Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to Grow Gratitude

Earlier this month, I touched on the role gratitude plays in our lives and what we can do to foster a more grateful practice. Today, I think it’s important to expand out and learn how to grow your thanks. But first, a dose of reality.

In today’s climate, sometimes it’s not enough to just say “focus on the positive things in our lives” and expect it to have an actual impact.

In fact, most of the time it’s difficult to even find something for which to be grateful.

That’s when I get reading. I start turning to the inspiration on the page to find something to remind me of what is out there that I can focus my attention on to change my perspective and come up with tangible techniques which we can use to truly transform our lives.

I’m not looking for an easy fix, it’s hard to understand the whys of things, and honestly pursuing the bottom line is a chase that never really results in peace. Not only that, but there are often conflicting ideas from various authors that make it difficult to come up with a secret sauce.

So what have I learned that can help us all really grow gratitude? Especially given everything working against us. Well, there are some key tools I’ve discovered that might help you transform your mindset and enhance the level of gratitude in your life:

Love more, fiercely, deeply, and with commitment

Starting with yourself. When you catch yourself caught up in your story - change the narrative. Know that your cup has to be filled first before you can fill another’s. Then, once you’re feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzy, turn to those around you. Who can you make more time for in your life? It doesn’t take much to make people feel more connected. Text a friend and let them know you’re thinking about them. Find time to grab lunch with someone who you haven’t spoken with in awhile. As humans, we are all built for connection and belonging, so building meaningful relationships with people will help you fuel gratitude as well.

Hug each other, make soup, and pick up litter

Not necessarily in that order. What I actually mean is, be of service. Find ways to give back to those in need in ways that fill you up. For some of us that means volunteering at a local food bank, for others it might like heading to the beach with a trash bag in hand ready to collect litter. For instance, my daughter is a mentor for her peers in her graduate program. She LOVES helping other people achieve their goals and I always see a happier daughter after she volunteers her time to help them - that’s her gratitude growing! Whatever it is for you, make it a regular part of your practice. Do it daily, if possible, and watch your own gratitude grow.

We practice random acts of kindness and we feed the dog

Have you ever paid it forward by buying a coffee for someone behind you in line at your coffee shop? If you haven’t, I highly recommend the practice. It seems counter-intuitive, but helping someone else see the good of humanity actually fuels my own gratitude. I love seeing the look on a strangers faces when their normal coffee run suddenly becomes a reminder of the good in the world. When we go about our normal routine, like feeding the dog, but throw in some random acts of kindness, our perspectives change. We do our normal tasks with more enthusiasm and joy as gratitude grows within us.

We tell someone how much we love them

Reminding the people in our lives that we love them stimulates a similar feeling of gratitude. What can you do to speak someone else’s love language? Here are some easy (and fun!) ideas: write someone a handwritten note (read more about this one here), spend some quality time with a friend over a cup of tea, complete a chore to help out your significant other, or any other small token of gratitude for those in your life that support you. I personally love making our family’s favorite meal - Uncle Vinny’s Chicken - The more you do this, the more you’ll feel gratitude begin to stir within you and take the place of any false beliefs in your life.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s easy to neglect these types of soul-filling activities. As a society, we are trained that value comes from spending countless hours at the office, working into your personal time is considered a badge of honor. But what if we took that time back? What if we all grew our gratitude for ourselves and one another collectively? What a different world that would look like.

I know that people are good at heart and that good always wins the day, but sometimes we forget. We forget because we drift away from our practice of gratitude. Gratitude helps us all remember that God is good all the time while helping us notice more things to be grateful for.

I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for today. Let me know in the comments.

Want even more gratitude inspiration? Check out Gratitude Grows on Vision's YouTube channel!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Fostering Gratitude's Power

Fostering gratitude within us fuels a more pleasant state of being. We are powered by gratitude.

That being said, in practice, it’s harder than just being grateful for everything in our lives. Sometimes, we get a nasty 2x4 experience and it’s not easy to say thanks to the universe for the not-so-gentle wake up call. But, even in those moments of struggle where we cannot seem to find anything for which to be thankful, we can remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

All things. Even those magical hit-you-in-the-face experiences. You know what I’m talking about. The things we want to forget but can’t seem to let go. The time you forgot to bring your homework to school, the time you let your team down at work, the call with the bad news that shook your life, the time you chose to do nothing and it backfired. They all advanced you in some way.

But gratitude can make you happier. It’s powerful that way. 

Even if it doesn’t directly shape your circumstances right away, it changes you from the inside. 

When I decided I was ready to move to California, I timed the exact right moment to step into my boss’ office to put in my two weeks notice. It would be on a Friday. Unfortunately, my boss ended up calling me in early and letting me go before I even had the chance to follow through with my plan! 

I was absolutely mortified. Nobody fires ME! My ego was inflamed and my emotions were pumping. It took me a while to finally calm down, but once I did, I kicked it into high-gear.

I took full advantage of this extra time off from work. I looked at all my options in California, giving myself the opportunity to truly get the best fit, rather than just what was available. Although nobody truly wants to be laid off, I look back on this experience fondly, knowing that it worked out for the absolute best. 

There are times where life will shake you to your core, but it is in those moments that you can turn to gratitude. Gratitude helps reinforce our practice of fostering happiness from within rather than seeking it externally. 

The power of gratitude can even overcome the most fundamental false belief we carry within us: our “not-enough-ness.” You know, that little voice in the back of our heads that acts up and reminds us how unimportant and unworthy we are? We try to tackle the vicious cycle of insufficiency, but we never really dig in deep enough to solve the cause.  

There are some steps which you can take to step into the power of your gratitude and it starts with releasing: 

  1. Release Your False Beliefs 
In the class, Principles of Financial Freedom, we do a process called Fear to Faith, and one of the parts of that process is a prayer called the Releasing Prayer. I encourage you to try it out on your path to a more grateful life: 

It is a three line prayer made by the one praying.

The first line says, 
I release my belief in___________. 
This is the false belief we were invested in.

The second line is,
I release my need to ________________. 
This is the way we act out in the world, the thing we do to try to push away the feelings that false belief sets up in us.

The third and last line says,
I am grateful God is the ___________, I am.

This process will help you identify your false belief, identify how we try to cover it up, and reinforce the Truth that we are the good God is, in form. 

  1. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal 
I find that writing down my thanks helps embed the feeling of gratitude in me. This process could be as easy as writing out the title on the top of a page in your journal “Today, I am grateful for” and each day write one sentence. You’ll see how quickly your attitude starts to shift as you cultivate a long list of reasons to be grateful. As an alternative, you can create a gratitude jar. Grab an empty (and clean!) jar and tear up some colorful paper. Each day, write one reason to be grateful and toss it into the jar. It’s pretty fun to see it fill up and it becomes a cute piece of decor as well. 

  1.  Express Your Thanks to Someone Daily
With the help of technology, this can be as easy as shooting over a text to a friend (feel free to sprinkle in emojis or a well-chosen gif). If you’re feeling old-school, pick up a cute card and write a quick note of thanks to someone. My daughter makes this a regular part of her work life. For her summer internship, she wrote out an individual letter of thanks to everyone on her entire 40+ person team! You’ll be surprised how much of an impact it can have on the person receiving your thanks and of course, as a bonus, you’ll start feeling more grateful as well! 

  1. Express Gratitude Towards Yourself 
Ah, the toughy. Most people are their own worst critics, which likely boils down to that false belief I mentioned earlier. So, what can we do to thwart that? Well, try standing in the mirror and point out the things about yourself for which you are grateful. Been working out? Be thankful that your body is strong and capable. Love your smile? That’s right you do, you light up a room! Have you recently completed a project at work? You go, Glen Coco!  Love to push yourself? Your tenacity is boundless! There are so many things about yourself, you can go all-out! 

Pulling It All Together

Completing these steps on a daily basis (or choose your favorite) can lift your level of gratitude and start to change you. It is the cultivation of this gratitude that deconstructs our false belief of not-enough-ness. The Power of An Idea says,  “Gratitude is not only a virtue but it also is part of a practical philosophy of daily life” (p. 26.1). It is our spiritual practice to raise the set point of gratitude to include even those things that we may not necessarily label as “good” because we are gratitude powered beings. We welcome all situations into our experience as we dwell in a state of gratitude. 

I invite you to be grateful today, one step at a  time, and feel its power transform you.

Want even more gratitude inspiration? Check out Gratitude Power on Vision's YouTube channel!

Let me know in the comments what you are doing to foster gratitude in your life!

Friday, March 23, 2018

What's Old?

Hi there,
I've been wondering how old is old and I suppose it stems from the fact that my next birthday will be my 62nd. Wow, I used to think 62 was old, well, I thought 60 was old...when I was in my 20s. And here I am, anticipating my 62nd birthday and thinking, how old is old? The older I get, the further away "old" age becomes. In my 20s, I thought the 60s was old, in my 40s, well, 70s was old, and now that I'm approaching 62 and my beloved is in his early 70s, that's not old at all. Hmmmm...I am beginning to believe that old adage that one is only as old as one feels. Which means sometimes I'm still in my 20s, and then other times, feeling achy, I begin to think I'm old! Is it really simply a state of mind?
I like to say that we must keep on learning in order to stay fresh, green and growing. I ask myself, "When was the last time I did something for the first time?" Keeping a "beginner's brain" is important for me to stay engaged, growing and stimulated. If I am an expert in every aspect of my life, I'm not growing. So, I took my first curling lesson last week. Yes, curling, on ice, in the cold, throwing the stone, sweeping, the whole bit. And I was terrible at it! As I should be! It was the first time I ever tried the sport. My willingness to be awful at something, in public, with witnesses, is also a strength. It is my ability to be authentic, vulnerable, and look like a nube, a fool, at something, which is also the self confidence I have to learn in public, to be a beginner among others, in order to learn something new. I will not let the fear of appearing foolish stop me from experiencing something new. Hell, when it comes to looking foolish in public, well, that ship sailed years ago. LOL! We have all done silly things, and done them in public, so let's get over the "I don't want to embarrass myself" fear and just jump in and flounder a bit, flopping around on the ice, while we learn. Learning something new keeps us growing, keeps the brain stimulated and engaged, and keeps us forever young. So, you have to ask yourself, "How old is old?"

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

So, What Do You Do on Your Day Off?

Tuesday is my day off. I do things like play tennis, go to a movie, perhaps take a walk in a park, maybe go to a museum. Stuff like that. Most of the time I'm doing stuff for Vision. Take today, for example. I'm shopping for cloth to create wall hangings in the sanctuary to soften the sound in the room. The movement of sound waves within an enclosed space is an interesting science. It is beneficial to have experts who can advise about these things. I love what they do. Me? I'm just trying to make it look pleasing to the eye.
When I'm out shopping, I look for things that can add to the beauty of our Vision space. I look for things that make life more convenient, and I purchase things that make the space more functional. So, even when I'm off, I'm on.
Some career paths are like that. Some, when we punch out for the day, we can forget all about the company and do whatever we desire. What's your day off like?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

All These Feelings

I am all too familiar with the cascade of emotions after the horrific events of Sunday morning. The grief, the sadness, the overwhelming feeling of despair. Everything about it is all too familiar. The lone shooter, innocent victims, inconsolable families and friends, and the easy availability of semi-automatic weapons. And we are still doing the same thing - nothing. I thought something would change, my God, something would have to change after a lone, deranged killer shot up an elementary school, killing children. Children! I thought, "Well, that's it. Americans won't stand for this. They will rein in the NRA and some sensible gun laws will follow." But, no. Not even then. What the hell. And here I am, with all these feelings.
When I first heard about the carnage in Orlando, I was sickened, horrified. I felt that wave of unrelenting sadness that washes over us when we hear about yet another mass shooting. Where do you go with that kind of grief? How do relieve that level of pain? I went to my spiritual center, then I went to my Spiritual Center, Vision. How comforting it is to be among like-minded individuals who hold each other aloft. It is a safe space into which we can pour our grief and share our heartbreak. I went to the LGBT Center the next day, where hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil. It is another safe space to pour out one's pain and be held close. We walk through this together. All these feelings. I've heard that joy shared is multiplied and sorrows shared are lessened, I'm not sure about that, but it felt good to be among others who shared my pain.
So, now I'm pissed. And the same questions come up. Where do I go with these feelings? How do I relieve this level of outrage? I feel so helpless to change things, and I think that's where the anger comes from. How can we stand by day after day, week after week, month after month and watch as the tally of mass shootings steadily rise? I know it is a complex issue, I know there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer. I recall the quote by H.L. Mencken, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." But I also know that to do nothing is an answer we can no longer afford. At Vision, we are reminded that faith without works is dead. We are to pray and move our feet. We know that we are the arms and legs, feet and hands of Spirit in action. And that's the key, action. Spirit can only do for us what it can do through us, so we must move. What that means to you, you must decide. Pray first, then, I'm not telling anyone what to do, but do a little something to make a difference. If that means an email to a politician, a phone call to representative, a letter to Capitol Hill, whatever it is, it will make a difference. It helps us with all these feelings. I know it is a complex issue and I know we have to start somewhere, make one decision, address it one phase at a time, do one thing that can lessen the chance of this happening ever again. We simply cannot do nothing and keep reliving all these feelings.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Welcome to 2016

Some things change, some things remain the same. Nah, scrap that. All things change. Well, all things at the physical level change. Take my weight. It changes. I eat more and exercise less and I store potential energy as fat. No big surprise there. Eat less, move more and I take off some weight. It's just that simple. No tricks, no diets, no fad eating routines, just simple calorie consuming and calorie burning. How does that turn into a multi-billion dollar a year industry? I think some people, maybe many people, want a quick fix, a magic pill, a secret code to instantly lose weight. How many New Year's resolutions have you made, year after year, that involved taking off that extra weight you've been carrying around on you?  On January 1st, there we are, all geared up and ready to starve ourselves into our new sleek, slim, sexy, attractive bodies. I just need to loose 40 pounds by the end of the month and I'll be happy...Well, okay then, can we make it more unrealistic? And here's what the second or third week of January, when we have fallen off the diet bandwagon more than once, we give up. Someone said that she wants to open a gym and call it Resolutions, and for the first month it operates as a gym and then for the rest of the year, it's a bar.  Hilarious, and it's funny because it's reality.
Anne Lamott once told her therapist that she was starting a diet at the 1st of the year and her therapist replied, "Oh, good, how much weight do you intend to gain?" That's the way it usually goes, right? Lose weight, fall away, gain it back and then some. So, what's the point, you ask? Why bother?
That's why resolutions don't usually work. When we fall off the plan more than once, twice, three times, instead of starting again in the next new moment, we chuck the whole idea. We doom ourselves to the inevitability of our past habits instead of lovingly continuing to correct and create the new habit.
So, no more resolutions, just self love and acceptance. When I intend to drop a few pounds I'll eat less, exercise more. If I keep the goal in mind, out in front of me, I can continue to make little baby steps toward it. Do what's in front of me to do, and keep the big, hairy, audacious goal in mind. In 12 months, who knows?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

You Know What's Up?

You know what's up for me today? The NFL Draft. Yeah, I know, not very spiritual but very much like our experience of life. Remember when, as kids, we stood around the gymnasium or the ball field or the dirt lot, picking teams? Were you one of the first picked? The valuable kid who can make the runs, score the touchdown or create the winning play? Were you one of the vast middle bunch of kids who were thought to have some potential? Or were you one of the last of the last picked? Fine, we'll take him/her. You know the dead weight, the kid nobody wanted on his/her team, the loser. In the NFL Draft, the last aspiring college player hoping to get drafted by an NFL team is called Mr. Irrelevant. Nice. And the 39th pick of the 7th round, the 256th pick overall of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals pick...Mr. Irrelevant. Dictionary definition of Irrelevant - not relating or pertinent to the matter at hand; not important. Like I said, nice.
Here's what's up for one is irrelevant. Not one person can be considered irrelevant. Each and every person here is here for a reason. We are born to make manifest the glory of Spirit in some individual way that only we can. Don't ever let anyone convince you that you are irrelevant. Spirit creates, that's what it does and it saw fit to create you for amazing things. Be your authentic self, do your thing, create your dreams, scale your mountains, walk your path, proudly, individually, as only you can do.
And that goes for you, Mr. Irrelevant of 2015, Tight End Gerald Christian, out of Louisville. There is nothing irrelevant about you.