Today, I remembered how to be grateful.
I wouldn't say I'm a selfish person. Or someone that wants, needs, or expects that much most of the time. But lately I've been getting wrapped up in what I'm going to call 'What's Lacking Syndrome,' or WLS.
As a naturally ambitious person, I've suffered from a certain propensity toward WLS. Choosing to focus on what is missing, what I need to do I order to get whatever I’ve set my sight on, and how that one thing must be the master key to my happiness.
I've strived to placate my WLS over the years, giving up a lot of security and stability in favour of self-enquiry. Yet, the more I make like a rolling stone, the more my WLS kicks in. During periods of transition, it doubles in momentum and intensity—and all I can think of is that which I don't have.
But yesterday, an article popped up in my news feed that inspired a conversation that stopped me dead in my tracks and reminded me to count my blessings.
A Study in Gratitude
I'm currently living and working on yoga retreat. Each week, a fresh off the boat batch of expectant yogis needing to escape from their everyday life is shipped in. Each week, I'm confronted with the extent of everyday human suffering, but equally the capacity and strength of the human spirit.
This article prompted me to ask my students at the end of a class what they ‘got’ to do today. Among the responses:
”I got to take a shower in warm, clean water and dry myself with a soft, fluffy towel.”
”I got to make lunch with beautiful fresh, healthy, produce purchased from my local grocer. My grocer always has a smile for me.
”I got to curl up with a book; my imagination transported me to new worlds and gave me fresh perspectives.
”I got to do yoga today. I moved my arms, my legs, and was able to experience my body.”
”I got to listen to music today.”
”I got to wake up next to someone I love—I got to feel love.”
It went on. By the time we got to the last person, tears of gratitude spilled down our cheeks in recognition of all the small and often overlooked good things that happen each and everyday.
How to Be Grateful
In a world of plenty where most of us are pre-programmed to strive for more, desire what we don’t have, and lust after what’s faster, better, and stronger, we forget to appreciate what we have.
It made me think: what would happen if we could all learn to live with less? What if we could accept the gifts life has to bestow upon us and let what we have be enough? What if we took measures to simply count our blessings everyday? Would we (could we) be happier or more contented?
I don’t have the answer to that question. I’d love it if you guys, my readers, could participate in an experiment of sorts, to count your blessings for the next 40 days and email me about your experiences. Here are some simple steps to practice.
1. Do everything with your full attention.
Whether it’s taking a shower or cycling to work, commit to it with your full presence.
2. Enjoy simple pleasures.
Look for the positives and the pleasure in all that you do.
3. Make time for other people.
Give the people you care about all your attention. Don’t make them compete with the TV or Facebook. Just turn it all off, look into their eyes, and listen to them when they tell you about their day.
4. Count your blessings.
Before you go to sleep, call to mind one or two things you can be grateful for today.
5. Cultivate your dreams, but don’t let them breed discontent.
Nurture your dreams, but don’t let them pull you out of the present or become too attached to the outcome. Sow your seeds of intention and let the knowledge that worthwhile things take time to grow satisfy you.
6. Don’t wish your time away.
If we had everything we thought we ever wanted immediately, life would be dull. Don’t let too many days slip by daydreaming about the future. Appreciate the process as life unfolds.
7. Quit the ‘I’ll be happy whens.’
Be happy now! It’s a choice.
Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. ~Zig Ziglar
So go on a gratitude journey and see life through a lens of thankfulness for 40 days—and let me know how it goes!