With so much turmoil, chaos, and suffering happening in the world right now, it’s easy to get pulled into it. It’s easy to feel despair. It’s easy to believe we are doomed.
I realize many are struggling. I realize people have died. I realize the outside world may not look how you desire it to.
I’ve found myself torn between looking at the external present events and focusing within, upon that which I can control.
In meditation today, I asked: What message would be helpful for me right now? What could help me feel less torn?
The message was to focus upon the gratitude I have for this year.
The truth is that I love so much of what has happened for myself this year. This year has been a period of tremendous transformation, as I know it has been for many others.
This is a time of transformation on Earth. It may be difficult to recognize the beauty and power of the chrysalis stage as you metamorphize into a new version of yourself because you can’t quite see what you’re becoming.
Because this process feels hard, we can sometimes wish we weren’t going through it. Only on the other side can we sometimes fully appreciate what we went through.
My first awakening to the power of gratitude
I first came to understand the power of gratitude during the months surrounding my mom’s death.
My grief process began before she was ever diagnosed with a terminal cancer, as my intuition signaled to me that her symptoms were concerning. I began with denial.
Upon diagnosis, I bargained, got angry, and became depressed. This process felt incredibly challenging. Many tears were shed. However, I did not numb my emotions with substances. I felt these emotions.
Eventually, weeks before her actual passing, I arrived at acceptance.
Accepting her death before it arrived in actuality was the most amazing gift. It allowed for me to interact, ask questions, and just be with her in a way that allowed me to take advantage of the remaining time in the fullest possible way. Had I resisted and fought the truth of her pending exit point, I would not have had those special moments.
In the time following her passing, I was overwhelmed by an unfamiliar sense of gratitude, not for her death, but for the experience I was able to have. I saw how it could have played out very differently, and I was grateful for the experience that I was able to have.
This, almost high-inducing, sensation allowed me to see many aspects of what happened from this perspective of gratitude. I was awe-inspired by how all the events happened as they did. How in my 20s, I was able to find forgiveness towards my mom for perceived betrayals. How, I had children when I did, and she was at least able to be a presence in their life for some time, versus none at all.
It was easy for me to see the beautiful orchestration in life, even in this period that is typically defined as loss. Logically, it felt odd to me when I would acknowledge this immense sense of gratitude during this period of my life. However, it’s what got me through this experience, and ultimately, transformed my own life for the better.
How you can shift your experience of 2020 through practicing and embracing gratitude
As I illustrated above, gratitude has the power to transform how you experience events in life. A seemingly devastating period, such as losing my mom, didn’t end up devastating me, but instead transformed me into a more capable, confident, content, and empowered version of myself.
This time we are all going through may have different restrictions and circumstances upon us, but we are all feeling and experiencing the effects of this year in some way or another.
My struggle lately has been a conflict with tuning out the external world to continue to deepen my own self-cultivation. The struggle has been almost a feeling of guilt for insulating myself to what is happening.
However, I can make more of a difference if I manage my own energy and not absorb the outside chaos.
We all can make more of a difference if we manage our own energy. When we are less weighed down in hopelessness and despair, we can respond to each other in more kind and open-minded ways.
From my experience and perspective, practicing gratitude is a powerful, yet simple, way to love the life we are living regardless of the circumstances. When we can see the beauty within our lives, despite there possibly being aspects we’d prefer to be different, we build the muscle that sees a more hopeful path forward.
“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”Oliver Sacks
In these recent days that have felt somewhat like groundhog to me, I lost track of what I’m grateful for in this year. There have been many transformational aspects about this year for me, but one of the big ones is the practice that brought this message to me today in the first place, which is meditation.
Meditation is not something that I was able to stick to prior to this year. I hadn’t experienced meditation in a way that created an intrinsic motivation in me to do it because of a desire to do it. It felt more like an obligation or a should.
This year, stars aligned, and I had experiences (that maybe I’ll share at a later point), which helped me experience the power and magic of meditation. This has resulted in a daily practice that has stabilized me through this year. For this transformation in my life, I have an abundance of gratitude.
How to begin a gratitude practice
Once you begin to find things in your life you are grateful for, it becomes easy for you to recognize a plethora of other things to add to the list. I mentioned meditation above, but my list is long.
That’s essentially what a gratitude practice is. It’s bringing awareness to your mind and heart how much you truly have going for you in your life. Even if you’re in, what you consider, a bad place, you become aware of what abundance truly exists in your life.
When you get into this state, the unfavorable stuff loses its power over your emotions, and you begin to see that our perceptions really do create how we experience life.
If you’re new to practicing gratitude, there are many ways you can go about doing so. However, one way is to begin a daily practice where you journal a list of things you are grateful for. It could be 5, 10, or 100 things. Or, you could set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and see what spills out of you during that time. It could be first thing in the morning or before you go to sleep.
The practice acts like a muscle to change your perceived experience over time. The more you do it, the more you find this outlook of gratitude to permeate your daily experience.
I’ve found that gratitude allows me to appreciate the simplicity of life and diminishes any yearning for my life to be different than it is in this current moment.
What do you think? Have you experienced a shift by consciously practicing gratitude? Do you feel that you could shift your experience of this year by acknowledging what in your life you are grateful for?