“Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.” – Kahlil Gibran
I love this quote, and I love anything written by Kahlil Gibran. I am sure some feathers might experience a little ruffling with the temple and religion reference, but I am certain if you are here to read this blog, you can get around that to continue reading. So, join me for a lesson in developing an attitude of gratitude.
I am tempted to launch into a lecture about ungrateful behavior, but that seems, well, ungrateful. I am grateful for the examples of ingratitude I can reference in my own mind, because they shine a light on areas in need of improvement in my life. I believe that every person enters our lives for a reason, even if “just” someone you witness while running errands. Have you ever noticed bad behavior, and then found yourself judging the person? I sure have. I think myself relatively non-judgmental, but I catch myself in that old pattern once in a while. I did this morning while sitting in the waiting room at urgent care with my daughter (all is well, thankfully).
A very young woman with an adorable two-year old daughter tall enough to be four or five, and heavy enough to be considered obese, was also waiting. I first caught myself judging her for allowing her child to be overweight. Then I caught myself judging her for talking about how bright and articulate her little girl was. After that I caught myself judging her for how loudly she was chastising her sweet little girl for climbing on the chairs (she is only two after all.) I suddenly realized how easy it was for me to slip into the judgmental mode, and stopped myself immediately – but not until I had already consciously judged her at least three times. I reminded myself that everyone has their own story, and it’s none of my business how someone else raises their children unless I witness abuse; then all bets are off. You might be wondering why I am talking about my judgmental attitude if I am writing about gratitude. In catching myself judging a fellow mother, I realized that I go to that judgmental place when I am fearful, for whatever reason, and it is my way of deflecting responsibility – a very clear example of a lack of gratitude.
Along the lines of fearfulness and a need to shift to gratitude, I will share another personal story. When my daughter was born, she failed her hearing test in the hospital. When she failed it again at an audiologist’s office three weeks later, I was really scared. I had no idea what a ‘failed hearing test’ meant – if my daughter was deaf, if we would need to learn sign language, how that would affect our family, if kids would tease her for wearing hearing aids, and the list of fears goes on. By the time all of the testing was complete, she was diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss, and received her first pair of hearing aids at just 9 weeks old. In the very moment the audiologist turned the aids on, she was speaking to us about how to use them, and my beautiful baby turned her head, looked right at the audiologist and cooed, as if to say, “OH! That’s how you sound! Thank you!” Tears of joy, relief, and most importantly, gratitude, flowed freely.
In grappling with the uncertainty, I found myself saying, “This is not life-threatening. Her heart and all life-sustaining organs function perfectly well. She is healthy.” But until I had some kind of “proof” that she was going to be OK, those thoughts were scarcely enough. In the time that has passed – my daughter is now eight – life has brought me numerous opportunities to move from scared, worried, angry and negative to grateful. Sometimes I find myself expressing gratitude for a lesson I’m about learn, for in the midst of a trial, I cannot see the wisdom, but I trust that I will learn from it.
I share these personal stories to help you understand that we are all learning, always. We are beautiful works in progress, and every day we can learn something new. Waking up ready to embrace each day and learn from it is a step toward an attitude of gratitude. How else can you shift your thinking and ultimately free yourself from negativity, self-sabotage and other unnecessary burdens? There are a number of ways, and I will address two starting points: change your vocabulary and look for the silver lining. I will likely write more on gratitude at a later date.
Change your vocabulary. Yes, it’s that simple. Change your speech and thought patterns:
Instead of: “Try”
Change to: “I do”
Instead of: “I should do X”
Change to: “I could do X; I choose Y”
Instead of: “Have to”
Change to: “I intend”
Instead of: “I don’t have enough money”
Change to: “I am blessed with abundance”
Instead of: (an immediate) “No”
Change to: “Hmm, let me think about that”
Instead of: “This always happens to me”
Change to: “I’m grateful to recognize a pattern I can change”
Look for the silver lining. That may sound a little pie-in-the-sky (in the true meaning: promising heaven while continuing to suffer on earth) but I assure you that when you look for the positive in things, you will begin to find it. Does that mean you will live a life free of difficulties and trials? Absolutely not, but how you handle life’s ups and downs is key. Find the good in things. Remember there is always opportunity to learn. For that, I am always grateful.
I wish you the best on your journey as you make small changes that have tremendous impact, and I am grateful for you.
Blessings. Gratitude. Love.