Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a day of family, friends, and hopefully, joyful communion over a table full of good eats.
One of the reasons I love Thanksgiving is that it gets people talking about gratitude. If it were up to me, we’d be flirting with and teasing this quality out of hiding all the time.
Instead, in this world that worships the success of action, we need nudgings, pokes and prods to remember the gracious experience of gratitude.
It seems that there are always a gazillion reasons and justifications for practicing gratitude later.
For ex. the last two weeks have been very heady for me:
– figure out where to stay, first in Bangkok then in Chiang Mai (I thought this one would be easier),
– get familiar with these new cities and figure out how to get around (especially how to get back to guesthouse),
– where to work in comfort with wifi and a power source (Skype meetings while sweating = not so fun),
– how to speak a few phrases in Thai (I’ve got the numbers down, hello, and thank you)
All of these have my mind working over time.
The Natural Professional lives with heart and head in harmony.
One of the most powerful aspects of gratitude is that it shifts you from your head to your heart—from thinking to feeling.
But that’s just the beautiful beginning.
Gratitude’s glow warms you from within, fluffs the feathers of your Soul, polishes the tarnish from the mundane, pops you over petty problems, and leaves you with a full body smile.
As for the holidays, gratitude keeps you out of the fray and somehow causes potential irritations to float right past you.
Since it’s a heart quality, it’s easier to stay connected with what really matters (for ex. that your family is all together and that a different brand of stuffing for your well-thought-out dinner is O.K.)
With those kinds of bene’s who in the world wouldn’t want to be there all the time?? Ah, but it takes a little work to get there, eh?
Some people can pop into their heart space as if on command.
For others, it takes a while to soften the grip of their mind and let their awareness migrate into their heart space.
Consciously cultivating gratitude is a cornerstone of living with awareness.
That’s all fine and lofty—now let’s bring it home to right here, right now. Relatives, holidays, and more ToDo’s on your plate than you care to think about.
Good news: Gratitude practice will help you stay in a good place with all that! Not only that, you won’t get as caught up in drama or get as swept away by stress. Sah-weet!
Surely you’re thinking, “Bring it on!” So let’s hop to.
Here’s what I’m suggesting:
- Work with a gratitude practice that has brought you into your heart space in the past. (*See “Developing your own gratitude practice” below if you haven’t done this before.)
- Stack it with another activity. Stacking is a natural professional strategy by which you attach the practice to something you are already doing everyday.
It relieves you from scheduling yet another something into your busy day and amps up the benefits from the power of routine.
Here are a couple of examples of what you might stack your gratitude practice with:
- Meditation or prayer practice. Dedicate the final 3-5 minutes to your gratitude recollections.
- Going for a walk by yourself (or with your favorite canine friend). Let your mind softly recall your reasons for gratitude as you walk.
- Morning cup of tea. Sip and quietly reflect on the goodness.
- Going to bed. (Gotcha! If you don’t to do the others, there’s a 99.99% chance that you do this one everyday!)
- ??? What else? What do you do every day that is conducive to a gratitude practice? I’d love to hear what you stack it with.
- Do it!
Remember to let it be easy. We’re not talking about a big time investment or going way out of your way. This is the cool thing about stacking, its easy to weave in to your life.
Be wary of your head telling you that you don’t have time for this heart activity—no matter how convincing its reasons. (The truth is, your head doesn’t want to give up control, eh?)
I’d love to hear what your practice is like and what you stack it with in the comments below.
*Developing your own gratitude practice
Here are some ideas in no particular order. What works for you is best.
- Many people find that pen and paper have a magical way of tracing an invisible path to their heart. If this is you, then you can keep a journal and pen by your bed and write down any and everything for which you are grateful before going to sleep.
You might acknowledge each one with a mindful “thank you” before writing down the next.
- If writing isn’t your thing, you can try recalling in your mind the people, situations, friends-human or animal, and images for which you may be grateful. Again, slow down with a mindful “thank you” before naming the next one.
- For some, placing their attention on a single previous gratitude memory can trigger them back to this heart space. (Some experienced practitioners can enter this space by intention—no trigger experience needed.)
- Others like to mentally comb through their day acknowledging the big and the little, the significant and the seemingly inconsequential things that happened for which they are grateful.
This one has the added benefit of holding space to process the day’s events (which makes for less to deal with later).
If your head has been firmly in the driver’s seat, it may, at first, feel like trying to loosen a tightly closed water spigot. As much as is possible in the moment, let your mind and heart soften.
Hang in there and get as basic as needed: the air that keeps you alive, the ability to breath and walk, access to clean drinking water. The faucet will slowly loosen on its own.
I’ll start my own list here and then continue offline: I’m grateful for my incredibly supportive family and friends, the ability to travel the world, the resourcefulness to make it happen, the kind and wonderful people I’ve met, the ability to continue helping people and growing my business, the incredible food I get to eat here, the delish coconut smoothie I had today, the generosity of new friends who’ve been helping me get around Chiang Mai, the technology to work from anywhere, the creative and hard-working peeps who created this technology, for the super fun motorbike rides and for getting back in one piece…