By Monica Dubay
Why should we cultivate a gratitude practice? I often think it’s a term that’s bantered around a lot without giving it real significance. I have found that if we don’t appreciate the wonderful things in life, we miss out.
So much of the time, we are stressing about things that may not even be happening, when we worry, our mind focuses on the negative, on lack and on the future. We aren’t in the now, when we are worrying. We are imagining scenarios of gloom and doom, and they aren’t even real. It’s pure imagination and it causes so much anxiety.
When you cultivate a gratitude practice, by recognizing all the great things that are happening in your life, you change and so does the world.
When you stop complaining, stop worrying, and learn to give your attention to what is true and good about your life right now, something shifts and you begin to change your life. You take control of the thoughts in your mind.
Your focus goes to what is really going on behind your limited perception, choosing to see that there is something way bigger than your little complaints.
It’s much more than just making a list.
A real gratitude practice is not making a list, but writing one thing down that you are grateful for, say a relationship that helped you. And you focus on that person, you open your heart, you feel light coming through you to them and you acknowledge your desire to extend gratitude to them.
Being thankful for all you have been given and all that you really are, is active because gratitude is an activation of your feel good hormones, which allow you to feel joy from giving and extending love. Then you repeat it with another person…and feel that.
When you give gratitude, it heals you and it benefits you as much as the other person, and it really connects you to them, and allows you to feel and experience the oneness of all living things.
It takes you out of your own limited viewpoint and teaches you to feel into the freedom of choice, your innate capacity to change your mind and become free again.
Freedom from fear is the reason I cultivate a gratitude practice.
I sometimes wake up anxious not knowing what the day will bring, what work I should do, who I need to contact. I work for myself, so I’m alone when not with clients or teaching, and I need to constantly battle my fear, which is just resistance.
When I stop, and take time to make my bed, thanking my pillow, my refrigerator, my housemate, my parents, my clients, my life, my Self, and my connection to all living things, I feel better. I get dressed thanking my clothes, my makeup, my toothbrush and really feel how nice it is to have everything I need.
It’s so simple, but we get out of the habit, we get crazy and forget how connected and taken care of we are.
So, how do you become grateful when you are challenged by a circumstance you don’t like?
The most important time to remember gratitude is when something didn’t work out the way you wanted.
Life is full of heartaches, when someone we love abandons or betrays us, when we feel grief over loss, it’s a very important time to practice gratitude.
To remember good things, to remember that even if you’re hurting, you can embrace the hurt with gratitude for making you feel deeply.
When my husband announced he wanted to split up with me, I went into a state of deep anger and resentment. I thought it was the worst thing he could do, and I didn’t see it coming. It so disrupted my life, that I spent hours going within, working on my mind, learning to let go, feeling all those deep painful feelings of loss.
I made a major move across the country to come back to Maine and the seacoast area where I had started out my adult life. I stayed with family, yet was grieving, I had almost no money, had given up an entire clientele and had packed everything up and moved suddenly.
It took a lot of energy to pull myself out of my desperation and I had to daily give thanks for the situation even though I didn’t like it. I knew if I kept waking up and thanking God for the experience, I would be ok eventually.
It was very difficult, because the fear of being alone and not knowing how I would make a living or where I should live became acute at times. I had to keep asking for help, from God and from people I barely knew.
What I found was that everyone wanted to help me in some way. There were people that I met at a Unity church and they all helped me. I found I could make friends easily, and began to feel connected again. I had to keep going forward and stop looking back at what I’d left behind.
I opened up to receive, and asked for what I needed and was given everything, day by day, including a large sum of money to begin my new business. Yes, it’s true. Miracles do happen all the time, if we stay open to receive them.
The miracles made me very grateful, and whenever I heard myself complain, I realized I needed to stop and get quiet and release whatever was underneath that pain. I paid really close attention to my thoughts and my beliefs.
I made sure I thanked God for all that I was experiencing, even the pain.
I worked on the idea that I was in a major transition and it meant letting go of the deepest fears I ever had, stuff from early childhood. I had come full circle, having moved to NYC and Wisconsin for all of my adult life, and then returned home to the area I grew up in. I learned to be thankful for my life’s adventures, the travel, the marriages, the children, the awakening experiences, my teachers, my friends and I could not feel alone.
The Voice in my head said to me, “I didn’t bring you here for nothing”.
So the point is, when we can be grateful even when it seems impossible, life opens up in new ways and points us to where the love is.
There, you know where…
Deep inside of you and all around you.