Lately I am digging on this group Tycho and their ambient music. They are my new fav jams on my yoga playlists (next to songs that I like to sing to that is!) This song in particular makes me think of the Peanuts characters doing their happy dance! In fact I think I have been doing that dance at my desk whenever I listen to it. Also the YouTube clip is so pretty to watch as it reminds me of the sunsets I often see from my kitchen in the tree house; all full of bright pinks and purples. Today I woke up with such a burst of gratitude that even the swampy humid weather we are experiencing couldn’t even bring me down. It feels like the worries of the past are fading and the sun is shining bright on the future. I am in the process of building a yoga community that is a kind of social action project that has been in the making for a very long time. It’s beginning to come together and gain some attention and nothing could make me feel more humbled and excited at the same time. But as I sit here with my tea and you all, a concept is arising that could use some attention. That concept is gratitude. In 12 step programs they talk often say “A grateful heart will never use drugs or alcohol.” Gratitude, like mindfulness these days, has gained a lot of press. There are many books on gratitude. Gratitude journals Therapists suggest practicing gratitude as do coaches, motivational speakers and spiritual guides. But I have always wondered a bit about these suggestions.
So here it is….I actually have had a love hate relationship with the concept of gratitude. While being grateful helps breed happiness and keep one grounded, it also seems that people suggest that others be grateful when a person is experiencing some uncomfortable emotions. It is almost like the general public is just so uncomfortable with bearing witness to someone’s pain that they need to immediately offer up something that can cover it up. It’s not really a surprise given that IS how our culture operates. There is always a pill, piece of cake, drink or something bright and shiny that will take care of your depression and anxiety. More people are prescribed mood altering medications now than ever before. While some people may need medications, it seems we have become a society that is in pain but has such great struggle with accepting that as a reality and working within it. As we discussed in our chat yesterday You Are Here Buddhists believe that there is no difference between emotions that feel good and those that don’t feel so good. They are all just what is arising in the present moment. They are all forms of energy. Making friends with all emotions is what helps keep balance within life’s storms. This is where I feel that gratitude can be useful. While practicing acceptance of what is, it can also be useful to practice noticing the things which make your heart sing a beautiful melody. Your car goes where your eyes go. If you focus too intensely on what you don’t like, you will get more of what you don’t like. While the law of attraction is a very real thing, it is also equally important to realize that willing gratitude doesn’t mean that the uncomfortable feelings are gone; they are just not as present in the forefront of your brain. Gratitude is not the magic potion to take away any uncomfortable feelings although that is what seems like people may be seeking. Therein lies the the dark side of gratitude. Often people work on being grateful as a way of avoiding what is painful. The human mind loves avoidance, craves avoidance and numbing like any other addict. We are driven to distraction these days and can find ourselves doing that even in the most positive of ways. It is within the noticing that change occurs. As we wake up to our unconscious patterns, we begin to see how we may be avoiding and how being present can actually be much more healing.
Today I am grateful that I woke up grateful. It wasn’t something I willed or used to cover something up. Life is unfolding in beautiful and interesting ways these days. It may not always be comfortable but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have already had one exciting surprise this morning by someone who is doing what the can to be helpful with a stressful situation. What could be better than that? The shining glory that I find in gratitude is that it helps me connect with the world that is larger than myself. It helps me drop the Hollywood drama that is in my head and realize that I am just one of many beings on earth. When I feel connected to others, I can begin to feel the tension release from my body and mind slows down. Humans are social beings and I happen to be more of a social being than some. I am grateful for all those who are helping to support my project as it prepares to launch. I am also extremely grateful to the smallest of things right now like my very comfy couch, a good cup of tea, the birds around my apartment and the sun when it is shining. Is Gratitude helpful? It’s all in how you use it. The whole concept of everything in moderation. Checking in with intention is the key piece of the puzzle. How does being grateful help you? Are there ever times when someone has suggested it and you have found yourself resisting it? Is there a way of holding both sides together? Being grateful while also allowing yourself to experience your feelings is where it is at.
Best wishes for a grateful and fully present day! And check out Tycho for a little pick me up along the way!