Not Another Gratitude Blog?
Was I the only one getting a bit worn down by all the New Year gratitude blogs?
The truth is I consider myself to be a total novice at gratitude. I'm not very good at generating specific feelings. I actually don't think many of us are. And I admit I take my privileged, first world lifestyle for granted all the time.
Maybe you're the same?
My Gratitude Journey
I've been challenged by my lack of gratitude for many years.
The reasons for this are:
1. I've been told countless times that gratitude holds the key to happiness, health and abundance and we all want more of THAT, right?
I believe in the Law of Attraction, that we will attract into our lives that which we put out into the world. I've seen it work countless times for myself and others. So it makes total sense to get into the habit of reflecting on the good stuff rather than the bad, which is what gratitude is all about.
2. There is sooooo much judgement around gratitude! And i judged myself about not feeling grateful. How could I NOT be grateful for the wonderful things i have in my life when so many are without even the basics and endure tremendous trauma.
Well I finally feel like i'm getting the hang of gratitude but it has taken a lot of honesty and self acceptance.
Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time I had the misfortune to find myself without parents.
I was estranged from my father and my mother had passed away. I'd just turned 14 so I was sent to live with foster parents who had no experience of parenting and had very different values and beliefs to my own parents. This was an incredibly difficult time for them and for me but the alternatives were even worse so we all just had to get on with it.
Many times during the 4 years I lived there I was told to be grateful for the roof I had over my head.
Surprisingly, this did not make me feel grateful!
In fact it reminded me of those Dickensian orphanages! Wasn't Oliver Twist told to be grateful?
I learnt first hand that you can't make somebody feel gratitude simply by telling them to.
I also found that it was not helpful to attempt to cover up emotions that need to be felt, either by false gratitude or any other positive feeling.
What Happened Next?
Well I had heaps of therapy of course!! :)) And still didn't feel much gratitude!
I was on a retreat several years ago, happily meditating, when we were encouraged by the teacher to feel grateful. I was used to the guilt, confusion and resentment that came up for me as this had happened many times before. But this time I decided to just sit with these feelings instead of trying to be grateful.
I let my self off the gratitude hook, totally.
It was a revelation in fact! And I continued to do it over and over.
I even confessed to people that I didn't really know what gratitude was because it was true! Obviously I understood the concept, and being brought up in the church I knew I should feel it, but I seriously had no actual inner experience that I could honestly, knowingly call gratitude.
So I owned that, totally!
I began to have experiences of what I instantly knew to be gratitude.
Without even trying.
Appreciating First World Privilege
You can maybe understand why a teenager can't appreciate a very difficult home life but as an adult I continued to struggle with feeling grateful for the amazing first world lifestyle I enjoy in Australia.
This is too big a subject to explore fully here but a key reason it's so hard to appreciate privilege is that we are wired up to normalise our experiences.
That is why travel and change are so refreshing! We crave new experiences, special, out of the ordinary times.
We get used to our surroundings and it then becomes very hard to appreciate them because the 'novelty' soon wears off and we're looking for the next stimulating experience.
We can slow this process down with mindfulness practices but it rarely ever stops completely for long periods. It's as though we have a 'What's next?' default.
However, if we feel guilty for our lack of appreciation we are simply adding a layer of toxic energy which is never helpful.
The biggest gift we can give somebody much less fortunate than ourselves is to grab our opportunities with both hands and live our lives to the full. Ultimately I believe this is the most helpful. Feeling guilty about what we have? Not so helpful.
My Gratitude Practice
Now I have a daily Gratitude Practice and I let myself play around with it.
Every evening I write down a few things that happened during the day that I appreciated, that were positive experiences. Warm interactions, little miracles, moments when I felt present.
I try to stay aware of when my focus shifts from a soft feeling in my heart centre to a sort of strain in my head or neck. For me that tells me I'm forcing something and I sense that it's counterproductive.
I've found that aiming for a list of a certain number of things is a really bad idea. I begin to force it straight away.
I'm very gentle with myself.
Your Gratitude Practice
Once you begin to write a few things down each day you will soon know if it's supporting you. Even if you have a strong "I SHOULD" feeling about the practice continue for one month then take two weeks off. Notice how you feel at the end of the two weeks off compared to how you felt at the end of the first month.
Look out for feelings of guilt and the energy of forcing. If they are coming up then don't try to change the feelings, just sit with them, let them be. This is your gratitude practice for now.
If, when you bring your awareness to the good things that have happened in each day, you experience positive feelings, then soak these up. This soaking IS real gratitude! And it will serve you and everyone else on the planet.
What about the Money?
Money is just another expression of how you show up and indicates how the world is interacting with you.
When it comes to feeling grateful for money you need to make sure you can do this in a totally clean way. Test it out and see how it feels. You will know if it doesn't feel right.
If your money gratitude is layered with guilt for having it, fear you will lose it or feelings that you don't really deserve it, then you need to address these issues with your preferred method of healing. I can also help you with that.
In the meantime focus on the positive things in your life which don't carry heavy emotional charges and get soaking!
Sent with Authentic Gratitude ;)