Today, I received an email from my eldest brother commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of my great-grandfather. Private John Fagan, a WW1 Irish guard, was killed in the first battle of Ypres on November 6th, 1914, at age 30. I had never heard my mother or grandmother speak of him, and the email I received today was the first I had learned of my great grandfather. Reading this message and imagining the anguish that Private Fagan and his family were experiencing 100 years ago as well as the sorrow experienced by countless people in war-torn countries today helped me to put my life’s difficulties into perspective. Thinking of the horrors and atrocities others face shows me how trivial my concerns are in comparison with what they could be. The reality is that we all face hardships on some level, and all simultaneously have the capacity to experience beauty and kindness as well. The intensity of the difficulties as well as the joys vary widely for each of us, and are in continual flux. We can always find someone else in the world who is facing greater calamity, just as we can find examples of those with greater fortune. Nothing is ever going perfectly, and nothing is ever going COMPLETELY wrong (although it may at times feel that way.)
What intrigues me is our human ability to shift our attitude to create an inner experience of greater joy and peace, independent of external conditions. We can choose which aspect of our experience upon which to focus our attention, thereby shifting our perception of reality. If I look hard enough I can always find something for which to be grateful. I am blessed to not have to look very hard. To begin, I have a healthy body, a sound mind (although there are those who would argue that), access to clean food and water, sanitation and shelter. When I go to sleep at night, the greatest disturbance I may face is a yappy dog, as opposed to the sound of bombs and artillery fire. The safety and comfort afforded me is a privilege not to be taken for granted.
A few months ago, I posted a blog about how to introduce gratitude into one’s daily practice. I have been doing this with relative consistency, and I have found the most valuable component of the practice for me has been reflecting at the end of my day on something positive that happened. With rare exception, on any given day, I will encounter some conflict, difficulty or disappointment. Because the mind is built to solve problems, I find that at night, unless I make a conscious effort to shift my thinking, the challenges of the day are circulating in my consciousness and seeking resolution. By injecting an acknowledgment of what went well during my day, I shift my attitude to one of gratitude and my head lands on the pillow in a much more peaceful place. I invite you to try it. Tonight, when I go to sleep, I will affirm how amazing it was to kiss my daughter goodnight and tuck her into her safe bed, the peaceful feeling I had standing in my backyard beholding the beautiful full moon to the sound of chirping crickets, and the deep lesson in humility and gratitude that I received from my great-grandfather a century after he left this earth.
Yours in wellness and gratitude,
Joe Curcio, L. Ac.