If there’s one thing I want to do it’s help you be grateful; I attempt to operate from a place of gratitude with everyday, despite setbacks or successes. I think to be grateful is to access the greatest joy in life. Here’s how I know:
At age 22, four years after finishing chemo, I traveled alone to India to study yoga and meditation. One morning, long before the sun rose, in an ashram high in the mountains of southern India, I sat with the other residents in morning meditation as we did every day. It was a challenging meditation; my mind felt as if filled with a thick, dense cloud of smoke. I could hear whispers in the background of my head, and I couldn’t concentrate. The whispers got louder, louder, and louder until finally they became audible. From the dark, thick smoke the voices started chanting so loudly they began yelling at me. I could hear them so clearly, it sounded like a crowd made of my own voice multiplied to the hundreds, all screaming directly at me. I took a pen, and frantically wrote down everything I could hear:
“You are not good enough”
“You are not pretty enough”
“You have done this all wrong”
“You are damaged”
“You hurt people you love”
“You do not deserve love”
“You do not deserve this life”
I wept what felt like rivers while the words came out, struggling to keep the pen’s pace with them all. And then, after a few pages, the voices ran out. The words stopped; there were no more messages. I had heard them all out, and finally. And suddenly, like a door slamming, my head was totally quiet. Totally still.
The things I had been telling myself so deep in the back of my head, all the beliefs I had that made me feel insecure and unworthy, they were all out. They were cleaned out of my attics, on to the paper, and I was finally free of them. And once I saw them there in plain words, simple little letters, they lost all their power, and just looked so silly.
Why You Should Want To Be Grateful:
Every day, in every possible way, we are practicing something. It doesn’t always feel like it, because we’ve finished the training week at work or because our real world problems feel like anything but amateur – but the truth is, every moment is still practice.
The myth is that ‘practice’ means the before period, as we learn and hone a skill. The truth is, ‘practice’ is just a regular, ongoing execution of the skill. It can be likened to one’s ‘work’; the activity that a person continually does on a regular basis. That said, a life of happiness requires practice. And a life of practice requires attentiveness.
On my worst day, it takes a lot of determination to remember to be grateful simply to be alive. In fact, sometimes it’s such a struggle that at the end of a truly trying day, I never did get to gratitude. And that’s ok. It’s a practice. If I were a doctor, my practice would be “Gratitude and Associates”. I go to work every day, and sometimes it is work, but it’s rewarding, and it is my work. To be grateful is work, but it’s the most rewarding work because to be grateful is to be joyous.
In many of my conversations with women today, it feels like they’re doing a lot of practice without a lot of thought. We complain about our boyfriends’ shortcomings and how sick we are of our jobs. In doing so – even in conversation – we are practicing discontentment. The more we talk about it, the more the discontent flourishes. In the magical land of women, we somehow made up the idea that ‘just getting it out’ and venting the problem helps, but venting doesn’t, and has never solved the problem. It just dissipates it, making it feel like the responsibility is now shared. But it’s not, it’s just more gossiped about.
In yoga, there is a saying to ‘do your practice’. It means to come to the mat, regardless of the stresses weighing heavy on the heart and shoulders, and do what is essential to honor your body, your mind, and your soul. The practice evolves each day, it feels differently on a Monday than a Wednesday, it has different rewards and sweet spots in your 20’s than in your 40’s, but it is ongoing, and takes determination. It is not a matter of an end goal, it is a matter of continuation. It is one’s work, one’s personal practice. And in every posture and at every interval, it takes awareness to understand what’s going on, and why.
How to Be Grateful – Practicing Tips:
Start with yourself: how you treat yourself directly influences how you treat other people and situations in your life. Make it a habit to intentional speak messages of gratitude to yourself and others
Set reminders for yourself where you’ll see them: post it’s around the house, timers on your phone. It might sound cheesy, but if it’s the routine that wakes you up in the morning, it’s the routine that can wake you up from being dissatisfied in the afternoon too
With each moment of practicing gratitude, allow the feeling to seep deep into your heart. Take a moment of pause to feel the physical and emotional sensations of being grateful and appreciative. That way, it becomes richer and more encompassing each time you practice.
Tell others! Gratitude and joy are contagious. The more you inspire others to be more grateful, the more they’ll inspire you too!
Every single day, in every single moment, we are telling ourselves something. That message is your practice. To be grateful, you must practice gratitude. You must make gratitude your practice.
SO….What are you practicing?