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Join me on my 21-day experiment to road-test a felt experience of gratitude.
Gratitude has been attributed with some pretty powerful guns in the world of personal and professional transformation, and once again I find myself curious about the veracity of these claims. Is it really the magic bullet of happiness?
The underlying philosophy of Gratitude’s power is that when we focus on our lack, that’s what we notice and hence that’s what we attract, consequently we are always left wanting which leads to consuming more to fill up the perceived deficit. Conversely, when we feel grateful for what we have our focus becomes one of abundance and that’s what we attract, and because we are already abundant we consume less because there is no deficit.
So, that’s the theory but does it really work? Can practicing gratitude really reduce our consumption of stuff, food, spirituality and religion, and relationships? Can gratitude increase our contentment with our life? Perhaps even with ourselves? Can it really attract success? And if gratitude is a powerful tool for happiness, can it be learnt and practiced.
These are the sorts of questions I started to ask when I finished my experiment with love. I felt incredibly grateful for the lessons I had learnt and the practice I had established, while becoming acutely aware of the times I didn’t respond with love and I the times I didn’t feel content. Simultaneously I started to see “gratitude” everywhere. I couldn’t open my Facebook feed without one modern day guru or another blogging the importance of gratitude, my own yoga tradition sprewking gratitude and a recurring memory of an NLP teacher selling fridge magnets that said “attitude of gratitude”.
It was Christmas – a time of the year when consumerism and gluttony spreads their wings and go wild in a duet of massive proportions. At the same time I was preparing the second edition of my book for publishing as an eBook.
21-Days of Love had created an incredible level of resilience and tolerance to the vagaries of life and Christmas, and my usual Christmas depression was surprisingly somnolent. A good time to put the book out into the world again. A fevered weekend before Christmas with my partner putting the final pieces together and finally pressing “Publish” late on Sunday afternoon. Waves of relief, gratitude, happiness, jubilation and more than slight disbelief flowed with the bubbles of a bottle of Moet we had been saving for a special occasion.
What followed was an even more fevered three days of Facebooking, emailing and texting everyone I knew, had ever known, might one day know or have not yet heard of to invite them to download a free copy of my eBook to register it as a thing on Amazon. Initially it was so exciting and fun, as I started to watch the figures rise and moved to the top of my free categories in the US, UK and Australia.
And then it shifted. All the focus on figures and subscription rates etc. changed my attitude from a game to comparison, competition and stress and anxiety. Abundance and celebration became lack, and I began to think about the people who didn’t download or unsubscribed to my newsletter.
Fortunately I had my 21-Days of Love behind me and I noticed the difference. Fortunately I looked around my life and ‘saw’ it all again, with the sensation of love.
I made a decision to stop watching the figures, stop sending emails and texts and Facebook posts, and feel thankful for each copy downloaded and each message of encouragement.
Do you know what happened? My mind instantly relaxed, it felt like a physical opening in the cortex of my brain – literally. My breathing slowed and deepened, a smile slowly spread across my face and I enjoyed a beautiful Christmas with my family, once again feeling grateful for the abundance of love in my life.
Since then I have ‘played’ with gratitude and noticed that even random acts of gratitude have an impact on my life. So, let’s have a more rigorous test of the power of an Attitude of Gratitude.
Stage 1 Daily Random Acts of Gratitude.
- Get comfortable in your favourite place (you might like to light a candle but this is optional).
- Do some movement to open your chest (even rolling your shoulders is enough, first one at a time, then both together, slowly and mindfully).
- Take a few moments to become aware of your breath, allow the breath in and allow it to leave.
- Invite the out breath to lengthen.
- So, what does gratitude feel like? Take a moment to remember something for which you already feel gratitude then let the sensation of gratitude flow through your mind and body.
- When you are ready, create the intention to feel gratitude for at least one thing in your day.
- Allow the events of your day to play across the screen of your mind with this intention of gratitude in your awareness. Remember that is what you here for, not mulling over particular events or interactions, you are here to find something to thank.
- If you have had a particularly stressful day or you are dealing with difficult life circumstances it might initially be difficult to find something but stick with the intention and something will arise, even if it is as mundane as having clothes on your body.
- You may find you start a flood of gratitude or you may find that a drop is all you can manage – whatever you manage is enough.
- Gratitude practice is great to do every night before going to bed because it puts your mind into a more positive space before sleep and is very relaxing, even after a stressful day.
Stage 2 Attitude of Gratitude practice.
Another gratitude practice that I have yet to road-test consistently is to appreciate what is working in the different aspects of my life, so once I have established my Daily Random Acts of Gratitude practice, I will start a more systematic approach to gratitude. I will find something in every aspect of my life that is working.
- Gratitude for existing – each day I continue to breathe brings more opportunity live and love (“I breathe in and feel life, I breathe out and feel grateful”).
- Gratitude for the food I have eaten today – even if it wasn’t the healthiest or the most delicious or even not enough, it was food that sustained me through the day.
- Gratitude for your shelter – whatever shelter I have is still shelter.
- Gratitude for my friends and family – every interaction with another person is an opportunity for me to feel connection.
- Gratitude for my financials – this is a tricky one for me and I will focus on gratitude for the tasks that are compensated for with money and every cent that comes through my hands.
- Gratitude for my jobs – I feel grateful that each job I do is an opportunity to express my purpose and contribute to my financials.
- Gratitude for my purpose – this is another tricky one for me because sometimes my ego feels a little embarrassed by my purpose and sometimes hide from it, so I will practice feeling grateful for my purpose.
- Gratitude for the resources to fulfil my purpose – again tricky because I have a background of scarcity so I will consciously look for the moments I have expressed my purpose in my day and let flow the golden bubbles of gratitude (which me luck here, folks).
- Gratitude for success – the hardest one of all for me as biggest cloud over my parade is the belief in my own failure, so I will root through each day and find my successes! (I will, I promise).
Once again I will carry out my practice every day for 21 days, an attempt to embed the habit of a felt experience of gratitude.
Following on from the personal success of writing everyday during my 21 Days of Love, I am committing to writing every day and publishing on my website, then sharing on Facebook.
Today is Day 1, I will write tomorrow.
Thank you with love,
How can we celebrate abundance without indulging in and celebrating conspicuous consumption? Is feeling abundant about feeling safe? If so, can we feel safe and abundant with what we have now?
In the yogic calendar it has recently been an auspicious time to celebrate abundance in all aspects of life – health, food, relationships, wealth, purpose and life itself. A mind that is resting in abundance is content and safe, perhaps even joyful. Everywhere they look there is enough, beauty and life in plenty. yet it is easy to slip into a wanting mind when thinking about abundance and confusing ‘abundance’ with excess, focusing only on material wealth and ‘more’. Perhaps we will feel safer if we feel more abundant.
Modern self-help gurus often refer to abundance by adding zeroes to your income or multiplying your income by a factor of two or three, or even exponentially. So tempting to think we need more in order to feel abundant; that if we add those zeroes or have that perfect house (or mansion) or car or fashion items, we will feel abundant.
Unfortunately what so often happens is that we feel less, tricked on to the endless treadmill of chasing that ’more’ that will make us feel safe. And the abundance that was supposed to make us feel safe becomes a cause of fear of the consequences if loose our abundance. How will we feel safe if our abundance is taken away from us?
So if our constant rush towards ‘more’ arises out of a need to feel safe, how do we step out of the ‘wanting mind’ and into an appreciation of the abundance that already exists in our lives? Gratitude and Generosity.
Gratitude for what we have now is the key to feeling abundant and we can train ourselves in feeling gratitude in the same way we can train ourselves in any other attitude or skill – practice.
Imagine how differently you would feel about your life if you looked upon your circumstances with gratitude, appreciating the aspects of your life rather than complaining? You would feel abundant. Then if you want to change an aspect of your circumstances you can do so by choice instead of compulsion. You switch from being reactive to proactive, from wanting to plenty and fearful to safe. Out of this generosity naturally arises.
Practice gratitude in all the key aspects of your life
It is true that there are sets of circumstances for which it is difficult to feel gratitude, and I have been in some of them, but even in those times if I stopped to feel a moment of gratitude for a beautiful rainbow or flower, or see the beautiful smile in someone’s eyes, that moment of beauty and gratitude gave me peace. It brought my mind to rest for that moment which washed over the rest of my life and enabled me to live.
The gratitude practice
Take time each morning and each night to feel gratitude for:
- Your life.
- The food that you eat - even it is not your ideal version of food, you can feel grateful for having food and your capacity to discern ideal food and how amazing that that’s even possible.
- Your health - in the case of chronic or acute illness this can be difficult and I have found that focussing on the bits that are working helps and flows in to the bits that aren’t doing so well.
- The relationships in your life - if there are problematic relationships in your life, look for the lessons and learn them in gratitude, and if that’s not possible look for beauty and let your gratitude for beauty wash over you.
- Roof over your head - if you have one you have plenty to be thankful for, even if it is not your ideal version and seeing every roof as something to appreciate is a lot more peaceful than wanting more.
- Career/purpose/contribution - this can be problematic for those of us who think we need to have a grand purpose but haven’t found it yet, perhaps start with feeling gratitude for what you are doing in the world, now.
- Goal or intention, no matter how small e.g. my goal today is to feel grateful - feeling gratitude for even having a goal or intention, even if you haven’t yet fulfilled it, simply having one with gratitude gets you out of bed to clean your teeth and reveal goals you may not even know you had.
- Adequate means to fulfil your goal (the means may not always be material) - sometimes you may not be aware of the means, you may not see the means in your current but feeling gratitude for means you do have at your disposal is a great place to start.
- For your whole life.
- And then watch yourself becoming more generous to yourself and those around you, effortlessly.
- Allow gratitude for beauty and the bits that are working to wash over the bits that are tricky.
- Use your breath for each aspect – “I breathe in and notice, I breathe out and feel gratitude”.
- When you catch yourself complaining, wanting or feeling like an aspect of your circumstance isn’t enough, find gratitude and notice how your feeling of abundance shifts and your mind becomes smoother.
I look forward to hearing of your experiences with gratitude
Remember, if you want to feel abundance in your life begin with feeling gratitude for life as it is now – you will naturally feel more abundant and safe, and generosity will flow effortlessly.