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week of November 22, 2018
Your Overflowing Gratitude

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GRATITUDE FESTIVAL

Would you like to make yourself smarter and more beautiful? Are you interested in increasing your capacity for ecstasy and improving your health?

Consider the possibility of celebrating regular Gratitude Festivals. During these orgies of appreciation, you could confer praise and respect on the creatures, both human and otherwise, that have played seminal roles in inspiring you to become yourself. You would devote yourself to invoking and expressing thanks.

Who teaches and helps you? Who sees you for who you really are? Who nudges you in the direction of your fuller destiny and awakens you to your signature truths? Who loves you brilliantly?


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GRATITUDE FOR GRAVITY

Have you said a prayer of gratitude any time recently for the fact that your feet remain steadily on the earth? Gravity is giving you the same gift it always does, pulling on you with neither too much nor too little force. You should be glad for its versatility, too. It's working for the heavenly bodies with the same tender attentiveness it bestows upon you. 

As all the other planets do, the Earth relies on gravity's genius to keep orbiting the sun in its ancient hallowed groove, thereby providing you with all of the favorable environmental conditions you need to live.

Magicians of the Western Hermetic tradition say that gravity is actually a form of love -- the irresistible attraction that all things have for each other over even the vastest distances.

Meanwhile, a trillion other facets of nature's ingenious design are expressing themselves as a skilled artist might. At the heart of the masterpiece are the plants. With relentless grace, they perform the everyday miracle of photosynthesis, using sunlight as a trigger to convert water and carbon dioxide into the fuel they need.

If you're like me, you feel regular surges of adoration for this complex alchemy, which pours oxygen into the air for us to breathe and ultimately provides us with all of our food.


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GRATITUDE FOR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield espouses an interesting method for dealing with negative and unwanted thoughts. Don't let them possess you, he says, and don't assume you have to act them out.

On the other hand, don't struggle mightily to suppress them, either. Instead, try this: Bow to the offending idea. Acknowledge and admire its power. Express your gratitude and respect to it for galvanizing so much of your psychic energy.


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WANT TO GET YOUR ASTROLOGICAL CHART READ?

If you want your personal chart done, I recommend a colleague whose approach to reading astrology charts closely matches my own. She's my wife, RO LOUGHRAN. Her website is here.

Ro utilizes a blend of well-trained intuition, emotional warmth, and technical proficiency in horoscope interpretation. She is skilled at exploring the mysteries of your life's purpose and nurturing your connection with your own inner wisdom.

In addition to over 30 years of astrological experience, Ro has been a licensed psychotherapist for 17 years. She integrates psychological insight with astrology's cosmological perspective.

Ro is based in California, but can do phone consultations and otherwise work with you regardless of geographic boundaries.

Check out Ro's website.


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GRATITUDE FOR YOUR INTERESTING PROBLEMS

What ignorance do you deserve to be forgiven for? How might you express gratitude for your most interesting problem? What could you do to love your body better?


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UNLEASH THE UNSPOKEN PRAISE AND GRATITUDE

"I've been practicing radical authenticity lately," my friend Brandon told me. "I'm revealing the blunt truth about unmentionable subjects to everyone I know. It's been pretty hellish -- no one likes having the social masks stripped away—but it's been ultimately rewarding."

"I admire your boldness in naming the currents flowing beneath the surface," I replied, "but I'm curious as to why you imply they're all negative. To practice radical authenticity, shouldn't you also express the raw truth about what's right, good, and beautiful? Shouldn't you unleash the praise and gratitude that normally go unspoken?"

Brandon sneered. He thought my version of radical authenticity was wimpy. I hope you don't. As a budding pronoiac, you have a mandate to be honest in both ways.


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THE EMOTION CALLED "ECSTATIC GRATITUDE" is when you feel genuine thankfulness with such resplendent intensity that you generate a surge of endorphins in your body and slip into a full-scale outbreak of euphoria.


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GRATITUDE IS THE ESSENCE OF BEAUTIFUL ART

"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude." -Friedrich Nietzsche


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THE NUANCES OF GRATITUDE

Pronoia is fueled by a drive to cultivate happiness and a determination to practice an aggressive form of gratitude that systematically identifies the things that are working well.

But it is not a soothing diversion meant for timid Pollyannas strung out on optimistic delusions.

It's not a feel-good New Age fantasy used to deny the harsh facts about existence. Those of us who perceive the world pronoiacally refuse to be polite shills for sentimental hopefulness.

On the contrary, we build our optimism not through a repression of
difficulty, but rather a vigorous engagement with it. We understand that the best way to attract blessings is to grapple with the knottiest enigmas.

Each fresh puzzle is a potential source of future bliss—an exciting
teaching that may usher us to our next breakthrough.

Do you want to be a pronoiac player? Blend optimistic rebelliousness with open-hearted exuberance. Root your insurrectionary fervor in expansive joy instead of withering hatred. Enjoy saying "no!" but don't make it the wellspring of your vitality. Be fueled by blood-red yeses that rip against the grain of comfortable ugliness.


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UNEXPECTED GRATITUDE

Imagine you're with a team of explorers in Antarctica. You're climbing the 2,000-foot granite spire called Rakekniven that thrusts up out of the ice in Queen Maud Land. The temperature is 10 degrees below zero.

There's not a plant or animal in sight. The blinding white emptiness of the wasteland beneath you fills you with desolate reverence, alienated awe, and soaring gratitude. You are far from everything that normally gives you comfort.

Why do you feel so good?


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NEW ROSES AS AN ANTIDOTE TO NEUROSIS

The phrase "new roses" can serve as an antidote to neurosis -- as a kind of magical spell. You might invoke it when you're in danger of getting undermined by either your own neurosis or someone else's.

If you notice, for instance, that your subconscious mind is spiraling down into a sour fantasy stirred up by one of your habitual fears, you could mutter a cheerful round of "new roses, new roses, new roses."

If your allies slip into the same compulsive behavior that they tend to get stuck in whenever stress overflows, you could chant "new roses, new roses, new roses" in a tuneful, affectionate tone.


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IF THE ANGEL DECIDES TO COME . . .

"If the Angel decides to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner."

- Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell


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BE SCARIER THAN YOUR FEARS

EXPERIMENT: Be scarier than your fears. If an anxious thought pops into your mind, bare your teeth and growl, "Get out of here or I will rip you to shreds!" If a demon visits you in a nightly dream, chase after it with a torch and sword, screaming "Begone, foul spirit, or I will burn your mangy ass!"

Don't tolerate bullying in any form, whether it comes from a critical little voice in your head or from supposedly nice people who are trying to guilt-trip you. "I am a brave conqueror who cannot be intimidated!" is what you could say, or "I am a monster of love and goodness who will defeat all threats to my integrity!"


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DEVOTIONAL PRONOIA THERAPY

Devotional Pronoia Therapy. Experiments and exercises in becoming a gracefully probing, erotically funny, shockingly friendly Master of Orgasmic Empathy

1. What causes happiness? Brainstorm about it. Map out the foundations of your personal science of joy. Get serious about defining what makes you feel good.

To get you started, I'll name some experiences that might rouse your gratification: engaging in sensual pleasure; seeking the truth; being kind and moral; contemplating the meaning of life; escaping your routine; purging pent-up emotions. Do any of these work for you? Name at least ten more.

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2. Are other people luckier than you? If so, psychologist Richard Wiseman says you can do something about it. His book *The Luck Factor* presents research that proves you can learn to be lucky. It's not a mystical force you're born with, he says, but a habit you can develop.

How? For starters, be open to new experiences, trust your gut wisdom, expect good fortune, see the bright side of challenging events, and master the art of maximizing serendipitous opportunities.

Name three specific actions you'll try in order to improve your luck.

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3. Dumb suffering is the kind of suffering you're compulsively drawn back to over and over again out of habit. It's familiar, and thus perversely comfortable. Smart suffering is the kind of pain that surprises you with valuable teachings and inspires you to see the world with new eyes.

While stupid suffering is often born of fear, wise suffering is typically stirred up by love. The dumb, unproductive stuff comes from allowing yourself to be controlled by your early conditioning and from doing things that are out of harmony with your essence. The smart, useful variety arises out of an intention to approach life as an interesting work of art and uncanny game that's worthy of your curiosity.

Come up with two more definitions about the difference between dumb suffering and smart suffering.

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4. Write the following on a piece of red paper and keep it under your pillow. "I, [put your name here], do solemnly swear on this day, [put date here], that I will devote myself for a period of seven days to learning my most important desire. No other thought will be more uppermost in my mind. No other concern will divert me from tracking down every clue that might assist me in my drive to ascertain the one experience in this world that deserves my brilliant passion above all others."

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5. The primary meaning of the word "healing" is "to cure what's diseased or broken." Medical practitioners focus on sick people. Philanthropists donate their money and social workers contribute their time to helping the underprivileged. Psychotherapists wrestle with their clients' traumas and neuroses. I'm in awe of them all. The level of one's spiritual wisdom, I believe, is more accurately measured by helping people in need than by meditation skills, shamanic shapeshifting, supernatural powers, or esoteric knowledge.

But I also believe in a second kind of healing that is largely unrecognized: to supercharge what is already healthy; to lift up what's merely sufficient to a sublime state. Using this definition, describe two acts of healing: one you would enjoy performing on yourself and another you'd like to provide for someone you love.

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6. Is the world a dangerous, chaotic place with no inherent purpose, running on automatic like a malfunctioning machine and fundamentally inimical to your drive to find meaning? Or are you surrounded by helpers in a friendly, enchanted universe that gives you challenges in order to make you smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier?

Trick questions! The answers may depend, at least to some degree, on what you believe is true.

Formulate a series of experiments that will allow you to objectively test the hypothesis that the universe is conspiring to help dissolve your ignorance and liberate you from your suffering.

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7. Those who explore pronoia often find they have a growing capacity to help people laugh at themselves. While few arbiters of morality recognize this skill as a mark of high character, I put it near the top of my list. In my view, inducing people to take themselves less seriously is a supreme virtue.

Do you have any interest in cultivating it? How might you go about it?

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8. Computer programmer Garry Hamilton articulated the following "Game Rules." Give examples of how they have worked in your life.

1. If the game is rigged so you can't win, find another game or invent your own. 2. If you're not winning because you don't know the rules, learn the rules. 3. If you know the rules but aren't willing to follow them, there's either something wrong with the game or you need to change something in yourself. 4. Don't play the game in a half-baked way. Either get all the way in or all the way out. 5. It shouldn't be necessary for others to lose in order for you to win. If others have to lose, re-evaluate the game's goals.

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9. "There are two ways for a person to look for adventure," said the Lone Ranger, an old TV character. "By tearing everything down, or building everything up." Give an example of each from your own life.


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DEEPEST SPIRITUAL ASPIRATIONS

Here are three of our deepest spiritual aspirations, which we invite you to steal for your own use:

1. to develop the capacity to thrive in the midst of raging contradictions;

2. to be discerning as we protect ourselves from people's flaws while at the same time being generous as we celebrate their beauty;

3. to refrain from dividing the world into two groups, those who help and agree with us and those who don't


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"Nothing's going right in my life. I feel anxious and paranoid all the time. My relationships are a mess. Plus the whole world's going to hell!"

In my line of work, people make confessions like that to me.

My first response is usually something like this: "Do you habitually gobble junk food near bedtime, steal a paltry five hours of sleep per night, gulp two cups of coffee and no breakfast in the morning, then bolt to a workplace where you get no sunlight or exercise and sit in an uncomfortable chair?"

They often reply, "You must be psychic! How did you know?!"

My point is that many psychological troubles stem from our chronic failure to take good care of our physical needs.

Can you think of three things you can do to promote pronoia in yourself by taking better care of your body?


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In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes suggests that we all need to periodically go cheerfully and enthusiastically out of our minds. Make sure, she says, that at least one part of you always remains untamed, uncategorizable, and unsubjugated by routine. Be adamant in your determination to stay intimately connected to all that's inexplicable and mysterious about your life.

At the same time, though, Estes believes you need to keep your unusual urges clear and ordered. Discipline your wildness, in other words, and don't let it degenerate into careless disorder.


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