In the cardinal numbers 1-9, most people assume from the study of various forms of feng shui, numerology, divination or related subjects that everything begins with the number one. Specifically, when assigning a “beginning” point (if it is not an oxymoron to assign such a thing within an infinitely repeating loop) this assumption would be erroneous. Click here to see how the sequence began and don’t forget to click again to see where it goes.
Yes, it’s the number 3. That green energy of the East, the rising of the sun, the birthplace of civilization and ultimately all that is new, vital, source and origin. Three lines in basic Chinese symbolism suggest Heaven above, Earth below and “Man” in between.
Omne trium perfectum says the Latin (good things come in threes), a principle that implies that when three things occur together it is more significant or inherently amusing. Tic and Tac would surely be a lonely pair without Toe, as would Larry and Curly if Moe went solo. Whether seen in the religious trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost or what Albertus Magnus claimed “is in all things that signify natural phenomena,” three is a big deal. Lao Tsu said the triad produces all things; for Dante, it revealed the principle of Love. Rock, paper, scissors. Animal, vegetable, mineral. Acids, bases, salts. Three is everywhere in science, architecture, religion, philosophy, history, geometry, literature, fairy tales, music. And three as it occurs in the Chinese Book of Change’s eight basic trigrams is of particular interest to me.
Those three lines assembled in the East point of a compass are positioned to show a solid line at the base and two broken lines above, forming the Trigram “Thunder”
related to Elders – our parents, grandparents, teachers and all who came before us. This is what gives us life, breath, the essence of being in the world. And how exactly did that occur? Well, if you don’t know you might ask someone nearby — anyone older that 6 should be adequate. Our parents gave us life.
When we are able to accept this single fact, inhale this truth with every breath for as long as it takes to acknowledge this reality despite the myriad of other feelings we might carry around related to those two essential agents of Heaven and Earth who created that initial spark — the one that exploded from the meeting of sperm and egg into the body we inhabit — we would access that human quality referred to as gratitude.
Since I began counseling nearly 40 years ago, I’ve learned so much from many individuals with life threatening illness. Who would have ever thought that there was a two way street in the consultation process, that those facing their impermanence would share this deep wisdom with me. I’ve observed that the most common denominator among those who survived was their ability to face the challenge with an amazing spirit of grateful acceptance and self love.
To be clear, no patient I met ever jumped up from the chair when the doctor confirmed a malignant tumor. At the start, not one man told me how happy he was with the diagnosis of H.I.V. nor did any woman I counseled celebrate her new breast cancer. These are hardly normal first responses when learning the awful truth of a deadly disease growing inside. Yet somehow, over time, after allowing the very real anger, fear and grief to surface, those remarkable survivors could be heard to say “this was the best thing that ever happened to me – I had a chance to self-reflect, to look deeply at my priorities, to take stock of who I was in the world and what I really wanted from life.” In the simplest of terms, survivors settle for nothing less than a full court press with gratitude.
Starting with appreciation for life includes thanking our parents for the life we’ve been given. It’s not necessary to call or write them to embody this feeling, though doing so can be a powerful expression of love; however, I know of no better mantra with which to start the day. Expressing gratitude to our parents, still living or long passed, makes it easier to be grateful even in difficult times. Just allowing an awareness of gratitude for others to emerge within our minds – especially those who came before us to lead the way — can be life changing. I am truly so thankful to my ancestors, elders, mentors and teachers who have guided me, and to my parents who gave me this life.
This is one reason that many years ago we renamed our foundation Fortunate Blessings – acknowledging our Elders from the beginning of life while recognizing the truth that within every crisis there is an opportunity for personal transformation and gratitude.
Give it a try!