Tag: gratitude

FINDING GRATITUDE UNDER EVERY NOOK & CRANNY

 

 

With Thanksgiving nipping at our heels, it’s a natural time of year to take stock of all we can be thankful for. When you appreciate the little things in life, a profound transformation occurs that can lift you out of the doldrums & help you to find more profound pleasure & meaning in your life.

In modern society, we’re bombarded with ads insisting we need the newest version of a gadget or device, the latest styles, & that more is better. We’ve become a throwaway society, but the good news is, we don’t have to subscribe to that persuasion.  In this newsletter, I highlight a few ways to find gratitude under every nook and cranny of your life.

Set a Positive Tone. Rather than reaching for your phone or computer first thing in the morning, take a few moments to say thank you for the morning itself. Sit up in bed, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to notice the light of dawn or the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.  Perhaps when you get up, you enjoy making a delicious cup of coffee or tea, then sit in a comfy chair & inhale the aroma brewing. If you prefer yoga, do a few sun salutes honoring the gift of a new day. In other words, create a five-minute ritual that kicks your day off with the mantra, “Today, I will be grateful for my life.” After a few days of doing this, you’ll notice a difference, as it begins to set the tone for the rest of your day in a positive light.

Adopt A Less is More Attitude. Replacing the redundant “hole in the bucket,” “nothing is enough” syndrome with the idea that you have all you need is liberating. It affords you more time to take a walk, read a book, or indulge in an activity that costs nothing. Nature is such a giver, & it asks little from us. It provides us with glorious sunsets, the drama of cloud formations, the changing of seasons, & the sounds of waves crashing on the shore. If you begin to re-direct your focus on what you already have, you can let go of the constant need for more. Perhaps de-clutter & give away things you don’t use or need. When we open up the space we live in, we open our minds to clarity & widen our perspectives. If you struggle with clinging to stuff, try packing it away out of sight, knowing it’s not gone forever. With the holiday season on the horizon, practicing less is more can help curb overindulging in fatty foods. It can also help with perspective to gift-giving, maybe try homemade presents or gather without gifts.

Cultivate Simplicity. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the art of sophistication.” We don’t have to rely on riches to be wealthy. Finding joy in spending time with friends or being content to be alone are both ways to practice gratitude for the small things in life. Breaking bread together or cooking a meal can be a simple task that renders quality, not quantity. By simplifying your day to day routine, you allow yourself more time to let go of stress. Rather than packing each day with more things on the “to do” list, see if you can allow yourself time to just be. Try sitting in silence for a few moments in the middle of the day to tune out demands, real or imagined. We don’t always have to make a profit in order to profit.  Giving value to the small incidentals in our life helps create a sense of contentedness. Rather than filling every moment with work or the need for a result, try carving out time to daydream, to remember fond memories, to call a person you love and say hi or let them know you appreciate them.

Embrace the Difficult Things. Being grateful for the difficult times is probably the biggest challenge we all face. Much like the terrains of the world, life has its peaks & valleys, its ebbs & flows. There are those moments in life that we’re in emotional or pain, & being thankful is as easy as walking across the Sahara without water. Think back to the times in your life that you did pull through & came out stronger. Realizing situations are temporary & there are people to help you through can be a powerful acknowledgment. It’s a commonality we share with others, a bond that lets us know we’re not alone – & for that, let’s be grateful.

As you make choices & plans for these next few months, perhaps keep these thoughts in mind, & you may find yourself having a less stressful, more enjoyable holiday season. Remember to thank yourself as well for the gifts & talents you bring to the world; smile in the discovery of all the positive energy you donate.


Thoughts of Giving & Receiving

The act of giving is a challenge for many people, & often around the holidays, it seems to be on the minds of everyone I speak with. 

“Am I giving enough?” 

“Am I giving the right thing?” 

“Who do I want to give to?”

“Who do I have to give to?”

“Can I afford to give enough?”

At the heart of these questions is usually fear & what each person is afraid of may be different. It’s as if by giving, in some way, we believe that we may be disappointing others or letting them down. 

One thought I have about this is there are many ways we give of ourselves to others & you can find a way that makes you feel good in your heart so that you can feel safe, loving, & positive about who you are & the choices that you make.

Receiving from others is also on people’s minds during the holiday season more than any other time of year. You may be looking forward to receiving gifts, yet the act of accepting the presents in your heart can be a bit difficult for you.

Feelings of vulnerability are often present when we receive. We may feel that our friends/family are not sensitive to our taste or that they did not take the time to plan for our gifts, which can create feelings of hurt, resentment, being unimportant. 

Many of us are uncomfortable with receiving, much more so than with giving because receiving taps into our own feelings of being loved. For some people, it can be much more challenging to allow love in & receiving does just that.

A lovely ritual you can do to assist yourself in allowing to both give & receive with ease is the following:

  1. Light a white candle.
  2. Sit in front of it for 5 minutes, watching it, letting your mind float.
  3. Wonder about the first three times you received something. Notice how you felt, what you saw/heard?
  4.  Now notice what you feel/think about those three times now.
  5. What are your challenges with giving & receiving?

 

 


The Art of Giving without Attachment

Have you ever done a kind deed simply for the sake of giving without any strings attached or payback considered?  Have you given away something of value to a stranger or given of your time without expecting any financial reward?  These are just a few examples of practicing the art of giving without attachment. What does giving without attachment really mean and why should you cultivate this practice?

The very definition of giving, freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone) has an inherently detached quality. There is an innate sense of letting go, the opposite of hoarding or holding on. But how often is our giving calculated?  Well if I babysit for a friend, she/he will do the same for me.  Giving without any expectation of outcome or praise is tough, but that is the essence of giving without attachment. Giving to grow your heart, to release your grip, to become liberated from that which you hold on to.

How does giving without strings liberate and grow your ability to love and to live a more meaningful life?  It connects you to your humanity, to your empathy, to your ability to see the suffering in others and feel something.  Giving also helps you to step outside your sphere and to connect with others on a visceral level.

Giving without attachment is a wonderful way to help you accept when others give to you.  Often, our childhood dictates a message of receiving that it’s better to give than receive, but if everyone is clamoring to give, who is receiving?  That message sends a negative image that receiving is for the poor, the needy, the weak, and the unsuccessful.  We all have times in our life when we want to receive.  Giving without attachment helps us to receive without feeling guilty or shamed.

Anne Frank, a diarist and one of the most talked about victims of the Holocaust once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  It is often difficult in the modern world to remember this.  When you give, it does not have to be a thing or financial, (you can give of your time, your silent presence, a smile) you reap the internal rewards of connection, joy, and self esteem.  Giving builds character and helps you get outside of your own needs and desires and consider others.  When you give freely, you teach yourself a lesson in being unconditional.

Giving without attachment does not mean giving everything away and doing without.  It may entail digging a little deeper than merely skimming off the top. If you only give away your excess, you may want to look at other ways you can give. Become a mentor. Take a friend to lunch, just because or send a card without an occasion. Bake a dinner for a charity event, make an anonymous donation to a cultural or educational organization or slip a bill to a homeless person.

Think of all the people in your life that have given something to you without any expectation.  There are countless ways to pass on that giving tradition, and when you begin to drop the attachments and expected outcomes, you send a ripple of hope into the world, while expanding your ability to be a loving considerate human being.


Connect Within

sunset

The unfolding of a new year gives us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, that part within we perhaps call spirit or essence. As we take stock of our physical health, it is equally as valuable to get a psyche check-up, to quietly enter that realm of your being that is unique authentic, unspoiled. You may ask the questions: Where am I on my journey? Does the direction I am moving in match my intention? You may also contemplate your life’s purpose, which may be many folds. To realize yourself more fully takes courage and reflection.

Once you take the time to travel inward, stay for a bit. Clear away all of the stresses and influences that don’t really represent your true feelings or passions. How can you simplify? What practices can you begin that will move you closer to the vision of your best self?

Science tells us it takes twenty-one days to create a habit. What positive habit do you want to implement into your life? For example, maybe you want to stop reaching for your phone or device first thing in the morning. You would prefer to start your day reading reflective material to set an encouraging tone for you day. Place the materiel you want to read where your phone would have been, do this for 21 days and reap the rewards. Connecting within will help you realize these missing bits of your life that can have a profoundly positive impact.

Begin to listen to your inner voices, those aspects of you that may feel neglected. The artist, the writer, the reader, the contemplative. Modern society has most of us conditioned to keep moving, we are sold the idea that stopping for an inner break costs too much time and money. Saadi of Shiraz one of the major Persian poets and influential literary men of the medieval period wrote: 

Things that come easy don’t last long

In China it took forty years to make a porcelain bowl,

while a hundred a day pour out of a kiln in Baghdad.

Which is worth more?

A chick fresh out of the egg pecks its own food,

while an infant remains helpless for many years.

The first never raises its gaze from the ground,

while the second can find stars and galaxies within.

In other words, exploring your values in your inner life takes time; there is no app to click or short cut, which is why we often call life a journey. By checking in, you see how your navigation is going. Have you gotten off course or has your desired destination changed, altered with the wisdom of time? Similar to a marriage or relationship with a partner, to keep it healthy you need to hear one another. It is the same with the self.

How then do you go about connecting within? How do we practice presence from that heart space all of us have? One simple suggestion is to carve out time for stillness. Rather than pile more on your daily to do list, take something off and replace it with meditation. If you are allergic to the word meditation, you can talk a walk, without your headphones. Or if you live in the city, walk with quiet lulling thoughtful music that beckons your inner thoughts. Listen a little less to news. A fifteen-minute reflection can refuel your commitment to living a life that you yearn for rather than feeling as though your destiny is in the hands of others. Read reflective books and let the works marinate into your psyche. We often over expose ourselves to harsh corrosive stimuli, how about swapping that out for books, podcasts or CD’s that support our inner growth?

As 2017 evolves, give yourself the gift of time. Time for inner perspective to hug that person waving from the vista of your true self and enjoy the delightful discoveries that shape your life’s happiness and purpose.

 


Creating a Gratitude Practice


Living in the Moment

sky diving

“Forever is composed of nows.”
― Emily Dickinson

 

“Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.”
― Albert Einstein

In a world where we are encouraged to analyze our mistakes of the past and plan for a successful future, it can be challenging to live in the present and enjoy the moment.

All we really have is now. The past is over and can’t be changed; the future is to come and can’t be predicted. The only time we are experiencing in our bodies is the present moment. Have you ever spent a vacation taking pictures so you could remember it, only to lament later that you didn’t fully enjoy the moments you were so eager to capture? Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself from a time you were unhappy and with hindsight and wisdom realize you had much to be grateful for but didn’t recognize it? When we live in the past or the future, we don’t appreciate what we have, who we are, and that we are a part of the NOW.

If you would like to be more present in your life, here are some ideas:

Focusing on an object to connect with the present. Look closely at an object. It could be anything—a leaf, stone, book, chair, piece of fruit—but it is best to choose something that is easy to study intently without disturbing you or the object. Look at the object and note your initial impressions. If the object is small, hold it in your hand; if the object is large, get close enough to see details. Study it’s color, texture, weight, shape, if it has a smell, how it compares to others like it. Notice if your feelings or thoughts have changed from when you first looked at the object.

Ignite your senses. Choose a place that is rich in stimuli—different noises, movement, smells, etc.—where it is safe to sit and close your eyes, and use all your senses to tune in. Be curious with what you are taking in. What do you hear? Where is it coming from in relation to you? How would you classify the sound—melodious or harsh, soft or loud, smooth or staccato, continuous or intermittent? Experience all that is happening around you, allow all of your senses to focus on whatever attracts their attention. Recognize that as you are listening, watching smelling and feeling you are a part of the NOW.

Practice gratitude for what you have right now. This is a valuable daily exercise to ground you in the moment. Take a few minutes to mentally list all you are grateful for. Nothing is too small, too silly, or too common. Additional benefits you might notice from practicing gratitude are lifting your mood and putting things in perspective.


Elevate Your Mood

IMG_0874

It’s natural to find ourselves in a low-energy space once in a while. Sometimes we may want to honor that feeling and explore its roots and effects upon us, other times we just want to shift it. To support you, here are 9 ways to help shift your mood from low to high gear in no time.

Focus on the positive things. It sounds obvious, but we often forget to do this when things aren’t going our way. Seek out the positive in your day. Look for kindness (someone holding the elevator for you), gifts (your checkout line moving the quickest), miracles (getting a late start but making it on time anyway), smiling faces around you, laughter in the air…anything positive. What we focus on grows, so if you want to elevate your positivity, then it will benefit you to focus on positive things!

Add “but” to negative statements to turn things around. If you’re having a hard time seeing the positive, you can still give yourself a boost by adding “but” to any negative thought, followed by a hopeful statement. For example: I can’t seem to do anything right today BUT I know this will pass as it always has in the past and I’ll be feeling better soon. What comes after but is what you might say to a friend when they’re feeling down. You acknowledge their emotional state, and you remind them that they won’t be feeling that way forever. Be a friend to yourself!

Compliment someone. Without any expectation that it will be acknowledged: giving another a compliment often makes both people feel good.

Go to your happy place. In your mind that is, and if you don’t have one, you can easily come up with a place—real or imagined—where all your troubles and stress melt away. Imagine your surroundings (weather, sounds, smells, sights) and what you would be doing in this safe peaceful place. Making your happy place as vivid as possible will add energy to your day and it can help you feel as if you’ve taken a mini vacation.

Make a gratitude list. When things seem to not be going your way, it’s helpful to gain perspective. Find a few things you are grateful for—even if it’s as simple as a pair of comfortable shoes or a sunny day. Then make a list of gratitudes and write them down. Next time you are feeling that way, read your list and notice how you feel better.

Be the energy of Happy. How would you speak, act, and look if you were happy in this moment? What things would you be doing? What would you be thinking? Act ‘as if’ you are happy NOW and notice that happy will quickly become an authentic state of mind.

Listen to music that puts pep in your step. Or better yet, makes you want to dance! It’s a good idea to create a playlist of songs ahead of time for just this purpose. When blue, turn on your chosen upbeat tunes, become energized and watch your mood shift

Laugh out loud. Pick anything in your mind or life or current news and just laugh until it feels genuine. This is a form of Laughter Yoga.

Just SMILE! The act of smiling, even if it is forced, will lift your mood as endorphins are released when you smile that will make you feel better.

 


Living in Abundance

Tuli[s with sky

“Everything you are seeking is seeking you in return. Therefore, everything you want is already yours. It is simply a matter of becoming more aware of what you already possess.” ~ Bob Proctor

What is abundance? Abundance can mean different things to different people. Having more than enough of money, material things, happiness, success, friends, free time. It can be all these things, but a simpler way to look at abundance is…feeling satisfaction NOW.

Why is that so important? Like attracts like. If we are attempting to manifest abundance without first feeling abundant—if we are coming from a state of scarcity or lack—it is synonymous to trying to attract hummingbirds to your bird house with vinegar instead of nectar.

Enjoying abundance comes from first being in a state of gratitude. Enjoy what you have…right now. What is going well in your life? What are you grateful for? It could be gratitude for the relationship you have with your kids; your ability to love and receive love; the feeling you get when you open your eyes to a sunny day. It could be gratitude for your comfortable bed, the perfectly al dente pasta at lunch, the outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Whenever it’s difficult to get into a place of gratitude—we all have rough days—be even more basic: be thankful for clean water, electricity, the roof over your head…things we take for granted that are not universal givens.

Once we are in a state of gratitude, we realize our life is ALREADY abundant. Know it as a fact. Tell yourself daily that you enjoy a life of abundance that will always be abundant. How does that make you feel? Joyful? Peaceful? Excited? Honor that feeling.

If stepping into a state of gratitude is a challenge, or you don’t often do so, don’t worry. Gratitude is a habit we can learn by practicing it every day. Pick a time each day that you will be able to carry out your practice. Think of what is most reasonable and realistic for you. Perhaps you can awaken a few minutes earlier to sit quietly and think of all that you are grateful for in that moment. Or maybe you can use the commute to work as an opportunity to appreciate your abundance. Maybe a few minutes dedicated to writing down your gratitudes before bedtime works better for you. You could set reminders on your phone to prompt you throughout the day to think of one gratitude. Choose the method that’s right for you and make it a daily practice.

If you create abundance in your inner life, you will experience abundance in your outer life. Developing a constant awareness for the things that are good will lead to positive thinking, which has the power to attract more positivity. There is an unending supply of abundance for everyone. The first step toward an abundant life is knowing you already have one.


Giving and Receiving: Allowing Yourself to Experience Both

As the holidays begin, I’m very often asked, how do I know if I am giving  enough? And then, am I giving the right thing? Who do I want to give to? Who do I have to give to? Can I afford to give? The list goes on forever.

At the heart of these questions is usually fear in some form— it’s as if by giving, in someway, we believe that we may be disappointing others or letting them down—and, many times, in turn, disappoint ourselves. What if we don’t have enough time, or the right words? What if I can’t provide monetarily for someone in need?

There are many ways we can give of ourselves. Find the one that makes you feel good in your heart; creating a safe, loving, and positive feeling about who you are and the choices that you make. 

Receiving from others is also on people’s minds during the holiday season more than any other time of year. Most people look forward to receiving gifts; yet the act of accepting gifts from others is difficult for many.

Feelings of vulnerability are often present when we receive. We may not have been able to provide the same caliber of gift—or we may feel that our friends or loved ones really don’t understand us by the gifts they choose.  We want to be gracious; but the immediate pressure of the situation makes it difficult to navigate at times.

Try this lovely ritual to assist you in allowing yourself to both give and receive freely in your life:

  1. Light a white candle
  2. Sit in front of it for 5 minutes, watching it letting your mind float
  3. Wonder about the 1st 3 times you received something. Notice how you felt, what you saw/heard?
  4. Now notice what you feel/think about those 3 times now.
  5. What are your challenges with giving? Receiving?

Allow yourself to enjoy the holidays by being able to express yourself openly and without guilt or frustration now and into the New Year.


Why Small Moments Matter

image

Recently, The Intelligent Optimist sat down for a Q&A with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, head of a worldwide network of meditation centers, talking about optimism and fundament goodness—asking one very provocative question for our time: 

TIO: Can fundamental goodness be seen in the face of violence? 

SR: ‘Every moment presents an opportunity to recognize the core of humanity—whether one is a bus driver, the president of a nation, or a murderer. In each instant, we can stop and reflect on who we are and what we are doing with our life. Even in the direst situations, when people are given the opportunity to discover their humanity, the possibility of it coming through can occur. By creating a global culture where humanity itself is respected, rather than simply our own agenda, we create a greater tendency for qualities such as empathy and wisdom to come about. The acts of aggression being experienced all over the world are not isolated occurrences. We all play a part in the health of our global community. We are in this together and we all have the opportunity to shift the degradation of our time to a stronger and brighter future. 

The history of our individual lives is predicated on what happens every second of every day that we’re here. No matter how seemingly inconsequential, our decisions and actions, both conscious and unconscious, determine our path, one we, many times, blindly follow.

We process the journey in situational increments of time; marked by ‘when this happened’ or ‘that happened.’ We live in a limbo of solitary, monumental moments and allow them to define us. After a particular event or occurrence is over, we go back to just breathing, surviving, trying to move along.

Without realizing it, those moments become mile markers on the timeline of our existence on this big, glorious, ubiquitous Earth.  If you put the timeline of your memories onto a map, what would it look like? Peaks and valleys, highs and lows of happiness and hurt, would probably overwhelmingly abound, right? But, think for a second, do you remember everyday situations outside of your self-decided defining moments?

As Rinpoche notes, In each instant, we can stop and reflect on who we are and what we are doing with our life. Even in the direst situations, when people are given the opportunity to discover their humanity, the possibility of it coming through can occur.”

Our own defining moments happen when we are waiting for something else to come along. Paradoxically, what plays out as insignificant periods of time are actually hugely important to us, we just don’t notice or pay attention to them— we’re too focused on our road ahead.

These ‘pit stops,’ however — unselfish moments where we finally look beyond our agenda— are actually the blessings of being part of a collective humanity—one we often forget.

When we experience kindness, compassion or empathy, we begin to realize that human suffering exists as a whole; allowing us to derive strength and support from strangers and friends alike. We try to take the whole drive alone but we simply can’t; we need each other on this journey— when we get lonely, tired or weary, we need to remember that.

So next time you feel like you’re taking a long stretch of the road alone, give a stranger a smile as you’re passing through. You may not be able to fix your own problems that day, but you’ll never know the power you could potentially have on alleviating someone else’s. 

 Allow yourself to find gratitude in small moments, especially the ones where all you feel you’re doing is breathing; there is an opportunity there to do something great. Practicing that, you’ll come to find that time can be transformative, allowing us all to be more aware and blissful on our individual and collective paths— with a rosier view of what’s ahead and a feeling of accomplishment on how far we’ve come.