Gratitude


Perhaps this is the last thing on our minds at the moment with all the suffering and uncertainty that the Covid-19 crisis is causing. However, the practice of gratitude is of paramount importance for spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing – recommended by Religion, science and almost every self-development book out there.

I’ll admit, as someone of a naturally nervous disposition, my gratitude practice often falls by the wayside as I get caught up in the frustrations and anxiety of every-day drama. But, I try my best to find things to be grateful for every day as I recognise, and experience, the benefit this provides me. Being thankful for things helps me to feel privileged rather than entitled to the pleasurable experiences that come my way, appreciating them all the more when they do. However, these last few weeks of crisis and the vast affect it is having on the every day things we do and obtain to bring us security and happiness have got me thinking… do many of us only really appreciate something once we no longer have it?

I have asked myself this question recently while I have been feeling unwell and isolating at home. One of my symptoms is a complete lack of taste and smell – the usual accompaniment to a stuffy nose and sore throat. And so, for the last few days, not only have I been (rather characteristically) catastrophizing if i’ll ever get these senses back but also, reflecting on how easily I took these for granted when they functioned normally. When marvelling at the simple delight of the taste of a cool, juicy orange or the smell of seaside air or fresh laundry – I thought of those things and was grateful for them but, without acknowledging my very ability to taste or smell. What an oversight! It is only now that I cannot enjoy the effect of these complex systems that I truly appreciate what a gift they are.

We all take things for granted. Today’s busy and demanding lifestyles constantly draw our attention away from the Here & Now and so we mindlessly interact with others and our environments without appreciating the means by which we do that. However, practicing gratitude really combats the discomfort we may feel when life’s winding road gets a little ‘off road’. Living through tough times such as war or a global pandemic is unsettling and often painful as our lives are significantly interrupted and we experience suffering in and around ourselves.

But what if we also received these times as an opportunity to strip back and practice gratitude for what we do have, such as our ability to connect with and positively influence other people’s lives? What if this crisis is giving us the opportunity to reconnect with our higher attributes of compassion, love and acceptance – as we tend to those who need our help, comfort ourselves and others and accept the beauty and ephemerality of existence? As with all experiences in life, we chose how we perceive them. And as inspiring author Melody Beattie has said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

And so, amidst the chaos of these troublesome times, let us take conscious moments to be grateful for the gifts we do have, whether these be the important people in our life, the pleasure we experience through our senses or the wonder of our very existence. Perhaps it is in these moments that we are ever truly alive.

Namaste x


Prayer for Self Love

The following is an excerpt from ‘The Mastery of Love’ by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is something to begin reading when you have some time to think about each section and when you’re feeling humble. Allow these words to wash over you and absorb everything you can. You can always come back and read this again.


Prayer

Today, Creator of the Universe, we ask that you help us to accept ourselves just the way we are, without judgement. Help us to accept our mind the way it is, with all our emotions, our hopes and dreams, our personality, our unique way of being. Help us to accept our body just the way it is, with all its beauty and perfection. Let the love we have for ourselves or sabotage our happiness, freedom, and love.

From now on, let every action, every reaction, every thought, and every emotion, be based on love. Help us, Creator, to increase our self-love until the entire dream of our life is transformed, from fear and drama to love and joy. Let the power of our self-love be strong enough to break all the lies we have come to believe – all the lies that tell us we are not good enough, or strong enough, or intelligent enough, that we cannot make it. Let the power of our self-love be so strong that we no longer need to live our life according to other people’s opinions. Let us trust ourselves completely to make the choices we must make. With our self-love, we are no longer afraid to face responsibility in our life or face any problems and resolve them as they arise.
Whatever we want to accomplish, let it be done with the power of our self-love.

Starting today, help us to love ourselves so much that we never set up any circumstances that go against us. We can live our life being ourselves and not pretending to be someone else just to be accepted by other people. We no longer need other people to accept us or tell us how good we are because we know what we are. With the power of our self-love, let us enjoy what we see every time we look in the mirror. Let there be a big smile on our face that enhances our inner and outer beauty. Help us to feel such intense self-love that we always enjoy our presence.

Let us love ourselves without judgment, because when we judge, we carry blame and guilt, we have the need for punishment, and we lose the perspective of Your love. Strengthen our will to forgive ourselves in the moment. Clean our minds of emotional poison and self-judgement so we can live in complete peace.

Let our self-love be the power that changes the dream of our life. With this new power in our hearts, the power of self-love, let us transform every relationship we have with ourselves. Help us to feel free of any conflict with others. Let us be happy to share our time with our loved ones and to
forgive them for any injustice we feel in our mind. Help us to love ourselves so much that we forgive anyone who has every hurt us in our life.

Give us the courage to love our family and friends unconditionally, and to change our relationship in the most positive and loving way. Help us to create new channels of communication in our relationships so there is no war of control, there is no winner or loser. Together let us work as a team for love, for joy, for harmony.

Let our relationships with our family and friends be based on respect and joy so we no longer have the need to tell them how to think or how to be.
Let our romantic relationship be the most wonderful relationship; let us feel joy every time we share ourselves with our partner. Help us to accept others just the way they are, without judgment, because when we reject them, we reject ourselves. When we reject ourselves, we reject You.

Today is a new beginning. Help us to start our life over beginning today with the power of self-love. Help us to enjoy our life, to enjoy our relationships, to explore life, to take risk, to be alive, and to no longer live in fear of love. Let us open our heart to the love that is our birth right. Help us to become Masters of Gratitude, Generosity and Love so that we can enjoy all of your creations forever and ever.

Amen.


Try Your Best

It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure to achieve status or acquire wealth in today’s times. Whilst it’s healthy and progressive to have dreams and goals, losing perspective on what’s necessary to live a healthy and fulfilling life is not!

As human beings, we have been gifted with an opportunity to experience life and share our unique perspective with others on a similar journey. We all have unique and valuable gifts to share with the rest of the tribe and that is all and everything we can offer. Amidst the pressures and expectations of today’s society, we can only try our best!

In each moment we find ourselves deciding on the next course of action, it is wise to ask the questions:
Is it honest/ ethical?
Is it kind to others and myself?
Is it necessary?

The third question being of great interest to many who have high expectations of themselves!

I have started to observe myself in the middle of a to-do list, completing one task so that I can start another.
My list appears to go on and on, endlessly self-generating as I think of more and more things I need to do or buy to get a job done – not to mention the money I hope to receive in reciprocation for my services, so that I can live a comfortable life.

Does this sound like you too? Whilst this scenario is routine to the average person and is by no means unhealthy, the moment you find yourself stressed – you have a concern.
At this stage, your achievements and monetary gains are taking precedent at the detriment of your mental health and general well-being. Short-term, this is a manageable compromise, long term, this can lead to resentment, disillusion, boredom, isolation, anxiety and eventually depression. And let’s face it – life is too short for that!

A great way to catch yourself before you go into hyper-drive is to take regular moments throughout the day to stop, breathe and reflect. Be honest with yourself when you answer the following question:
Am I asking too much of myself?
If you feel instinctively that the answer is yes, but you add the excuse that you ‘need’ or ‘have’ to, you’re in dangerous territory. We all have responsibilities to carry through, but only within our remit of capabilities and if you can’t honestly do it all on your own, that’s perfectly human! We all need to recognise our limits and learn to request help when it’s needed. Ultimately the task will be completed and will free up more time for yourself to do the things that replenish, revive and restore your happiness.

We can only try our best. Beyond that, are the opportunities we give  to others to shine a creative light on their own portion of the tapestry of life. We are all in it together, trying our best at being human!


It’s Just Stuff!

This is a very well used phrase in my household. Anytime something breaks, tears, gets dog-mauled or stained, a timely reminder chimes forth in the form of my mum’s happy voice. “It’s just stuff”, she says. How true!

Rewind several years ago and I can remember being quite fond of all my ‘stuff’. I had a rammed-packed wardrobe of high street clothes, an accumulation of shoes fit for a centipede and various trinkets, lotions and potions. After all, a girl needs all this, ‘stuff’. Right? Wrong. Two years ago I left to backpack around Australia with my boyfriend. Anything I wanted to accompany me on this adventure had to fit into a 60 liter rucksack. Whilst I was certainly an avid shopaholic as a care-free teenager, I wasn’t very attached to my stuff. This was a fortunate trait as I was quite ruthless with my leftovers. Anything that I wasn’t planning to take or that hadn’t been worn recently or was likely to be worn in the future, went to the charity shops. Good bye to those ridiculous stilettos that hurt every bone in my feet. Good bye to the printed t-shirts of my teens and good riddance to that massive box of makeup mayhem! I found the clear out to be a hugely liberating experience. I was also amazed at the feeling of peace that came about through knowing I didn’t have so much to keep and look after.

Fast forward those two years and here I sit in a coffee shop marveling at my change of outlook on stuff. It seems, we get a bit carried away on those rainy days with ‘nothing to do’. A curious browse turns into a frantic list of I needs. But do we reaaaaaally need it? Will it make us happy in the long run? The media plays an important role in dictating our means of happiness. Through various channels, we are assured desirability, entertainment and comfort if we buy this and that. Whilst there is a feeling of excitement at the time of purchase, the novelty factor quickly wears off and is soon replaced by disappointment and sometimes, guilt. This is because materialism isn’t the answer to lasting happiness. Buddhism teaches that until we experience liberation from the tiresome cycle of desire and aversion, we will continue to fall prey to the concept that stuff makes us happy. It also teaches us to patiently and persistently find time to be quiet and still. This is also known as meditation.

Meditation is acceptance of oneself as we are in this moment. Through meditation we learn to love who and what we are. As we practice more and more, we are less likely to crave ownership of material items and thus find appreciation and love for what we already have. It’s all very well reading about people’s methods of liberation and enlightenment but it all remains a concept until we experience it on an individual level. So, here are some steps to help you on your way to a more clutter-free, content life!

  1. Clear up, clear out! Start your new life by sorting through all your belongings that you don’t use regularly. Take them to charity shops and gift them to friends. Try to avoid selling unless it helps ease your current financial situation.
  2. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Next time you find yourself on a frantic shopping spree, ask yourself this simple question, put the item back, wait a few moments and see if you’re still inclined to buy it.
  3. Find time to be alone. As intimidating as it may seem initially, find some time each day to sit in silence and stillness. Listen to your heartbeat or be aware of your breath. You may even want to stare at a candle. Whatever you choose, try to do it a little each day until you begin to enjoy it.
  4. Give to charity. Giving to those who are vulnerable and less privileged than we is a humbling act of kindness and a great dose of reality.
  5. Say Thank You. Whether you say thanks to your mom for all her selfless acts, to your friend for always being a listening ear or to God, for His love and grace, saying thank you regularly and with sincerity helps cultivate appreciation for what we already have.