My friend, Jonathan has published his informative and insightful “how-to” post Allow Gratitude to Transform Your Life:
We can actually train ourselves to search for, discover, and focus on legitimate reasons to feel grateful and appreciative.
Zeenat is also a wise friend who published Celebrating with Immense Gratitude, wherein she thanked her readers for contributing to the success of her blog, and expressed her gratitude by offering a free ebook: The Best Of ~Positive Provocations~ Ebook. In February she published RAOKA: The Gratitude Ritual
A third friend, Stephen published a list of what he is thankful for in November in What I’m Thankful For including:
That I have learned that my circumstances do not control me.
Gratitude is grounded in awareness and humility
Next to love which incorporates it, gratitude, which is firmly rooted in humility, is the most powerful and empowering emotion we can manifest.
The posts I have linked to above contain excellent guidelines for establishing a gratitude practice. I detect and applaud a common theme running through them and it is “awareness leads to the expression of gratitude through conscious living”.
Attachments and aversions
Unless or until one becomes aware that they do have all of what it takes to rise above their circumstances, and the negativity and rejection they experience from others, they are incapable of expressing the deep gratitude that results in life changing shifts in mental set.
It’s our attachments and aversions to specific outcomes in our circumstances and in relationships that are the root of our unhappiness, and the barriers to becoming humble, making the happiness choice, and manifesting gratitude.
The greatest fears we humans have are the fear of abandonment (rejection) and fear (dread) of the unknown. If and only if, we are conscious and prepared to implement constructive approaches so we can accept the rejection of negatively focused people and the tribulations inherent in negative circumstances we can learn from them. If we remain unaware then we can’t, and that’s why the insight, wisdom and action plans that my friends share online are so very important.
Lessons to be learned from negative thought, people and circumstances
I chose not to reject the negative in my life for two reasons:
When I do use my energy to reject negativity in the form of thoughts, people or circumstances it backfires on me, and I fail to learn the lessons I could have learned by simply being with that rejection, witnessing it, without holding onto it.
I have discovered that negative thoughts, negative people, and negative experiences are best dealt with in the same way that I deal with any negative thoughts that may arise during meditation. I let them just pass on through giving them no recognition and/or response at the time of their manifestation.
Meditation: Removing mental obstacles
Many people find learning to meditate to be difficult. These difficulties arise from wrong ideas about what meditation is about. Mediation is a relaxed state of heightened awareness. It is not a zoned out state bordering on sleepiness; nor is a state of cogitation. Mediators do experience thoughts passing through the mind like fluffy clouds passing through the sky, but they do not follow nor attempt to forcefully drive any arising thoughts from their mind; they pay them no mind. — Meditation Practice: Preparation for Beginners
My gratitude practice
Although I chose not to blog about it I have gone through a very difficult autumn and winter filled with negative thoughts, people, and circumstances and have suffered a great deal of both physical and emotional pain.
At the end of last month I attended a group meditation focused on gratitude. There we were were reminded that impermanence is the instrument for our liberation.
Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, “It is always flowing, day and night.” The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight.
We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope.
If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don’t suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away.
If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise.
Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation. — Impermanence — Thich Nhat Hanh
At the workshop I visualized myself thinking negative thoughts and how I appeared to other when I chose to attach or “cling” to them. I then visualized those “others” in my life who had created and directed negativity towards me and I forgave myself and each one of them. We are all only human after all, and none of us has reached perfection or we wouldn’t be here in these bodies living in samsara.
I have meditated in this form previously, but this last time I also went two steps further. I visualized myself humbly thanking the universe for the lessons the negative experience and circumstance had taught me.
The last step I took was to visualize the people I had previously visualized and forgiven becoming positively focused towards me, and to visualize my circumstances being totally transformed.
Visualization can be a mind opening and heart opening experience
It was an amazing experience to watch my mind visualize faces, including my own and see frowns, conveying anger, hard eyes, and hostile expressions softening and transforming into smiles, conveying happiness, soft eyes and loving kindness. More amazing still was to see my heart’s desire for a change in my circumstances to evolve before me on the backs of my eyelids. I was humbled by the experience, and I wept openly as I was so grateful for how this process opened my heart and will now allow me to grow.
Perhaps I’m not describing this kind of meditative experience in a manner everyone reading this can understand, but I can’t be faulted for not trying, right? So today I will conclude with this quote:
To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. — Albert Schweitzer
With deep gratitude I bow to my readers.
P.S. Don’t miss listening to the music video by Nichole Nordeman below.