These are some personal reflections from my life that keep me moving forward on my wellness journey. It's with small steps that I travel toward the completion of my goals. I begin with a simple coaching question that may assist you on your wellness journey. Reflect on the question and notice with acceptance, interest, and curiosity anything that comes up for you.
What is one thing you can appreciate or feel grateful for right now?
My husband and I have 10 hens. We enjoy organic eggs and love to share them with friends and neighbors. Our hens are an endless source of entertainment and education.
Chickens love tomatoes. Last summer we had a bumper tomato crop. We had so many that even after canning and preparing every form of delicious tomato-based dish and sharing with friends, we had plenty to share with the chickens. The first time I threw several tomatoes into the chicken yard I discovered a trait that chickens and humans share.
The top hen charged toward the first tomato she saw. She snatched it up in her beak and the rest of the flock streaked after her. She ran as fast as she could to get away from them. It's surprising how fast chickens can run. Sometimes one of the hens in pursuit would grab the tomato away from the top hen and then she would be the pursuer.
In the mayhem of the chase and the whole flock trying to take away the tomato, they were running right past or literally on top of untouched tomatoes on the ground. It was hilarious how they didn't even see them. It was as if there was just one tomato and none others existed. I got a wonderful belly laugh from the chaotic chicken scene that reminded me of my own species' foibles.
Eventually someone tired of the game and noticed the other tomatoes and then the game began anew with whoever had a tomato in her beak.
Does this sound familiar?
It got me wondering…where do I focus on what others have instead of focusing on all the blessings and opportunities I have right at my feet? When I'm focused on others' "tomatoes" (i.e. what I don't have), what happens in my internal experience? What do I notice in my breathing and my sensing? What happens to my aliveness and connection with others? What do I notice about my physical and mental energy? Is my mind even open to opportunities?
Then when I choose to focus appreciatively on "my tomatoes" (what I have), what happens to my breathing and my internal aliveness? Can I uncover opportunities that have been there all along but I've been ignoring? Does my energy level increase to enable me to work toward what I want?
It always surprises me how this one shift in awareness changes everything!
Years ago, my neighbors, a couple who were in their eighties, were a wonderful inspiration for me in the art of happiness. They were the quintessential elders, taking daily walks down the road, holding hands and happily chatting. One day I asked the gent what wisdom he could share for a long and happy life. Without a moment's hesitation, he said with a gleam in his eye, "Want what you have! You'll never go wrong." I thought that was pretty sound advice. This was a man who wasn't wasting time and energy chasing after others' "tomatoes;" he was spending his life savoring his own.
Though I certainly haven't perfected it, I contemplate his wisdom often and see a big change in my attitude and opportunities every time I make the shift to wanting what I have.
Another example of this is when I met a woman who was one of the most positive and appreciative beings I'd ever met. She was working on her PhD in Positive Psychology and was happy and healthy. It was particularly impressive when I learned her history. She was physically and sexually abused as a youngster. As a teenager she was homeless and lived out of garbage cans. Later in her life she'd survived a life threatening illness she contracted when she tried to save another's life. The treatment for the disease itself was life-threatening - it had a 40% survival rate. If she hadn't undergone the treatment she wouldn't have survived. She was able to turn all this into a deep understanding that enabled her to help others.
I asked her how she got through all those dark times. She said that early in her life she learned a tool that she was deeply committed to. She said, "No matter how awful things were, I chose to find something beautiful to focus on. Sometimes it was just the sky, but it got me through." When she didn't have anything else, she had a beautiful sky to appreciate. That was her focus and it gave her strength. That was her "tomato."
What can you do to shift your attention to your "tomatoes?" Some people keep an appreciation, gratitude, or blessing journal each day, jotting down just a few things they notice in their day for which they are grateful. Others make sure their family eats one meal a day together where they share appreciations and positive things with each other. Some like having an "appreciations buddy or buddies" with whom they can share their appreciations via phone, texting, or email. I like mixing it up by sharing with friends and with journaling, collage, and artistic expressions of my appreciations. It's profound what this little exercise can do to transform your experience and open doors that you hadn't noticed before.
What's great about it is that it doesn't take a lot of time (you can literally do it in less than one minute), it's completely free, and you can do it anywhere and anytime. Over time, it has a huge cumulative effect in body, mind, and spirit. Just ask yourself one simple question: "What is one thing I can appreciate or feel grateful for right now?"
So, what are your "tomatoes?" Feel free to share some of your appreciations in the comments area below.
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