5 min read

Spiritual Developments in my 35th Year: Discovering God and Gratitude

Originally written  November 7, 2021 at the Wildbasin Wilderness Preserve in Austin, Texas. An incredible place. Check it out if you get the chance.

I am sitting, overlooking an absolutely stunning view. I almost didn’t go hiking today. Nobody took me up on the invite. I felt under the weather. Got a late start.

The Uber was expensive.

Yet again, I find myself  immensely grateful to myself for getting my shit together and coming out here.

Yet again, I ask myself, “where would I rather be right now?”


I am not listening to music. I hear planes far away. Grasshoppers. Light breezes through the brush.

My own breath.

The sun may be burning the back of my neck as I write this. Such is life.

I’m so immensely grateful to be here.

Last year, during the pandemic (2020), I reconnected with my introversion. I got so much value out of the time I spent alone. When the world opened back up, there was an excitement. A freshness and a beauty in experiencing the things I loved again.

But something was lost.

The time I previously had alone was now filled.

With crowds, things to do, schedules to be on, and constructs to answer to.

I was very much back in the “real world.”
And this time, I could keenly feel its “real world” trappings.

In an attempt to harness some of the wisdom that I acquired in lockdown, I began observing a secular kind of Shabbat. Starting Saturdays, my phone would go on silent. My computer would go away. And I could be alone. If connected with anyone, it would only be in focused, dedicated, fully present conversations.

But mainly, I was alone.

Not being able to “consume” the world's inputs, I suddenly had room to write/create.

I suddenly had room for new ideas, many of which I’d blocked out for years because my life was “too busy." For years, I felt that new ideas would destabilize me from the tight grip I believed I needed to have over my responsibilities. I’d gotten compliments on this tight grip, which was reinforced by a sense of duty.

Duty to myself and the sacrifices I’d made in the name of achieving my goals.
Duty to  others for the promise that I’d lead them to better outcomes.

But now, on Shabbat, I could wake up and just clean the house and enjoy it. To experience this place I called home becoming more beautiful and spacious. To give this gift to my future self. And to simply be there now.

Be here now.

The journey and discovery of “alone time" has been faceted and gradual. Forward and back. I don’t know perfectly how to integrate this spiritually and psychologically restorative time into my “real” life. But I’m enjoying and embracing learning.

The questions I’m asking and the answers they’re yielding are amongst the most satisfying and insightful I’ve come across in my life, so let’s bring this home.

The thing that has really moved the needle for me is treating meals like spiritual moments.

A salad is a miracle to me.

When you consider the journey of every ingredient. The growers. The truck drivers. The preparers. The cultures from which those recipes came. The economy and real estate that make it possible to walk into a building, hand someone $15 and get 2 lbs. of fresh, delicious nourishment –WHILE saving you the time of having to prepare it yourself-.

That is a goddamn miracle.

No matter how hungry I am. The moments before biting into that salad that I get to connect with this truth and summon all the gratitude I possibly can are invaluable.*

I find myself saying “thank you, God” and “I’ve done nothing to deserve this”.

Both are true (in so far as anything is). But I am off the hedonic treadmill at that moment. I put my feet on the sides and let it keep running under me - because you better believe I spend most of my life on it.

But at that moment, there is clarity.
Absolute clarity about the absolute embarrassment of riches I’ve been given by the universe and its creation.

Even the things I’ve “cultivated”. My palette. Culinary knowledge. Various restaurant "hacks."**

I’ve done nothing to deserve it.

I was given the gifts of curiosity and pursuit by God and I got to take this ride.
But I am not its creator. Maybe it's custodian at best.

And so, I say “thank you, God”.

I am sitting here, overlooking this vista, feeling the heat of the sun that I did nothing to earn. The quiet distant drone of planes overhead. I look out onto the rolling hills with their greenery that I’ve done nothing to deserve.

And I say “thank you, God”.

I probably said more “thank you Gods” today than in a long time.

I was afraid to say it for a long time.
The word carries so much weight.

And God forbid I misuse it.

Imagine the consequence of a societally unapproved relationship with God.
Or even worse, an internally discordant one.

The God that I’ve found is neither the God of Moses nor my ancestors.

And yet it’s absolutely the same God.

My God doesn’t speak. He doesn’t proclaim “for I am a jealous God, and you shall hold no deities before me”.

My God waits. He’s always been waiting. And when I’m gone, he will wait for the next person after me. To live 35 years and to look out at the trees and realize that he was always there all along.

Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God.

*At the time that I wrote this, I found it difficult to integrate my gratitude ritual when eating with others. I felt self concious. Since then, I actually love performing the gratitude ritual in front of others because 1) it shows me that I am congruent with my behaviors and 2) if it inspires others to practice some gratitude of their own - fantastic :)

** Fun fact, I keep a small pantry of spices & seasonings in my bag at all times. Should any restaurant let me down, I'm always prepared.

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