Michael D. Thomas, D.C.
It is the Holiday time of year. The weather is cooling off, even down here, and there is an air of festivities and perhaps a hint of goodwill in the air. Challenging times demand more of us just to stay where we are. It is perhaps, more important than ever to find the spirit of this time of year and examine the past year in anticipation of the coming one. To begin, we might examine what we are thankful for. If this last year was as tough for you as it was for me, you might think there is little to be grateful for, but you would be wrong.
A bit of perspective goes a long way. There are now seven billion of us on our planet Earth. 80% of us live in poverty. That means most of us can’t take care of our basic needs. 70% are illiterate. That means that the vast databases and the accumulated knowledge that lives in the written word is unavailable to us and our lives. Half of us suffer from hunger and malnutrition every day. 500 million of us are in prison, being tortured or close to dying from starvation. 3 billion of us cannot go to our house of worship without risking assault or death. If you have a full refrigerator, clothes to wear, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are wealthier than 75% of us on this planet. If you have money in the bank and also some in your wallet, you are among the 8% of people who do. One percent of people on the Earth own a computer. One percent has a college degree. 6% of us own 59% of the wealth and statistically they all come from the USA. Here in Marion county 27% of our children live in poverty. The state average is 18%. If you fall on the fortunate side of these numbers you can certainly be grateful. If not, you don’t need me to tell you about it.
Gratitude isn’t about how much you have, it’s about your perspective. Being grateful connects you to something much bigger than yourself. It changes the way you see everything that unfolds in front of you. We are all interconnected. What we do, the choices we make, the things we buy, the food we eat, the people we associate with, all make a difference in the world. Being grateful is a willful act of perspective. We can be irritated that things aren’t going the way we planned or we can be grateful that we simply woke up this morning. Our arms and legs worked (If they did. If not, we are grateful for the ones that do!) Our brains work. We can see and hear. We can move about. We may have others who care about us. We may have family that pulls together every day. We may have a job that allows us to pay our bills and to live the life we choose. We may have love in our life. We certainly have the love that we can give. Love’s origin is inside each of us. And given the reciprocal nature of love, if you give love out daily it returns in spades. This is one time that the more you give the more you receive. This is Love’s secret.
I know from my own journey that living in fear, constantly worrying about survival, struggling to take and hold onto what you want is a lonely and unsatisfying life. Fear and creativity are mutually incompatible. Even if you have others around you, survival consciousness is a lonely prison. Everything that occurs is registered as either more or less for and about you. “What’s in it for me” is the mantra of greed that has made this planet so inequitable. On the other hand, there is another perspective. This perspective comes from an appreciation of the ‘pattern that connects’. You may be religious, you may not. This isn’t about theology but it does have a central spiritual component. We are not just ‘meat machines’. We are not just selfish clots of desires. We are not actually independent at all. We may imagine that we are self-sufficient, but no one is. We are part of an unimaginable pattern bigger than anything our brains can come up with. Our lives are connected to everything around us from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat to the people we interact with. More than this realization of connection is the realization that we can trust Life. In the chiropractic work I do it is called the ‘non-interference paradigm’. It means that we can trust the life inside of us and that our best medicine is removing any interference to it and trusting that the life that created you, that made what would one day become you grow into a cell and from there into trillions of cells (that you are now!). The life that built and grew your tissues and bones and the nervous system that connects you to all of life will manifest in the optimal way, if it can. There is always enough. There is even abundance.
You won’t read this much in the medical literature. It doesn’t get airplay on the news. There is no profit in self-sustainability. There is nothing to buy. Our health is our greatest treasure. Without it, nothing much matters. With it, everything is possible. Health isn’t achieved by turning life off with drugs. Surgery can give you some time but it doesn’t generally heal you by itself. The surgeon can cut but it is the force of life within you that mends the tissues. The real true and only healer is inside each one of us. We are not here by accident. In fact incredible things had to occur for you to be walking the planet at this time. We have somehow come to see the world as cold and cruel and indifferent but it is us who have those qualities, not life.
Once gratitude has washed its way through our hearts and lives, we find the end of the year to be a moment when we ponder what comes next? We generally move in the direction we are headed. What is our direction? How can we be better people? As we serve our communities, we ourselves are served in a manifold of ways that we could never predict. As we are generous with others, generosity is unleashed in our own lives. As we reject fear and worry, it is replaced by the peace of a kind word, a selfless act, an unlikely courtesy. And with these sweet moments comes the health we have despaired over. The friends we wished we had, perhaps even the money we desperately need to keep afloat. Not because we took it from others who don’t have enough for themselves, but because we allowed it to occur. We can’t see the big picture. This is what faith means.
It is in the present moment that this gift comes, and only in the present moment. If we are lost lamenting the past or agonizing over an imagined future, we miss the possibility that is engendered in the moment. Each moment that we miss is lost forever. But the good news is that a new one occurs in the present that is equally pregnant with possibilities and hope and power and satisfaction. This universe appears to be a well of ever-new creativity. To drink from this well we must be present now. We can’t drink the water of yesterday or tomorrow.
Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus of Nazareth postulated a doctrine of love. In a most unreasonable fashion, he told those who listened to him that they had no need to fear the future or be tortured by the past. He said that if one is met with violence that one should return love. All these centuries later we still can’t quite get our heads around that one. We come from many millennia of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. Gandhi, who many centuries after Jesus, noted that this idea, carried out to the logical conclusion would leave the world blind and edentulous. He met violence with non-violence as did King and many others who have talked of returning love for hate, but the idea didn’t die with them. It never dies because it springs full formed over and over in each of our hearts. What we do with this gift is up to each one of us. We make this choice every moment of our lives.
As useful as our rational mind is, it cannot conceive of the infinite possibilities that await us each moment. This mind can only compare our memories of what happened in the past and then give us a ‘best guess’. This guess is laden with our neuroses and our feelings and of course our ‘rationalizations’. Our memories are often inaccurate and substantially incomplete. In this way we are blind to our present because of the baggage from the past. Healing is always about changing our consciousness. In upper cervical chiropractic we remove neurological interference at the junction between the head and neck and find that when this Life within us can flow without impediment it sings a much happier song! In the same way that this work can transform our physical lives, gratitude and love can transform our inner and outer lives. We are not made to be victims of our mind. Our minds are instruments we use in this life. We must be present in the moment to use and not be used by our minds. Our choices make our lives, one moment at a time.
I will end this essay with a story that I found a few days ago about a man who made a most unreasonable decision. I give you all a most unreasonable season’s greetings.
A Victim Treats His Mugger Right
March 28, 2008
Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.
But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.
He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.
“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,’” Diaz says.
As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.
“You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help,” Diaz says.
Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.
“The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi,” Diaz says. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?’”
“No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz says he told the teen. “He says, ‘But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.’”
Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?”
“Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said.
Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz says.
The teen couldn’t answer Diaz — or he didn’t want to.
When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”
The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet, Diaz says. “I gave him $20 … I figure maybe it’ll help him. I don’t know.”
Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen’s knife — “and he gave it to me.”
Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch.”
“I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”
Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.