A note from Erin:
Have you been waking in the night too? Or trying to avoid the news because it’s all just too much? The violence against native peoples in North Dakota; the mess that is Syria; warfare in Mosul; a black church burned; policemen shot while sitting in their cars; the election(!!) and all the associated fear and rancor….Phew!
Because our brains are oriented to receive the abundant positive, beautiful, and hummingly good stuff in our lives like teflon (non-stick, baby) and to receive the negative, scary, dangerous stuff like velcro, it’s so damn easy to become overwhelmed.
Fortunately, we’re not stuck or unpowerful. To use a favorite word that Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa loved: It’s workable. We can work with it.
I’d like to share one of many perspectives that’s here with me this morning.
Knowing about this velcro/teflon brain dynamic has helped me a lot over the years. No blame – that’s simply how our brains are oriented. However…. we can shift our default settings. Just knowing about it doesn’t shift it.(damn!) Practice does. Intentional cultivation does.
Why is growing gratefulness important? I used to be one of those people who avoided the news. (I still don’t watch it. I read it on my NPR app or online.) I used to think it was ok for me to basically bow out of the larger world and live consciously in my own world. I don’t think that anymore for myself. I want to help. I want to leave the world better than I found it. And if I don’t know what’s going on, I can’t be of much help. If I get overwhelmed by the negativity (why thanks, inner velcro!) I can’t be of help. For me, I believe I need to grow my inner resources enough so that I can show up with courage, see as clearly as I can what’s going on, and take some action that feels aligned to my heart. I was registered to attend a Bearing Witness retreat with the Zen Peacemakers over the summer to bear witness to the genocide of our country’s native peoples. Not enough people registered and it was cancelled. I’m wishing now I could bear witness in person at Standing Rock. My heart is with them. And I take it as my task to take in the beauty of my life enough that I can truly open my heart to the atrocities. It takes intentional willingness to notice the beauty and goodness. And it takes a simple but courageous pause to feel the gratefulness in my body.
I love Brene Brown’s work, and especially the heart and humor she brings to her presentation of her research. I’ve been thinking this week about something she said. First, her research revealed that all the people she interviewed who described themselves as joyful attributed it to their practice of gratitude. She said she used to think, “Sure, grateful people are grateful because of the joyful lives they have!” But the reverse is actually true. It was their active cultivation of gratefulness that gave rise to their joy, and they knew it. She also said that it’s the practice and not just the attitude that makes a difference. (This is the notion that’s been working on me all week, considering many areas of my life.) She jokes that she has a very “yoga attitude.” She feels in alignment with the principles, she thinks it’s a great system, she even wears yoga pants. But, as she says with a laugh, “I have a yoga attitude. I don’t have a yoga practice.” It’s the practice that makes the difference in how our bodies, our brains, and our lives change. This is true of gratitude as well. I often have an attitude of gratitude. It’s such a good idea, I believe in it, I know it works. But, truthfully, I go in and out of having a regular PRACTICE of gratitude. When I do? It makes all the difference in the world. It so powerfully changes my outlook, my body’s inner state, my story of my life. Even if I have financial struggles, a messy house, longing for things that aren’t happening, relationship or health challenges….when I have an active practice of gratitude, it truly changes everything. It’s like when Dorothy arrives in Oz and suddenly everything is in color instead of black and white. I swear, for me it’s like magic. As poet Ross Gay says, “I want to rub everything with the sponge of gratitude.” I do too.
This week we began my online course,The Embody Gratitude Project. Part of why I love to offer this course is because I see the magic that happens when we grow our gratitude. I see it in my own life and others. And holy wow, do we need it NOW!!! Don’t we?! I do. Big time. The structure of a course helps me to recommit to not just the attitude, but the actual practice of gratitude.
I have two invitations for you this morning.
First – let’s take 5 minutes to do it right now. Shall we? Want to grow a little gratitude? Click here to listen to me guide you through a short practice.
Second – I’d love to extend an invitation for you to join me over the next 5 weeks to keep nurturing an embodied gratitude practice. Several people have contacted me this week saying, “Can I still join your gratitude class? I have had a hard time keeping track of email!” Me too. Sheesh! And YES! You can! We just started on Monday. I’m delighted that many participants are doing it for the 3rd year in a row. It’s new and powerful every time. I’ve created it to be a spacious, potent class. Each Monday – a short audio/video lesson I make just for the class. EachWednesday, a little booster – (I call it a shot of gratitude-espresso) which is usually a poem that inspires me like crazy. Each Friday we have a brief opportunity for check in and review. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time, but it makes a damn big difference in your life. Click here to join us in the class – you can easily slide right in! And of course, if the timing or the money or whatever isn’t right for you to join us in the class, I hope you’ll still grow your gratitude practice on your own! It’s such a worthy cultivation. Especially when your inner critic isn’t driving the practice. :) With practice, the passing state of gratitude can become a trait that is simply part of how and who you are: A grateful person. Isn’t that inspiring? I think so.
Below is a favorite poem I thought you might enjoy. By Mary Oliver, of course.
More Honey Locust
Any day now
of the honey locust
will be filled
with white fountains;
in my hands
I will see
the holy seeds
and a sweetness
will rise up
from those petal-bundles
I must close my eyes
to take it in,
I hope that you too
know the honey locust,
of those fountains;
and I hope that you too will pause
to admire the slender trunk,
the leaves, the holy seeds,
the ground they grow from
year after year
with striving and patience;
and I hope that you too
will say a word of thanks
for such creation
out of the wholesome earth,
which would be, and dearly is it needed,
a prayer for all of us.
May you too pause to close your eyes and take it in, to bear such generosity.
May you too say a word of thanks for such creation, as dearly is it needed, for all of us.
I hope you’ll check out the p.s. section below. We have some truly good stuff coming up!