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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. May's Theme: "Appreciation"
Volume 5 Issue 4 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Being Mindful
Appreciating Even A Flushing Toilet

by Janet Alston Jackson

I read an article about a 38-year-old woman with breast cancer who said she appreciated the disease because she learned to slow down and say "no." She also learned that no one is indispensable. Her favourite motto is "we work to live, not live to work". This lady is like other cancer survivors who said they appreciated the illness because it gave them a chance to stop and reflect on their lives. When they could do nothing but lay in a hospital bed, some found deep insights into how they would change their lives. Some said they realized they had taken relationships for granted, and then there were those who found their lives rich in so many ways when they previously complained about what they didn't have and what they saw was wrong.

In today's world, we are so busy doing and going, we overlook the gifts at our fingertips. Water running freely from our faucets when many people have none. The foods we may not particularly care for, which we have in abundance, when so many around the world do not have a grain of rice or a piece of bread. We find ourselves frustrated by loved ones while there are those who live in loneliness. Some haven't had anyone call in years to see how they were doing.

I remember how I really became appreciative to life during the terrifying California earthquake in 1994. We lived just 15 miles from Northridge, the neighbourhood of the earthquake epicentre just minutes from downtown Los Angeles. Fifty-seven people died as a result of that earthquake and over 12,000 were injured. In addition, the earthquake caused an estimated $12.5 billion in damage, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history. For weeks our family, like thousands of others, had no running water or electricity. It was an inconvenience not having necessities… now I see them as luxuries!

Life was stressful for weeks after the quake. Trying to find bottled water in stores but they were all sold out; and using candles to walk through our home; or trying to cook foods on a barbecue grill with only a few charcoals. The rare stores that were open were out of survival items. It wasn't so bad for just my husband and I, but what made it stressful was trying to tend to the needs of our three small terrified children and keeping them calm during the countless quake after shocks, which for days sent us running for the doorways or crawling underneath the dining room table.

What was hardest for me was dealing with my four-year-old adopted son who already had emotional problems. For weeks after the quake he was constantly wetting his pants. You can imagine trying to keep him and the other kids clean with little water, which we held on to drink. I think back to the first few nights when we couldn't use the toilet since there was no water to flush, we went outside in the backyard with a bucket and a shovel. Inevitably someone had to go late at night, and it seemed like a big production in the dark with the earth periodically trembling beneath us.

Weeks after the quake, our house continued to shake and rumble with the aftershocks leaving cracks everywhere. We all slept on the floor huddled together in the living room. The kids were scared to sleep alone, and my husband and I needed to be able to grab them if the need came and not be kept off guard like when the initial quake struck at 4:30 AM. The fear of "the big one" kept going through my head. Californians have been warned for decades that a huge earthquake was going to devastate the entire state. We all worried, was this just the little one?

Now I am so appreciative when paying my water and power bill. I think of those who lost their homes during the quake, and those around the world who lived through much bigger quakes and lost their family. Sometimes when I find myself caught up in the stress and the sheer "nothingness" of life which keeps us all running on a treadmill, I think back to the earthquake and I am so grateful. Stress is my signal to stop and realize I am not living in the here and now.

Mindfulness helps me live in the here and now, and to appreciate each moment fully. When I take the time to slow down and just be aware of the most mundane and small observances of life, I am in awe of the sights and sounds, and tastes of things I have taken for granted. It's amazing when I remember to live in the present moment; even the sound of our flushing toilet brings me deep appreciation.

Janet Alston Jackson is the author of "A Cry for Light: A Journey into Love." To order books and CD's, schedule Janet for speaking engagements, or subscribe to Janet's newsletter, visit her website, email, or call Self Awareness Trainings toll free 1-877-796-8288. You can order Janet's book: click here.

Janet Alston Jackson, a certified seminar leader, has facilitated self-awareness workshops to a variety of audiences since 1993. She often teams with her husband Walter Jackson (author of "Sporting the Right Attitude"), to facilitate fun, high-energy motivating trainings for which the couple is known. This unique husband-and-wife team have been guests on numerous radio talk shows around the country, and have made appearances on KCET, public television.

Janet is a certified behavioural consultant, a certified anger management consultant, and a certified seminar leader. Through their motivational company Self Awareness Trainings, the Jacksons have given numerous workshops on "How to Effectively Communicate," "Releasing Stress," and "Mindfulness Trainings" to a variety of audiences including corporate executives, parents, teachers, women in recovery, prison personnel, health care workers, and entertainment industry executives.

Janet co-founded with Walter, Believe In Yourself Inc, a non-profit self-esteem program for children and their parents.

Janet earned her B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the California State University at San Jose. She started her television career as a production assistant for the Los Angeles local CBS station, and she was a news writer for the Los Angeles CBS owned radio station, KNX Newsradio.

A strong advocate for children, Janet was a Court Appointed Special Child Advocate (CASA) and a board member for their fundraising arm, Friends of Child Advocate. Today she is a board member for Child Care Resource Center, which serves thousands of families in Los Angeles County.

The author and her husband Walter, have three teenagers; Ryan, Devon and Jada, and one very loveable Chow named Simba. They live in Los Angeles.

Be sure to read the reviews of her book in our January 2007 Issue.

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