January's #SharedDelightsGrow Practice concluded earlier this week, and I've noted some insights that I hope feel helpful to you. Also, the #SharedDelightsGrow Practice will continue over in the Kitchen Forum, so reach out if you'd like to join the practice.
Intentionally Noting Delights = Noting More Delights
As Ross Gay, the guy who introduced this practice to me, has said, setting an intention to note delights creates the conditions to notice more delights. I've heard or read him note that he's naturally good at noticing the bad stuff or the hard stuff or the unpleasant stuff, so he doesn't need any practice at that. But intentionally setting out to notice the stuff that delights him gives him a framework for actually noting the delights.
A thread that I noted running through our shared delights was that many of them were events that regularly happen as we go about living our lives, but having the intention, or the assignment, to note and share them helped all of us tune in to them. Some of the shared delights: sunrises, snuggling with loved ones (human and canine) under a "family size" blanket, dogs, cats, television shows, our children's conversations and laughter, organizing a workspace, Target run, meeting up with friends, attending a concert, and a crock pot meal.
And to a person, everyone who participated has said that the practice has made their life better in some way, and that practicing in community feels good. That's one of the reasons we're continuing our practice.
Noting Delights Doesn't Mean There's No Space for the Hard Stuff
One of the concerns, or maybe more specifically a worry, is that noting delights could be a form of toxic positivity. I'm sure it could be, if noting delights is practiced in a way that says, "Hey, I'm only noting delights! I don't see or hear or speak of anything that doesn't delight me!"
My initial reaction to this concern or worry is taking me back to the first legal analysis, research, and communication course I took in law school where I learned all about using IRAC-- Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion-- in legal writing. In the analysis section, the direction is to examine the argument and then the counter-argument. Sometimes the counter-arguments were so many standard deviations from reasonable that it became absurd. In that case, I'd write a sentence that basically said, "One could argue XXX, but that's so unlikely and outside of the current state of the law that it's highly unlikely it's a winning argument."
Let me be clear: I'm not saying the noting delights practice CAN'T be weaponized for toxic positivity. But a reality check of who we are, what we do, and how we practice at Thought Kitchen will clearly tell you that WE ALLOW PLENTY OF SPACE FOR THE HARD STUFF. We practice with paradox and invite "yes, and...". So feel your feelings about the threat of toxic positivity (if you have any), and also, reality check it.
From what I've heard and read, this has also been raised to Ross Gay over the years, and he's said that the idea of the practice is really to open up his field of observation to take in that which delights him AND that which alarms/frustrates/worries/angers, etc. him. This ability is in all of us. The question is: Are you willing to cultivate it?
Noting Delights in the Midst of the Unpleasant
On Monday evening, Mark arrived home around 9:15 pm after teaching class. That's pretty late for us, so I met him in the kitchen as he came in. As we were going about our "how was your day?" and "what did the students think about the photos you chose of Cat of the Week?" debrief, I began getting the coffee maker ready for Tuesday morning. However, when I turned the kitchen faucet on, no water came out. Huh. So I tried the filtered water tap. Nothing.
Mark and I looked at each other, cussed a little bit, and grabbed the flashlights. We get our water from a well, so we had some troubleshooting to do. After about 15 minutes, we'd determined that the well pump pressure switch had failed. We did not have a spare one, so we needed to source one.
A quick Google search showed that Lowe's and Menards had different varieties of switches... only problem was, they were closed and wouldn't reopen until Tuesday morning. Our well pump supplies our neighbors, too, so Mark texted to let them know. Then we got out a couple of gallons of water we keep on hand and headed up to bed. Our bedtime routine was different, but we worked together to get through it.
First thing the next morning, Mark headed to get a replacement switch. He brought it home, installed it... and nothing. We did a bit more troubleshooting and decided that the replacement switch was defective. I went with him to get the second replacement switch, choosing a different brand at a closer store as well as discussing and agreeing that if this didn't work, we would call an expert to come fix it. We worked together to get the second replacement switch installed, flipped the breaker, and it turned on. While he watched the switch and the pressure gauge, I went around flushing toilets and turning on taps. And when it got to high pressure, the switch turned off the pump. IT WORKED!
We high fived, and then I said, "Hey, you know what-- I just learned a bunch of stuff about this well pump. DELIGHT!"
At the same time, we were both standing in the mechanical room in our basement, unshowered, wearing yesterday's clothes, at about Hour 13 of being in our house with no running water, including about 3 1/2 hours of repair work on a system we rarely touch plus multiple trips to the store. In addition, we both had other plans for Tuesday morning, so we were going to have to find time and energy to take care of that stuff, too.
This, as my friend Jennifer would remind me, gives me all kinds of opportunities for practice.
As we showered (delight-- hot, softened, running water!) and dressed late Tuesday morning, we reflected a little bit about how this water outage was different than the one we experienced about five years ago when the whole well pump system had to be replaced (a much bigger and expensive repair than the switch). Of course we have had more life experience and know a bit more about the well pump system and our house, but we've also been practicing meditation and other contemplative practices during that time. It wasn't that frustration, worry, and overwhelm weren't present, but we were much better equipped to notice the feelings, allow them to be there, and not get tangled up in them. We didn't argue, and we didn't lash out at each other, which means we didn't have any relational damage to clean up. We responded to not having water rather than reacted to not having water.
I get asked on the regular why I practice or "Why should I practice?" from people who are curious about our offerings. There's this expectation that "results" will be quick or that all of the hard stuff will disappear for anyone who meditates a few minutes a day. That's not been my experience... and also...
Each one of us is like a drop of water that falls into a collection of other drops of water, which together forms a larger body of water. My practice allows me to show up more often than not in a more gentle way, so the ripples I create don't harm others. Sometimes, when I'm not as resourced or not practicing as skillfully, I may show up like the wake from a jet ski, or even tropical storm-y, and the ripples I create may cause all kinds of harm to myself and others. I practice so my ripples have a better chance of being gentle and supportive rather than aggressive and destructive.
We each have agency to choose what kind of ripples we make in every moment. Let's each of us choose wisely, together.