"GRATITUDE unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
~ Melody Beattie, Author
Gratitude: what a topic for a challenging period! I've heard the recession is over, but just try telling that to the people I see sleeping on the streets each day. It seems like most people are scared these days. What is there to be grateful for?
So much! I’m thinking that gratitude is not the same as saying “I’m happy and satisfied with how everything is.” It is the place to start. This is the best time to appreciate what’s working in our lives, so that we are better equipped to take on what is not. Ironically it’s in times of loss that we become most aware of what we actually have.
Few of you know that on November 7, twenty five years ago, I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle to school. I was 16. I was in the hospital for a week, most of that time in a coma.
I never remembered the accident itself, but when I left the hospital I felt overwhelming gratitude for things that I had never thought about before. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was that all the skin on my face was in tact! How thankful I was for every bone in my body that wasn’t broken. How amazing it was—given the severity of the head injury--I could still speak when I regained consciousness. How lucky I was to be alive!
I soon found I had trouble concentrating. When I returned to school, I couldn’t remember the pages I had just read. And I couldn’t analyze what I could remember. Skills and talents I had known all my life weren’t there for me anymore.
I didn’t sleep through the night for a year and a half. I had panic attacks constantly. The future I had taken for granted was up for grabs. I was homeless for a semester of high school. I was suicidal. It was the hardest time of my life. And this brings me to my current gratitude:
It really seemed like things would never get better. Doesn’t it always feel that way when you’re in that dark place? Eventually, the daily anxiety attacks became weekly, and that gave me hope. Then monthly. Then once every few months, and more progress. School work was hard. Everything went very slow. But it was always getting better, and I recovered.
I bring this up because what I am grateful for today is informed by where I’ve been. Bit by bit, I am manifesting everything I ever wanted. I still go through rough periods like everybody else. But when approaching the areas of life that are ready for change, it helps to start with the places of gratitude. It’s like a grounding exercise. Also, it’s hard to be proactive when you’re feeling like a victim.
1) An easy way to shift into gratitude mode is to start with an affirmation for what is true. The great thing about how our brains work is anytime you repeat something to yourself, your brain finds evidence to support what you’re saying.
Here’s one I picked up in Kundalini yoga:
Healthy am I. Happy am I. Holy am I.
Try repeating this to yourself a few times aloud and silently. Notice how your feelings shift. Where is there truth in these statements?
2) Then take out pen and paper and ask yourself:
What is most important?
What are my talents?
Who are my allies?
What is the smallest thing that gives me joy?
What else do I have going for me?
What is possible for me?
3) Make a list of your current challenges. Find an opportunity in each one. It isn't what happens to you that matters, it's how you respond. See how those challenges can be transformed into blessings.
Do not tell someone else that they should be grateful. That's disrespectful, especially if they're suffering. We can only find our own gratitude. Be an example to others, not a judge.
The first step to changing your world is to find the blessings in what already is. This is magic.
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