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gratitude

Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough

As I sit to breakfast every morning, Theresa asks me “what are you grateful for?” We each list three things, whether superficial or deep, we start our day with gratitude. Gratitude can be a way of life. It is more than saying thank you, though this is part of it. It is really soaking up what we have in our lives that we are thankful for.

Gratitude is feeling the air fill our lungs and being thankful for it. Gratitude is reaching our hand out to open the door and being thankful for the power of movement.

We can bring gratitude into our lives by becoming aware of everything we have. We can begin to notice these things by listing them every morning, but list them mindfully. Let it sink in even if it is as simple as being thankful for the food in front of you. Let that fact sink in before you taste it. Sit with the words.

It is true that life presents challenges, life gives and life takes away. Through these challenges it is still possible to be grateful. We cannot experience the highs of happiness without the lows of pain and sadness. It is part of life and part of what makes us who we are.

But wherever we are in life, whether it be the the troughs or the peaks, we can still find time to be grateful. Even the worst things that happen, Brother David Steindl Rast tells us in Oprah Winfreys podcast turn out to be life giving.

The hardest part of my life to date was the death of my mother. Having left Ireland for Canada (9 years ago now) I missed out on the last 5 years of her life. I saw her in that time but it was painfully short. I still found gratitude in her death. Acceptance and gratitude that I had a week with her at the end. There is light in everything. We just have to find it.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

Buddha

Happy people are grateful. Or are they? Yes, I imagine they are but Brother David counters in his TEDtalk that is grateful people who are happy.

Gratitude is the gateway to happiness. Brother David recommends that we stop, look and go – just like crossing the road.

How often in life do we really stop and look? Ask yourself, when was the last time you stopped to take in your situation and surroundings? If it was recently, I applaud you and encourage you to do it again right now. When we stop and look, we can use this as an opportunity to find something to be grateful for. We can, according to Brother David, use this as an opportunity to take action towards something we can be grateful for.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

Epictetus

We can appreciate what we have. Grateful living is so accessible. Today is not just another day. Stop reading for a second and look out the window. You will never, ever see that same cloud formation again. You will never see that sky again. You will never see the light hit the leaves or the concrete outside in that exact pattern ever again. Each moment and each day is something we can be grateful for and it can so easily sneak past us unnoticed.

I have written before about looking up. Too often our eyes are downcast and we cannot see what we really have.

“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”

Doris Day

When we live a life of gratitude, we are rich. We often fear not having enough. This fear can create a longing, a craving, which ultimately leads to violence.

It takes time, effort and practise and it takes a lot more than listing three things every morning which we are grateful, but…..it’s a great place to start.

I still struggle with anger and negativity and may do so for the rest of my life but just like yoga, meditation and exercise, gratitude is a practise and a journey. A journey where we must stay on the path for the rest of our lives.

Each one of us may be just a drop, but together we make an ocean and together we can make an ocean of gratitude. Imagine what that would be like.

Gratitude can be our future. Brother David imagines a future, not with a top down pyramid power structure but as a flat network where we are willing to share. The grateful person will act out of a sense of enough.

“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”

Eckhart Tolle

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this blog it would help us so much if you shared it,

Peace,

George

 

Links:

Gratitude | Louie Schwartzberg | TEDxSF

Want to be happy? Be grateful | David Steindl-Rast

Oprah – Super Soul

 

 

 

 

A Daily Meditation Practice: Make It Work For You

From trial and error over many years I have come to realize the success of a daily meditation practice for me is to be realistic. We would all love to meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour before bed but for the majority of us that is not possible. How much time can you spare and can you find a similar time of the day to practice meditation? Making the effort to carve out time for meditation is the first step. The next step is sticking to your commitment of time & place for your meditation. This is where you need to create a habit so like brushing your teeth in the morning, you do not pass a day without meditation.

For me the best time of day for meditation is first thing in the morning. I have set my alarm 15 minutes earlier in the morning to get up to meditate. I wake up, go to the washroom, put on an extra layer, drink lemon water, take out my meditation cushion, press start on my meditation timer and sit in silence for 10 minutes (additional 1 minute warm up to get settled). So why on earth do I get up earlier to meditate and not savour that extra 15min of extra sleep? Am I crazy? Possibly! The answer is I’m not sure. I was so close to googling why meditation is good and writing a paragraph about that to fill this paragraph with but let me try and figure out why I choose to wake up earlier to mediate and why you should too?

Is sleeping not better for me than waking up earlier to sit in stillness? This is a fair question since the majority of the population suffer from sleep disorders and don’t get enough sleep at night. However, sleeping and meditation are completely different and both bring amazing benefits and both are super important. If you are a person who doesn’t get enough hours of sleep at night, I would say don’t set your alarm 15minutes earlier to wake up for meditation, sleep and let your body recover. Choose a different time of the day to meditate, simple. On your lunch break, go find a quiet bench to sit on, an empty office to sit in, the restrooms to hide out in…. honestly anywhere you can find that you feel safe & at ease in. Don’t feel you need to sit on a meditation cushion, in yoga pants at 4:45am to mediate, you don’t.

Personally I don’t have an issue with sleeping which I am very grateful for and we go to bed early in our home, around 9:30 pm. Therefore, I get enough sleep so I can wake up 15minutes earlier to meditate. This routine works for me but find one that works for you, one is not better than the other. It really doesn’t matter when, where and what you are wearing, just take 10minutes to focus the mind to meditate.

So, what is meditation? Again, the temptation to google is there but I will answer from a personal place. For me meditation is a very active practice. From the outside you may look like still with very little movement but on the inside the mind is extremely active. The practice is to bring that outward stillness into the mind. The mind or our thoughts have an innate tendency to wander, flow, distract and go nuts when you bring your body to sit in stillness. In truth your mind is always going but it becomes really apparent how crazy your thoughts are when you sit still and bring your attention to them. The aim of meditation for me is to become aware of my thoughts, notice where my thoughts lead and bring them back to a still point by focusing on my breath, the inhale & exhale through an open mouth a focal point to help focus & control the crazy spiralling of my thoughts.

Focusing solely on your breath for the first few breaths can be easy, however without even knowing it the mind wanders off to past or future thoughts and the breath is lost. The kind of exercises I like to do to help focus my mind is to focus my attention between my eyes to my inner eye, this really helps me for some reason, it’s like a pause button until I get distracted by my thoughts again and I need to repeat the process. Another one I like is to whisper silently in a kind way to myself that I am thinking and to bring my attention back to a focal point, sometimes I like that point to be my belly. A great way to help focus the mind and distract yourself from your thoughts is to count to 10 and repeat. You won’t believe how hard this is, I have found myself almost at 50 before noticing I wasn’t paying attention. When you notice you are not paying attention you start back at 0.

So why meditate? Meditation is getting a lot of media attention lately which is awesome, most of us know the benefits of it already. Even 1 minute of meditation is supposed to be beneficial to our mental health. Again, I will speak from a personal experience. Why I mediate is for the mental challenge it provides every morning. I know challenging to still my mind helps me cope with life after those ten minutes. It helps me think clearer, pause before I react (this doesn’t happen all the time but I notice an improvement), it helps me listen more as I am not afraid to sit in silence, it helps me in awkward silent situations and not feel awkward, it helps me sit in a restaurant by myself and just sit there without having to pull out my iPhone to distract me from the silence or loneliness, it helps me feel comfortable in my own skin, it helps me cope in times of stress, it helps me relax and ease into my day, it provides clarity and helps me be present in moments that I really want to be present in and fully aware.

There are many scientific reasons why meditation is great and I am sure I am benefiting from so much more but these are the reasons why I keep meditating every morning. I see an improvement in my life and how I look at life in general, I have learned to separate the unimportant from the important (can still mess up of course) and I truly believe it is those 10minutes every morning that help clear space in my head for what’s important, stillness, awareness, knowing who you are and being present in this life and taking control of your life to live the way you choose. All that from 10 minutes a day. Try it and see how it transforms you. It’s not all hype, find a time that works for you and just do it.

 

Thank so much,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa x