these is yes, no problem. Just notice and then shift to clearly seeing what you did do, the kindness you did offer.
One thing that came to mind for me was being available to a friend going through some hard stuff with their sisters. Another thing was lifting our old dog up onto the bed every night because she can’t make the jump anymore. Again, these can be small things.
And now take a moment and appreciate your own act of kindness, your mitzvah. Take a moment to appreciate yourself for having done it, even if there were obstacles then or there are obstacles now.
And now go one step further – or at least this feels further to me – and be grateful because you thought of the act of kindness, you did it, and you’re remembering it. And as you’re being grateful, log it, internally. Not as a notch on your belt, but as something to remember – a moment of remembering your own kindness, and of being grateful for having thought of it, been able to do it, and done it.
Now think about something you gave in service of a relationship recently – today, this week, this month. This might be a personal relationship, as in something you gave to your partner, a child, a parent, a friend. Or it could be something in service of a professional relationship, like some way of having given of yourself in a case or a matter, or for a colleague.
When I thought about this, I thought about offering kind words to someone who is doing really hard work for me. And I also thought about letting go of a few things that irritated me that my partner said. Again, these can be small.
Did you do it spontaneously, or did you have to think about it? Did anything get in the way at the time? How about now – are there any difficult feelings about it? If so, just notice those things, and then let them go. Let them evaporate so that you can see more clearly into the kindness you offered. Take in that you saw the possibility of kindness towards a family member, friend, or colleague, you acted on that possibility, and now you’re recalling it.
And recall it with gratitude. Gratitude for having seen the possible kindness, for having done it, and even for what got in the way and that you overcame.
And last, think about the profound issues facing our profession and society and world, and about something you did in the past day or week or month to make things just a little bit better. One thing I’ve been doing is wishing people a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Native American Heritage Day – acknowledging both holidays feels ever so slightly healing. Another thing I did, and do regularly, was wash and re-use our plastic food bags.
These things can also be small – they don’t have to be giving up your gas-fueled car but they might be. There are so many opportunities to create good, which then in turn give us that many more opportunities to appreciate the goodness in our own hearts – and to also, maybe, see what gets in the way of our expressing that goodness, and then express it anyway.
And then to take a moment – and maybe take that now – to be grateful that somehow, whether it’s because of your practice, or the way you were raised, or the way you raised yourself up from whatever circumstances, or whatever causes and conditions, somehow, you can be grateful that you took those small or maybe big steps, and did some good.
And then, right now, what does being grateful for your own good heart feel like? Check in. And again, if obstacles arise to seeing that, let them go. Keep things as clear as possible so that you can see your own goodness. And feel your own goodness. Feel into your own goodness. And be grateful that you have it.
I once heard that there are just three prayers in the world. Please. Help. And thank you.
So maybe this is a prayer. Thank you for the ability to care, and to do good. In the midst of so much difficulty, gratitude for our own good deeds, and our own good hearts.
Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Native American Heritage Day.
This Wake Up Call is offered in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered, and in gratitude to the prosecutors who obtained a conviction against his murderers and to the almost all-white jury who convicted them. May Mr. Arbery’s memory be for a blessing.