The match was struck, the candles lit. I rolled out my mat and settled my rather stiff morning body onto the cushion. Headphones on, the music slid through the tired spaces in my brain and I took a deep breathe.
As if joining in, various members of the fur family usually take their places around me in a circle of strength and warmth. They sit quietly, sleep and sometimes a cat rests its head in my palm, hoping for a pet. This day, about 10 minutes in, I heard an odd sound. To stay in a somewhat meditative state I tried to ignore it, however my curiosity eventually kicked in and I opened my eyes. I turned around to find my cat had dragged (loudly) the plastic pet food container all the way across the room, to where I was meditating and was now meowing for me to open it. After a sacred eye roll, I turned back around to return to that quiet space only to then hear my dog (who usually sleeps peacefully next to me) now (loudly) spinning in circles scratching the itch of her derrière. So much for 15 minutes of quiet. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up. I laughed at the irony and noted how grateful I was for their sometimes nutty, companionship.
If you are joining in for the 21-day Meditation Challenge, you may have heard this on Day 4: “What I know for sure is that every one of us is seeking the same thing. Each of us wants to know, “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter? In fact, what we want is grace….grace is the knowledge that we belong, we are understood, that we are a meaning part of something big, deep and powerful. And gratitude is the catalyst.”
I love this.
Gratitude is the catalyst. It shifts our thinking and our experience. We move from wanting things to be different, to acknowledgement and perhaps eventually acceptance of way things are – even if the present reality is not the picture we would have painted for ourselves. We can live in our present situation in resistance OR in gratitude. Neither changes the way things are, but both change us. Resistance AND gratitude inform our internal experience of our outer “reality.” When we resist, we focus on what we are resisting. We think about it, ruminate about it, try to figure out how to change things. We want the discomfort to go away. We get stuck in our heads, thinking more about what we don’t want and unintentionally end up giving those situations more screen time in our brains.
With gratitude, our focus becomes on what we are grateful for instead of the things we want to resist. The habit strengthens our ability to see goodness all around us. UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center has found that expressing gratitude changes our brains. Research shows we are happier, healthier and more resilient when we express thankfulness and appreciation rather than resistance. With gratitude we are also able to access our creative self, which will actually help us problem solve those situations we were resisting.
What if you are not always able to be grateful? The benefits of gratitude are present even as you are “practicing” being grateful. You don’t have to be a gratefulness pro! The learning process also offers us those benefits as well. That is why it is called a “Practice of Gratitude.”
This week, when you find yourself resisting, look deeper. Take a deep breath. “What am I grateful for?” Develop an end-of-the-day ritual where you list three things you are grateful for from your day. Gratitude changes the way we walk through life. It moves our experience.
Make the shift. Deepen your practice of gratitude. You will be thankful you did.