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Inner Peace: Three life lessons from a cup of hot chocolate

How many simple moments of life today have brought a smile to your face — or your heart?

Sixty-eight years of life have convinced me that my happiness does not come from the anticipated vacation, a promotion at work or a new possession. Yes, those times are wonderful. I am not minimizing their importance.

But what about the other 95 percent of the year? To put it bluntly, what about all those minutes of our lives ticking by, the moment-by-moment-by-moment of daily life when nothing “dramatic” is happening?

If we can learn to find simple riches in the moments of daily life, we open the door to living with contentment and satisfaction. How to do that? We will each have our own journey, but the journey starts with a decision: “Yes, that is what I want.”

This poem I wrote on a recent chilly winter morning offers some hints:

3 Life Lessons from a Cup of Hot Chocolate

This chilly winter morning,

The steaming mug

Warms my hands.

As rich dark chocolate

Fulfills my waking taste buds,

I am filled with that just-right “aaahhh” feeling.

Relaxed in my aaahhh-ness,

A mind-opening “awe” feeling emerges;

I suddenly see life lessons to learn

From this very cup of hot chocolate.

Balance the bitter with the sweet:

Faced with a choice, we take sweet over bitter, right?

Yet sweet alone is one-dimensional, cloying.

Only through the bitter “downs” in life

Do we learn to appreciate the sweet “ups?”

Only through bitter and sweet swirled together

Do we appreciate complexity in food, or

Growth and fulfillment in life.

History is important:

The bitter-sweet cocoa and sugar in my cup

Both have an origin and a history,

As do I.

The cocoa and sugar come from the land

(is it cared for or neglected?) and from

The people who work the land

(is the food grown by child laborers or Fair Trade farmers?).

I honor, with each sip I take,

Choices this chocolate company made

To support healthy land and people.

While in my personal history,

I honor my great-great-grandfather,

Who fought to help preserve the Union

And end slavery in our Civil War.

I honor my father, who chose

To help rebuild Europe in the Marshall Plan

After the devastation of World War II.

Savor each sip:

Our culture has a habit of teaching us

Happiness will be found “after” and “when.”

Meanwhile, the moments, days and years of life

Slip away, and are lost.

This cup of hot chocolate reminds me

To savor each sip,

To appreciate each moment of life unfolding.

There is no more need to fear life slipping away

If I can learn to savor today, each day.

Here are two more hints to help us savor each day:

Gratitude: Each morning, I write in my journal one to three things I am grateful for.

It can be something big. Yesterday I wrote: “I am grateful for my health.”

It can be something small. Last January I wrote: “I am grateful I was able to watch on TV as Roger Federer won his 20th tennis Grand Slam at the Australian Open.”

Wins: Each evening, I write in my journal one to three “wins” from the day. Here are three recent examples of simple “wins”:

“I talked on the phone today with my son about his music.”

“My wife and I took our old electronics to the transfer station for recycling.”

“I met mystery author Ellie Alexander (Kate Dyer-Seeley) at Bloomsbury and she was interested in my WalkAshland website.”

You can do these two simple writing practices on paper, or digitally on your computer or phone. They will, over time, bring a new perspective to each day.

Imagine that you have done both for just one month. You will be able to look back, read and remember 30 to 90 specific things that you have been grateful for. You will be able to look back, read and remember 30 to 90 of your very own small and large “wins” or accomplishments!

Could this lead to more moments of life that bring a smile to your face each day? I believe it could. If you decide to try this simple practice for a month (or more), save my email address and let me know what happens.

As his contribution to building community, writer and herbal health researcher Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street. Visit WalkAshland.com to see and read about local people, history, yard art, architecture, gardens and more. Email Peter at WalkAshland@ashlandhome.net.

Peter Finkle