Sometimes I forget to remember.
When I think back over the past year, a few things still stand out in my mind. Mornings of great joy. Afternoons of celebration. Evenings when I found myself alone and weeping in a puddle of tears. A year in review is made of snapshots like these – a birth, a death, a new contract, a new friend. As we pass through the gateway of December and ready ourselves for the coming of 2016, these moments are worth taking the time to remember.
Yet so too are the simpler ones. The softer ones. The moments that speak less loudly, yet somehow influence the hue of our past twelve months’ existence. How do we listen? How do we honor?
How do we express gratitude for that which has served us well… and lay aside that which we are now ready to let go?
How do we say thank you for our lives?
On my recent trip to Australia, I was given an incredible an unexpected gift: I was re-introduced to the concept of prayer. This may sound silly, for a number of reasons. Either you already experience me as a deeply spiritual person – in which case you’d be wondering why I needed a re-introduction… or you know me as a corporate type – practical, rational and highly unlikely to make reference to God in our no-nonsense conversations about leadership, performance and business success.
The thing is, I’m not sure they’re separate.
I’m sure they’re not separate.
In the field of Positive Psychology, age old concepts like gratitude and hope are now being studied with the same level of scientific rigor as psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. These uplifting expressions of our nature are thought to be “normal” – a regular part of “above baseline” human functioning. Yet when they go missing, it is easy to see the toll it can take on our lives.
Take a moment and think about the people in your circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Who do you know that is grateful? Yes that one – the one whose cup seems to be overflowing all the time, and who, in their very way of being, serves as a reminder that life is better than you thought. How does that person seem to feel?
How does life serve them? And how do you feel when you spend time with them?
Now think about a person who takes life for granted – a person who complains, who sees the downside of every situation and wishes things could be different. Perhaps that person is you. Or, it may be a close friend, family member, neighbor or colleague. Regardless of the actual severity of the circumstances in their life, it seems they never see the rainbow, and always see the rain. Have you noticed… how does this person seem to feel?
How does life serve them? And how do you feel when you’re around them?
Our capacity to celebrate, to enjoy and to say thank you for the events in our lives is bound to color both our experience and the experience of those around us.
But, you may be thinking, “what does all of that have to do with prayer?”
In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirski argues that about half of our overall happiness is changeable – 10% by external circumstances and 40% by what she calls our intentional activity. Taking actions like expressing gratitude and practicing optimism has a major impact on our day-to-day experience of our lives.
What’s more, this practice has an uncanny way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy over time. I feel grateful, I feel good. I feel good, people gravitate toward me. People gravitate toward me, I’m more likely to get more of what I want. I get what I want, I feel good. I feel good, I feel grateful… do you see where I’m going?
This week I invite you to try it on.
Whether or not you believe in G-O-D, are you willing to consider that some force larger than yourself might be at your service, if only you took the time to ask?
Dear God… Great Creator. Great Spirit. Dear Universe. Choose whatever name feels right to you…
“Thank you so much for my life. I am so grateful for…”
This past year I feel blessed to have experienced… I really struggled with… I am celebrating…
Now I am ready to let go of… I am inviting more of… I am ready to step into…
In your movement practice,
I challenge you to dedicate your activities this week to that which you desire to remember, celebrate or let go – an use your movement practices as a full bodied expression of “thank you.” As you jog, bike, swim or dance, call to mind elements of the past year and let the energy of those experience run fully powerfully through your body. Yes, that one. And that one. Feel the electricity in the form of emotions and sensations.
Dedicate your practice to those… as if it were a prayer for your own life. Honor what you have become, and what you are becoming now.
Take the time to say thank you – in big moments and in small ones. Notice yourself doubting, complaining, questioning. Notice the victim in you, and the way she voices her discontent… and dare to do a double take. Choose one thing – one awesome thing, big or small – and choose to put your attention there. Thank you so much… then, when you’re ready, ask for the help you desire from that location of gratitude.
Two mornings ago I found myself walking on a Florida beach in the middle of a winter storm. I climbed to the end of a jetty and stared down at the wild ocean, sulking under the weight of my own sorrows and fears. As I threw my ultimatums at the sea, I could feel the part of me that would rather die than do the hard work to find a way out of the maze of my own discontent.
And I knew the ocean, in all of its power and all of its rage, could help me out with that – one way or another.
I took a deep breath and asked.
And in that moment, a single wave, larger than the rest hit the end of the jetty throwing an eight foot wall of water full force against the entire front side of my body, covering me with sand and salt from head to toe.
Yep. That woke me up.
I just laughed. And laughed. And laughed…
So. What are you grateful for?
Counting my blessings,
Photo Credit: Amber Johnston Photography (taken near Byron Bay, Australia