When you're plugged in to the guidance of your highest self, life flows. In fact, it glows. It's when grids light up and new doors open. It's when angels send you books out of the blue that are the perfect fit for optimal growth and nourishment (thanks, Lisa).
That's how Rivvy Neshama's Recipes For a Sacred Life: True Stories and a few Miracles landed in my hands. It's as luminous as you would imagine it to be.
My favorite way to nosh on these treats is at bedtime. There's something about the calm of the night and the glow of the bedside light that opens my mind as wide as my heart to the wisdom of everyday sacredness. Rivvy's bite-sized stories will make you nod with deepest knowing, illuminate your heart with limitless love, blow your mind in the best way possible, and let you drift into dreamland with the reassurance that you're not alone. If you don't already have Recipes For a Sacred Life, overnight it. And if you do, get another copy to gift to someone special. It's a magical companion.
I'm thrilled we get to spend time with this bright spirit from Boulder, CO. Grab a cuppa, sit back, and enjoy. It's a supreme pleasure to have Rivvy on Gratitude Speaks!
1) How do you define gratitude, and what are you grateful for?
Ah. Good questions. Gratitude, for me, is a path, a practice, a way to connect. But since I'm a storyteller, let me tell you a story.
Have a Great Day! Not.
When I'm in a mood and people tell me, "Have a great day!" I want to mutter, "What's wrong with a nice day or a fair day? Why do I have to have a great day, grumble, grumble..." This "great day" greeting is rampant in Boulder markets, most often heard at checkout.
But one day at Whole Foods, a cool young guy stacking the shelves helped me find rice cakes and said, in parting, "Have a grateful day!" Whoa, that stopped me. Have a grateful day. Well, yeah. But how?
I think it starts by saying "thank you." And when I begin each morning with these words, it helps set the tone (at the least, it mollifies my morning blues). It could be as simple as giving thanks for another day or the sound of the morning rain.
To expand my gratitude, I might follow the lead of Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center. He suggests picking one day now and then when you find something to be thankful for every hour -- and express it. I tried this and was surprised that just by having the intention, I actually remembered to do it. Every hour, more or less, I looked around or within, found something to be thankful for, and said it: "Thank you for this peaceful day." "Thank you, blackbird, for that lovely song." "Thank you, John, for mowing the lawn."
Since then, whenever I feel a swelling of gratitude or appreciation, I often say it out loud.
Sometimes I say it right to the source: "Thank you, trees!" "Thank you, sunshine!" And sometimes I go to the source beyond: "Thank you, Great Spirit, for all this beauty!" "Thank you, Lord, for helping Mom get better."
It also helps, I find, to spread my thanks around, even to those anonymous ones who offer tech support on the phone.
"Thank you so much," I said to the man in Sri Lanka who helped me reconnect to the Web. "That was really helpful. You told me what to do in ways I could understand." And when he responded, "I'm happy to be of service," I felt like I was in a Jimmy Stewart movie from the '40s, and I hung up feeling good.
In fact, the more I say thank you, the better I feel, so I say it whenever I feel it. If I look up at the mountains and spontaneously say, "Omigod, it's so beautiful," I remember to add, "Thank you!" Or I'll be out to dinner with friends and feeling so happy in the moment that I'll silently pray, "Thank you for this food, these friends, and this wonderful life."
The whole world is sacred, and we connect with that sacredness when we give thanks.
So have a grateful day... Better yet, have a grateful life.
2) What is art to you?
It's channeling spirit to create or express beauty, order, harmony, or truth. It could be a painting or poem, a song or a garden, one's room or one's home, or even a meal.
My father, Bernie Feldman, had an unfulfilled ambition to own a restaurant, and his outlet was making lunch for his three daughters. Not just corned beef sandwiches with Russian dressing, but sandwiches cut into four triangles, surrounding a circle of potato chips, and with olives and pickles decoratively arranged. This wasn't just lunch. It was art!
Sometimes I meet people whose lives seem like art. Once, in a fishing village in Mexico, I was walking on sandy dirt roads past small stucco homes that had lean-tos over an outdoor stove and table. You could tell that the homeowners were poor. But the window ledges of their humble adobes held coffee cans filled with wild sunflowers and pink bougainvillea and shrines to Guadalupe. And as I walked down the road, I spotted an elderly woman who wore a brightly colored shawl and was sweeping the dirt in front of her home -- until it shone like Siena marble. She was creating order, beauty, and harmony. I watched her and thought, this is art. And it rang with a simple truth.
3) When did you experience significant personal growth, and how did it impact your perspective on life?
One of my greatest teachers has been pain. In the hardest time of my life, my heart was most open, and I often leaned on the kindness of strangers. It was then that I learned two things. First, most strangers really are kind ("Are you all right, Miss?"). And when I in turn was kind to strangers ("Can I help you carry that?"), the shadow around me would momentarily lift, and I'd remember again that I once knew joy.
Some of those strangers were New York City taxi drivers, who were immigrants from all over the world. So I'd be crying in their cab or we'd just start talking, and they'd say these wise, funny, or amazing things that lifted me up. I felt they were angels, an answer to my prayers. And I saw that we are all alike, in our suffering and in our compassion.
I also found, as so many have, that the depth of your pain can deepen your journey, your connection to others and to something beyond.
4) What other gems of joy and wisdom would you like to share with us?
I have found, over and over, that my greatest happiness comes from serving others. This could mean volunteering, visiting an elder, writing to a friend who's ill, talking to my mother without doing Facebook at the same time, or even just praying for those in need of prayers. And my quickest way out of a blue mood is sometimes as simple as smiling from my heart at a stranger on the street.
One Christmas Eve, I helped serve dinner to the homeless, and as I handed out plates of abundance and saw their smiles widen, my joy was so great that I wanted to do it forever! And it made me realize that we are always just learning to serve each other, no matter what we do.