Yoga Off The Mat

Gratitude is Practice

Original post: April 14th, 2013

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Just like everything else I am learning, gratitude is a practice. My little Ah-ha moment? Most everything I struggle with, I struggle with because I think it should have been done yesterday. I should’ve had that massage technique perfected by now. I’m a failure because I’ve gained weight instead of lost it so why bother. I’m not feeling so grateful so why lie about it in a gratitude journal. I procrastinated around my morning yoga practice until it’s too late so oh well, looks like I can’t do morning yoga.

The word Practice evolved for me. Practice as a chore like memorizing your times table. And then practice, like holding my yoga practice as something sacred. But I only got it now as a sacred word around being grateful. And for that matter, eating well. Exercising. Being authentic. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes it doesn’t. All these things things can be mindful practice.

Mindfulness. Sacred. These concepts sound lovely. Eventually, it’s like the hike in the woods when your pack is heavy and you’re dirty, hungry, and smelly. A mindful, sacred Practice becomes only about one foot in front of the other. It is your stinky, no-fun practice. Until something new comes along that makes you laugh. Then it is your joyful practice. Seems the adjective changes. Not the practice.

I’ve questioned the expectation of always being grateful, similar to the expectation of how someone can go around being happy all the time. That’s just unreasonable. The thought of it is sort of annoying. But when I understand that gratitude and happiness are a practice, a forever coming back to, a choice, I get it. It becomes much deeper than the superficial happy person oblivious to the real hard blows life offers. The real, authentic happy person is there because of choice or practice.

What became crystal clear to me this morning, if there is one thing to practice, practice gratitude. I think it changes all your practices. I think it changes everything.

Dr. Brene Brown researched the emotion, shame, interviewing thousands of people over a ten year period and came to understand that what makes people who are more joyful joyful, is this: When difficult times arise in their lives, they still acknowledge what they are grateful for. Have you ever been stumped by people who bounce back into some sense of joy after a tragedy? Dr. Brown sights that having a strong faith is evident among some of these people, but the more common thread was actively practicing gratitude. In fact she said “there was not one single person who talked about the capacity to really soften into joy who did not practice gratitude.”

I loved listening to Oprah’s conversation with Dr. Brown. Oprah shares a common view: The way to course correct everything is through the cultivation of gratitude and joy. It is the way home. And Brene comes back with the single most feared emotion is joy, which seems odd, initially. But it’s common in all of us to react to a strong feeling of love for someone or something with I better not feel this deeply because I could lose this person or this way of life. Dr. Brown so eloquently put it, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” I know this statement all too well. I felt this struggle inside my heart meeting my husband a year after my boyfriend died. I knew it was better to choose joy, but I knew what felt like inescapable pain in losing a partner. Choosing to let myself feel joy was like taking a leap of faith. Logically speaking, it was not a good risk. But also, I knew my husband was a gift and I was so so, so grateful. Gratitude won because somewhere along the way, I took the leap.

And joy is, like everything else, a practice. I get it now that we don’t just arrive at these emotions or a certain dress size and stay there.

I was re-introduced to a gratitude journal recently and naturally, I have put it off. Today, I get it more deeply. And so, today I am…

Grateful for the smell of cement in our garage because I never owned a garage I could put my car in until we lived here.
Grateful for the friend who phoned to tell me to get outside if I had the chance to experience this beautiful day, because I probably would have stayed here writing the morning away.
Grateful for my dog who always wants to walk.
Grateful to you, for reading this.

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