Amidst the Rush of life, Remembering to be Grateful
Life is often a rush from one activity to another, and there is a tendency to not be in the present moment, but to be thinking of the next activity, or lamenting some past mistake. To counteract this habit, I do my best to begin my day by thinking of what I am grateful for. If I do this right, I observe my life with as much appreciation as I can. I look for those things I am thankful for, which are disguised as the regular details of my life. Becoming a devotee of Krishna means--among other things--to become conscious of what is really important, and gradually making our life a meaningful, joyous occasion which we offer to the Lord. My "ordinary" life is actually extraordinary, though I sometimes forget this fact. This is why being grateful needs to be a daily affair--or at least practiced frequently--so we can make gratitude and appreciation a habit, not a "should" that isn't practiced.
The alarm rings, heralding the news that it is time to become vertical and begin the day. If I am lucky, I immediately rise and don't hit the snooze button. First, sitting and rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I may think that it is much too early to be getting up, but then I remember I have had enough sleep, and I really do like to be up early to chant. "My dear Lord, please help me to offer this day to you. Please give me the opportunity to be Krishna conscious and help others. I have survived another day and night, and today is a chance to serve you with more enthusiasm by chanting the holy name and hearing the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, which includes your all-attractive pastimes. Hare Krishna!
Rising I feel the various pains in my body. I am grateful that despite them, I am still able to walk and function, and think about the Lord and his devotees. Going to the bathroom and turning on the light I take care of the essentials.
Looking at the image in the mirror, I notice the rings around my eyes and stubble on my face. I have to shave today, and I do. Grabbing the toothbrush and toothpaste I do the deed, then gargle and scrape my tongue.
Turning on the shower I wonder what life would be with only a little water, and none to bathe with! The cool water is refreshing, the peppermint soap sweet. I recite many prayers to Lord Nrisimhadeva during the whole time if I don't become distracted. Drying, and dressing, combing my hair and knotting my sikha(tuft of hair at the back of the head) I put on tilak (sacred clay markings put on the body to signify it as the Lord's Temple). Then I head downstairs to wake the Deities, or forms of the Lord. In front of the altar I pay full dandavats, falling down flat like a rod and reciting my pranams or obeisances to Shrila Prabhupada and my gurus.
Ringing the wind chimes in front of the Deity doors, I recite the prayers for waking the Lord. Opening the doors I enter their room and clap my hands 3xs to announce my presence, while chanting the holy name. Turning on the light I behold the beautiful Lords, their beds in front of me. I say acaman (sipping water and reciting the names of the Lord, Om Keshava namah, etc.). I light some incense and proceed to touch the feet of my gurus and each Deity and recite the appropriate prayers for waking them (uttishtha, uttishtha!). I offer the Lord a hand to go from bed to the altar. Putting their beds away, I collect the water cups to get them fresh water from the kitchen, and return the cups. I go outside and bring in Tulasidevi, the plant for which Vrindavan is named. Haridas Thakur, the great acharya or teacher of the holy name, chanted before Tulasi, so we can understand that it is very important to chant with her.
Some days I go to the Temple to wake the Temple Deities, and offer mangal arotik. On this day I remain at home as I go to work at 10:00AM.
I then sit down to chant gayatri mantra which is given at the time of second initiation. I say a prayer to Lord Chaitanya and ask permission from Prabhupada to chant it. I then murmur the 7 mantras thinking about their meaning.
I am so blessed to have such beautiful Deities, who have so kindly come to offer us the chance to serve them and have their association. I recite prayer to my gurus, and to the holy name, and pray I can chant purely and obtain the perfection of chanting, Krishna prema. Before me are books glorifying the holy name and a sheet with the meaning of each holy name according to Gopal Guru Gosvami--and associate of Lord Chaitanya. For every round I recite one of the meanings, and pray to be attentive, and other prayers like: "Please let me be a pure devotee Lord. Let me have Vaishnava humility and be empowered to help other in their spiritual life. Let me have the feeling, thoughts and actions of a pure devotee, yet always think I am the your instrument, never an independent enjoyer, but a servant of the servant of the servant."
After some time my wife joins me, and we sit together and chant our rounds. She has a weaker constitution and requires more sleep. Her body has been a good teacher for her, as she has been forced to by illness to take good care of it. If she doesn't sleep and eat properly she doesn't function well, and sometimes attracts sickness.
At some point, weather permitting, we sit outside in the morning sun in the beauty of nature in our garden.
Depending on the time, I read some scripture or if I am inspired, I write a blog. If time permits I ride a stationary bike and listen to a lecture and/or read more. I also plan my day, and see if I need to go shopping while I am in town. Having an older body requires much more maintenance and attention then a young one. If I ride then I have to shower again, and get ready for work.
Throughout the morning, I often think of what I am grateful for, which is really everything I have and do! From our Deities, to my wife and son, the holy name and scriptures, home and devotional facilities, room for guests, our daily spiritual practices and aspirations. With a mature attitude, everything can be seen as a blessing from Krishna to help us take shelter of him. Whatever your life is like, try practicing the art of "counting your blessings"--not thinking of your life's lacking, but what the good things are. This is usually a matter of our angle of vision, so it may take practice, yet it will be very rewarding, and could very well change your life.
I have sited my life as an example of how one can live a Krishna conscious life as a householder, whether married or single. As a married person we fulfill our material desires, and purify them by using them in the service of our guru and Lord Chaitanya. This is how one can "be in the world, while knowing they are not", or that we are not the body, but an eternal servant of Krishna. I have been practicing Krishna consciousness for 40 years, so I have had lots of practice, while you may just be beginning. If you haven't already, you can add Krishna to your life in whatever way you are comfortable with. For instance, having an altar with a some pictures of Krishna--which could just be a small table, or book shelf. And you can chant on beads in front of it, or sing the Hare Krishna mantra, read scripture, offer your food etc. This is meant as a focus for remembering and serving Krishna.
What we focus on gains in intensity in our consciousness. This is one reason we want to remember Krishna always, or as much as we can! Whatever we are attached to and remember at death is our next destination. Wonderful Krishna and Shri Radha and their associates are the most incredible, interesting, fun, and loving people, and we are part of them and that world. By chanting their names and remembering their activities, we become purified and awaken our eternal love for them and the spiritual life centered around devotional service. Practice make perfect, and eventually we will be totally absorbed in loving them. That is the spiritual world wherever we are.