This blog is inspired by the following quotes:
"Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend...when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present---- love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure--- the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth." --- Sarah Ban Breathnach
"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kinds of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. --- Henry David Thoreau
I love the above words by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is not a new concept. We know that being grateful for what we have is something we should feel and by doing so that happiness and contentment comes easier. We’ve experienced it before in those moments where all seems right around us and we taste slivers of Heaven here on Earth. Unfortunately, it is so easy to be distracted. The wasteland of illusion in which we live is powerful. Life is stressful. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. Current events can make us crazy and leave us feeling scared and hopeless. The demands we feel on our time and energy leave us feeling tired and frustrated. These feelings are easy to come by and are valid. I think it’s natural sometimes for us to focus more so on what is going wrong around us than all the wonderful things that are right.
Henry David Thoreau tells us that for thoughts to dominate our lives, we must think them over and over again. Fleeting moments of appreciation are not enough to provide us the happiness we desire. We must choose which garden we tend. Tending a garden takes work. It takes a level of commitment and attention that can be easily pushed aside considering other things. Likewise, feeling grateful is something that we can overlook if we don’t make a conscious decision to not do so.
So, how can we create a mental path that leads to appreciation of all moments and all things? Can we train ourselves to feel grateful more often and by doing so experience a life that is more meaningful and enjoyable? I believe it’s worth a try. I’m providing some examples of ways I have tried to add regular moments of thankfulness to my days.
A Personal/Family Gratitude Journal. My family and I started one of these several years ago. When we started I got all excited and named it the “BGP: Bryant Gratitude Project”. I bought a fancy notebook and I intended for each of us to share and write down one thing we were thankful for everyday for 365 days. Intentions and reality don’t always match up. Here’s the thing, we didn’t do it every day, BUT the great part is that we still have the journal and we still use it. There may be weeks or even months where we don’t write anything down but we revisit it here and there and it has become a log of all the wonderful things that are going on in our lives at various moments. Now it is fun to go back and read and reminisce about the things that were going on during our lives at different times.
A Gratitude Game- Who said what? When the family is all together on Thanksgiving, I hand out small pieces of paper and have each person write one or a few things down that they are thankful for. We put these anonymous entries into a basket, then during dinner we pass the basket around and each person reads an entry out loud. We then try to guess who said it. Some are obvious, some not so much and over the years our answers have become more colorful and more creative. For the competitor of the group, it’s fun to figure out who said what. It also encourages group conversation/laughter and saying the things you may feel but often keep to yourself.
A Gratitude Advent Garland- Last year for Christmas we made the old school construction paper loop advent garland with alternating red/green papers. We started Dec. 1 and each day removed a piece of the garland as a countdown to Christmas. As we removed the piece each day, we wrote down something that we were thankful for and put it into a large glass jar. The jar became quite beautiful (and stuffed) as the days progressed. On Christmas morning, in between opening gifts we removed a few entries and read them aloud. I’d be lying if I said the kids were as into this as I was and that it worked out beautifully. With 5 family members x 25 days, we didn’t get to every entry. I’d like to think that the process was worth it in the end, even if mom got a little frustrated along the way. I’m pretty sure at some point Jason reminded me that screaming at the kids over not paying attention to my activity was defeating the purpose! I’d also like to point out that pretty early in the month one of my children ripped down his garland and didn’t participate for a number of days. Another child was only thankful for the cat (yep, 25 days of Symba).
I share the imperfect parts because I never want to come across like I’m pretending to have my life perfectly put together and am doing all these great things to ensure that. Pretty much daily, I feel as though I’m failing at being the expression of love that I’d like to be. Remember the first paragraph where I referenced stress, frustration, fear, etc.? These are all very real feelings. We all are, after all, human.
I’d like to go out on a limb and say that the negative feelings alongside of the blissful ones are equally important, and it is good that we have them. To me, life is a balancing act. I believe that it’s the ends of the spectrum that even allow there to be a spectrum. The inhale allows us an opportunity to exhale. The bad helps us recognize the good. The arctic misery of winter reminds me to appreciate the blissful blistering summer sun (personal preference with that example). Without the upward climb, there would be no downhill coast. If we did not lack, we would not realize all that we have. Once again, this is not a new concept. We’ve all heard the quote, “to find the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain”.
The question I pose, though, is which shall we focus on? Can we train ourselves to feel gratitude all the time (or at least more of the time)? Perhaps we can convince ourselves to feel appreciation for the not so pretty moments so that we can then recognize the sacred beauty of the others. Maybe we can become better at focusing on the abundance in our lives rather than what we lack. Can we face, then replace? Face our negative mental chatter and replace it with something positive.
Who’s in for a try? I posted last week a challenge to create a list of things you are thankful for, adding 5 things each day for this month. I’d like to present that challenge again. I encourage you to keep it fun and simple. I can promise you that every day on my list there will be some reference to food. If we place gratitude at the core of our emotions, imagine the joy we could experience… even here on Earth.
You can find the above paper on the Yoga Now bulletin board at the studio. Please take a few the next time you are in to help you jump start your gratitude challenge!
I must mention that the very first thing on my list on day one was "THE BEAUTIFUL SOULS THAT TRUST ME TO GUIDE THEIR YOGA PRACTICE". Number 2 was "crockpot dinners", lol!
I’d love to hear if YOU are in on the challenge!
Have fun, be thankful and love on,
#gratitudechallenge #bethankful #belove #YogaNow #abundanceoverlack #areyouin