How This Single Practice Changed My Life
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to talk about gratitude and share with you how its changed my life. Gratitude is a word that's thrown around very often in our society, so much so, that it can sometimes seem cliche to mention starting and ending your day with it. People offer up a practice of gratitude as a quick fix to anxiety and stress and those who experiment with it for the first time wonder why it's not curing their bleak perspective of life. It then becomes a word that's saturated in depreciation.
That is, until you realize that gratitude is not simply listing the aspects and people of your life that you're thankful for in a rote and habitual manner, rather it's the key ingredient that separates a banal life from an exceptional one. It's not merely noticing the bigger things, like your family, friends, home, job, and health, and it's not even observing the smaller things, like your morning cup of coffee, the sun shining, the absence of traffic on your commute, or your talkative neighbor being indoors when you have to step outside.
It is, in a sense, all of these things, but to have gratitude change your life? Well, it's going to take a little more effort than just occasionally thinking about thanks or quickly jotting down your daily joys in a notebook before work or bed.
This life we live is interesting as there is so much mystery and magic in our day-to-day worlds and yet we often walk around as though we are bored in our daily routines. We act as though we are Truman in The Truman Show, where every day looks the same and our expectations are for things to play out the way they did the day before.
The sun rises and we hear our alarms, we hit snooze and then hear it once more, maybe hit snooze again or groggily get ourselves out of bed, shower, have breakfast, go to work, take our lunch break or "free" time, go back to work, drive home, eat dinner, watch a show or read a book, and then go to bed to wake up the next day and do it all over again.
Now, I know this sounds like an extremely dreary existence, and of course, this typical routine is not reflective of all people, but for most, this is an accurate description of life. Every day is a mirror of their previous one and they can't wait for the day they can finally retire so they can finally live.
What an intriguing concept to put your life on hold for a later date, a future dream of being free of the shackles of work, bills, mortgages, loans, and debt. These are very valid and real things to worry about and of course, it's acceptable to work toward relieving them, but was life really meant to be lived this way?
Authentic and whole living should not be put off for a later date or a future where you're happier, richer and freer. Your life is happening right now - right this moment. If you don't grab hold of it and live with as much fervor and enthusiasm as you would when you retire, then what's the point of all this anyway?
Just to remind you, we're living on a planet in the middle of a universe where there's a huge ball of gas that fuels our existence and a moon that orbits our home and causes changes in ocean levels and our own moods. We have creatures that can fly and go wherever they want to, whenever they want to. There are insects the size of a grain of sand that carry might and energy within them and animals that like to sleep next to us simply because we're the love of their lives.
Men carry a seed that women need to birth more life and women carry living, tiny humans within them until they're ready to enter the world. We fall in love and get our hearts so utterly and painfully broken and yet, we still give love another chance because we believe in something we cannot see, but feel inside of us. We endure hardships, people leaving us and this Earth, not fully knowing where they go, and yet, we still wake up every day without concerning ourselves of our own transitions off this planet.
This life alone, is magical, but we don't always see it this way because we're so used to this understanding of life. That's where the practice of gratitude comes into play.
Within every moment of every day you have a choice in perception. You can choose, right now, to find the magic in everything you come across. For example, I'm sitting at my desk writing this and there are all different types of birds flying in the sky that I can see through the window in front of me. Most mornings when I write, I get distracted by their ability to soar through the air and fly for the mere joy of it, with no destination or agenda, but simply for the thrill of feeling the wind beneath their wings. This awareness alone wakes me from my routine and reminds me of the power of my own existence - the power and responsibility I have to perceive life in a way that amplifies my own way of living.
When I hold the door for someone and they don't say thank you; when I let a driver get in front of me in my lane and they don't do the hand signal for "thanks"; when I am pleasant and cheerful to a cashier and they have an attitude in reply; when someone at work snaps at me; I see how not everyone's life is the same as mine and I send them love for whatever it is they are going through.
On days where I get really frustrated with my progress or what I perceive to be lack thereof; when I feel like I can't do my 9-5 job anymore; I infuse as much meaning as possible into every task I have to do that day. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and if this were my last day on Earth, I would hope I lived it with purpose, intention and hope - even in the most menial of projects.
I've gotten so used to catching myself when I become negative or view myself and my life in the dimmest of lights that I almost instantly heighten my perspective to search for the magic. It's become my new way of being and because of that, my mood is better, my outlook is healthier, my days are more enjoyable, my daily interactions hold more meaning, and everything I think and say has intention and creation attached to it. It's not something automatic or unconscious, it's seeing life through the lens of everything and everyone being a part of the journey - of the lessons I must learn.
You see, gratitude isn't just about offering thanks for what has happened, what's currently happening, or what you hope will happen, it's adjusting your vision to see the intricacies of your own life, of this life.
When you become aware of the "smaller" things, you become aware of everything, and when you're conscious of everything, your gratitude practice isn't so much about seeking out the things to be thankful for, rather, you're already living it through your own unique expression.
Your life is your unique expression. Express yourself through love, thanks, positive intention, conscious creation, and spreading your light to others and this great, big, magical world.
Gratitude doesn't have to be a task or a habit that weaves itself in and out of your life on days where you're in a good mood, it can become the backbone of your very existence - the essence of who you are.