How My Gratitude Practice Has Rewired My Brain

About a year ago a new friend invited me into a gratitude practice with her. The task was simple; each day we'd email each other three things we were grateful for. It began in the way you might expect; on sunny days I'd be grateful for that. On days when an unexpected check came in the mail, I'd have another thing to be grateful for. And then there were the days of the good old pity-party where I was tempted to wallow and feel sorry for my miserable circumstances and I'd come to my email with a real disdain for this gratitude practice and sometimes even for my new friend pulling me into this. I'd think- she can do this because she has it so easy. This isn't for me!. Nevertheless, I'd force myself to find things to be thankful for like legs and a roof and yoga pants. Occasionally I'd try disguise a complaint in the form of a gratitude. "I am grateful for people who are nice unlike so and so."  I plodded on with it and slowly the practice, like anything we practice with regularity, began to gain traction. And to become more interesting. 

After several months, I noticed that a shift began to occur. I started to surprise myself with less obvious statements like "I am grateful for my mail carrier" or "I am grateful for the stillness that these less exciting days provide". Things of a neutral nature started taking on a new sheen of their own. It was absolutely thrilling. My friend and I agreed we were onto something. We kept going.

Our gratitudes got more interesting. I wasn't looking out the window anymore grasping for things to come up with. They started coming to me spontaneously throughout the day. "I am grateful for the man at the post office whistling a pink floyd song while sweeping." "I am grateful for the resilience of a perfect stranger who has now inspired me and given me strength." It was like I had new eyes that were feasting on everything in my life as something to be grateful for.

But it wasn't until recently that yet another marvelous facet of this practice was revealed The things that were once considered negatives were now showing up as gratitudes. "I am thankful for my struggle today because I learned that sometimes I make things harder than they need to be." "I am grateful for a daily opportunity to practice remaining calm in living amongst the noise and chaos of small children." "I am grateful for so and so asking me the same question twice a week because her regularity is a comfort to me." 

In savasana, the final resting pose at the end of a yoga class, I often remind the class of the process that unfolds. We begin in the pose by noticing. As we continuing the noticing, we learn to allow- to hold space around what is without accepting or rejecting. If we're lucky, we get to the third and final stage; a relishing in the is-ness of what is. Not only an acceptance of what is but gratitude for what is. My daily practice off the mat with my friend has transformed the is-ness of my life into gold. It is a truly liberating practice to no longer feel controlled by the circumstances of our lives. To view the content as another opportunity to work this practice and reap the rewards of a constant invitation to give thanks.