To help establish you in a deeper state of gratitude, I have a few questions for you: What’s the difference between actual gratitude and the word “gratitude”?
What is the feeling sense?
How grateful are you for how well your life is going at this moment? That you currently have the health and resources and time and lack of other trauma to be in front of a computer reading this? Seriously. Life could be much, much worse, right? Things are okay, right? Pretty good in fact, relatively. Of course things could be much better, but that’s for later. Gratitude for current reality is the name of the game. Gratitude for now.
We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve offered something generously, and felt genuine gratitude from someone; and we’ve all been on the receiving end of that exchange, and felt that genuine gratitude within us. What is that feeling?
We’ve all been on both sides of a situation where an offering was not fully met with gratitude. “Thanks” (said flatly) or “eww” or “is that it?” or “(silence)”. We know how that feels, yes? From both sides, yes?
When was the last time you felt it: actually fully received someones gift, especially the gift of their open heart’s availability to you?
When was the last time you felt fully received?
What creative ways have we found to not not receive people’s (or the earth’s) offerings? What else can push away that opportunity for gratitude?
- taking it for granted
- rejecting it as offensive
- judging it as insufficient
And while all of these experiences are valid, it is not only possible, but feels really good to take a moment to experience gratitude for the gesture.
Taking it for granted: “Wow, air, I’ve been breathing you my whole life, forgetting what agony I would be in without you, how I would actually die within seconds if you weren’t constantly there for me. I’ve even polluted you without thinking twice about it more times than I can remember. When I put my attention on you I realize that every breath is blissful. (Inhale/exhale). Oh I am so grateful for you and this blissful breath of life we are together.” Or how about your partner, your job, your car, your parents, your kids…..
Rejecting it as offensive: Swami Venkatesananda said something great: paraphrasing: “If we are a true seeker, looking to clear away our triggers, if someone does something that bothers us we can thank them for pointing out to us where we are unresolved, and where the rest of our work that we are so committed to is”: “Wow, judge, your letting a known sex offender and child pornographer go after raping a 13 year old really disturbed me. Thank you for reminding me of what’s really important to me that I’ve done nothing about. I’m going to do something about that, like make sure you lose your job, and make sure the world understands that 13 year olds are precious and should not be held responsible for their actions, and that those who take advantage of them do not get away with it.”
Indifference: “Hey lover, when you ignored my loving gesture, I felt hurt like I’d been abandoned. Thank you for helping me feel how I still cling to abandonment trauma, and the ways I do things to get approval, not just because they are good things to do. I can now work with that.”
Judging it as insufficient: “Thank you person I am not at all attracted to who is flirting with me, it is so beautiful of you to face any fears you have of rejection and approach me this way. I am flattered (pause to enjoy). And I also am not interested.”
We can experience gratitude without having to take everything that comes our way.
A powerful lesson in gratitude came from my nephew Helix at Christmas when he was about 5. He opened present after present, until he could find no more, and as any 5 year old would do, without thanking anyone for a single present, asked if there were more. I thought: why would anyone give you more presents if you don’t even appreciate what you have.
Of course I immediately thought about my own life, how many gifts I have and how rarely I actually appreciate them. Theres a way that when I feel like I don’t have enough money, love, attention, whatever, that feeling of scarcity and the closure that surrounds it keeps me from having the more that I desire.
And so I apply it in my yoga practice. Most powerfully in things like straightening my leg while hold ing my big toe, when lifting up to a handstand, opening to the splits, or any such yoga trick that once seemed impossible to me. I’d find myself attempting a posture and feeling that familiar blockage to my freedom and get so frustrated (so ungrateful) for my limitations, forgetting that they are there to protect me. Why would my body keep opening if I don’t appreciate what it’s already doing? I learned not to force past those blockages, but to be grateful for them: pause there to learn what my body was trying to tell me by seizing up, and guess what happens? My body opens further. My ingratitude held me tight where I was, my gratitude freed me up. Every time. In every way.
So I take this time to thank you for being in my life enough to get this message. I love that I get to feel heard on subjects that are important to me. I thank the earth for the enormous bounty it’s been offering every species in our divine cohesion since life began! I thank our nation and it’s desire to fiercely protect it’s citizens in a way that I have never lived in fear of war or famine, and can use that freedom to pursue loftier aspirations. I thank my family for holding me and raising me and nurturing me in all the ways they knew how, the best they could every day to this day. I am grateful to have this chance of a lifetime on earth as a human being to get to experience what life has to offer.
Have a wonderful day, week, month, year, decade, life!