Life Happened Slowly
I try and practice gratitude expression in all areas of my life on a regular basis and it has been a conscious decision that I chose to do since 2010.
In 2009 I went out to Jamaica for a month to stay with relatives in the countryside, whilst I organised my wedding. At first I was surprised and disappointed… by the difference in the standard of living I was accustomed to. On my first night, as the taxi ambled through a rocky and rickety make shift path, I instantly noticed that there were no street lights. Coupled with the constant noise of barking dogs and growling, it seemed like a scene out of a scary movie. The next morning I quickly learnt, that I didn’t have access to basic amenities like a washing machine and the shower was a garden hose attached to a water butt. The horrendous part, was using the Pit toilet in the pitch black of night. With gigantic cockroaches scuttling and scurrying around the hole, I was worryingly concerned that one of them might mistake my bottom for the wall.
However; after the first week, I became accustomed to the ways of country living and learnt to appreciate the advantages of not having gadgets and amenities. I began to appreciate the awesome sunsets and the night sky that sparkled richly with bright, bold stars. I enjoyed waking up to the sound of the cock crowing and the goats bleating. I loved the make shift outdoor shower house made of stone, that as you showered, overlooked the lush hills and valleys. I would usually take my wash when the sun came up, as the hose would warm under the heat of the tropical sun, and this provided and an ambient water temperature. It was lovely to see the children who were then two and barely one playing out in the yard with the puppies and baby goats. Life happened slowly and no one was in a real hurry.
Years have passed since then and although I haven’t had an opportunity to visit again, I have tried to maintain the essence of gratitude that I nurtured from this experience. I have found that my ability to be grateful is directly linked to my happiness. The more awareness I hold of the things in life I am grateful for, is the more balanced I feel.
I feel whole when I confidently say to myself “You are fortunate, you have no worries, you have so much to be grateful for”. In this moment of gratitude expression, I feel calm and peaceful. Although, just like everyone else, I have hurdles to cross, but I feel a sense of gratitude, because of the practice to change my perception towards the challenges that arise.
In this blog I will share my journey of gratitude expression, how gratitude can change your life and a few things I enjoy doing to cultivate gratitude awareness. I will also encourage you to develop awareness using a short guided meditation.
Embracing What Comes
In my practice of gratitude expression I accept situations as they arise. I don’t over spend time judging the situations as good or bad. If my car is broken I express gratitude that I have access to a garage with skilled mechanics that can diagnose and fix the problem. If I have an unexpected bill to pay, I express gratitude that I have the ability to communicate in order to make arrangements to have the bill paid. The concept is to not dwell within the situation and that through expressing gratitude, I am able to balance my emotions. When I balance my emotions I notice a shift in my reaction to the situations that arise and the “problems” take on a lesser shape and form.
My lessons within expressions of gratitude are continually deepening as new experiences arise and fresh connections are made. Before I understood expressions of gratitude I was often jumping from one crisis to the next. Living in this cycle was energetically depleting. It did not allow me to think in a way that was useful to moving through challenges.
Small Ways I Express Gratitude
As well as expressing gratitude to people, for people and objects around you, it is also pleasing to express gratitude for yourself. Throughout my day I express gratitude, using intentional activity and language. For example I will smile and bring to mind an expression from Thich Nhat Hahn, ‘I am a lotus flower’. When I smile and imagine myself as the gentle lotus flower I feel beautiful and fresh. I surrender myself to all that is, and I am no longer clinging to my dominant yang energy in an effort to control. I come into my yin and can release urges for control and anger towards the uncontrolled.
I am grateful as I breath in and feel the coolness of the air being absorbed by my body.
I am grateful for a cool and gentle breeze that refreshes me on a hot summer day.
I am grateful for the memory of experiences, that I can show gratitude towards.
How do you express gratitude?
Ways you can practice gratitude
Cultivate a Grateful Attitude
Focus on things in life that you are grateful for by paying attention to the good things that happen throughout your day. Noticing more of the positive experiences will support you in realising how much you have to be grateful for. Focus on positive things like seeing a beautiful sunset on your way home from work, or a compliment and small act of kindness that you may receive from others.
Get involved in a local charity or not for profit organisation as a volunteer and donate some time to help people in your community. Volunteering can be a great way to meet people, learn new skills and give something back to the world.
Be Mindful of Your Words
Its easy to get caught up in gossip and complaining. Try to be more mindful of your thoughts and words, by using more positive, inspirational and uplifting words that are inquisitive and intellectual. Through using positive language and being mindful of gossip, you will cultivate more enriching conversations and beautiful friendships.
Cultivating a Way of Seeing the World Appreciatively
Gratitude is expressed differently by each person. It can be a wonder, an appreciation, it can be an expression of thanks for abundance. However a connecting thread that runs through the varying expressions of gratitude is the coming into of the present moment. It is the appreciation of the goodness of now.
An initial research paper into gratitude titled “The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography, found that people who express gratitude on a regular basis, are more happy, enlivened and experience increased positive emotion. A link was found which expressed that people high in gratitude demonstrated a reduced materialistic, envious and neurotic profile.
In Ajahn Sumedho’s teaching; ‘Mindfulness: The Path to Deathlessness’, he describes being with the way things are as a non attachment. It is this non attachment that brings peace and ease to life. The quote from the chapter on mindful walking that resonates with me and I think cross references to to the practice of gratitude is this:
“Life changes and we can watch it change, we can adapt to the changingness of the sensory world whatever it is”
What this embodies for me, is that our perception of gratefulness is linked to our sensory world, so we feel grateful for what we have or feel ungrateful for what we do not possess. Sometimes we can even express ungratefulness for what we have because it is not what we expected or wanted. Yet peace is happiness and happiness grows from the seeds of gratitude. The fact that our gratitude is comprised of our reactions to the sensory experiences we hold, provides us with an expansive opportunity to shape our perceptions. This means that we can create for ourselves a range of reasons for which we can express gratitude. This starts with holding awareness on the experiences that arise and can be cultivated by showing gratitude indiscriminately for all experiences and allowing yourself the time and space to see things through a different lens.
Gratitude: The Body
Through meditation we connect to our path of awareness. Awareness is a state of consciousness and when we hold conscious awareness we allow ourselves to express understanding about where our emotions are coming from. It is this quality of awareness that brings us to a state of observation of the events and situations in our life.
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