Stumbling blocks. We all have them. Even the most enlightened among us, if they are still on this planet, stumble from time to time. That’s why spiritual journeys are circular.
When you come across a boulder in your path, how do you get around it? That’s where self-care, self-love, meditation, yoga … everything I talk about here comes into play.
You can build your strength with yoga and climb over it. You can meditate and find a path around it. Or you can practice gratitude and walk through the middle of it as if it were only a ghost of itself. A mirage in your path back to who you are.
Practicing gratitude can change everything. It’s the third leg on the stool of happiness — yoga, meditation, gratitude. It provides strength and stability to everything else.
For me, gratitude journaling works best. I’m sure you can simply meditate on things you’re grateful for or set 5 minutes aside each day to have a little “thank ye” conversation with yourself.
Journaling, though, makes it stick a little better. At least it does for me.
I mentioned in my previous post that I wasn’t quite at the level in my meditation practice I was a few years back. I wasn’t sure why until I realized I wasn’t keeping a gratitude journal. That was the missing ingredient.
It may seem kind of pointless. Or just another task to do. Another item on your calendar. Look at it this way. If you didn’t perform the task of taking out the garbage, what would your life be like? Think of practicing gratitude as taking the garbage out of your spirit. Because, honestly, that’s what it does.
Practicing gratitude feeds everything else in your life — your feelings and emotions, the choices you make, everything. It makes you more empathetic, more loving, more understanding. More you.
I have no concrete proof to give you. I have experience with it, but no real proof. I say give it a try for a month, see if you start to notice any difference in your life.
For me, I start to see small signs first. As I am writing this, for example, two red birds, cardinals, landed on my patio just outside the french doors. One male, one female. I love birds. I could watch birds for hours on end. I haven’t seen a bird on my patio in weeks or at least not as often as I used to.
Sure, it could be a coincidence. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s just that you start to notice the things you love a little more than the things that distract you and upset you. Doesn’t really matter if it’s the magic of the universe connecting with me or just a change in my perception. The happiness that it brings is what matters. That’s what gratitude journaling can do for you.
In fact, it helps me feel closer to nature. I grew up in the mountains. Nature’s kind of my thing. Or one of my things. Being grateful for the things in my life, the world around me, it makes even those boulders in my path not so daunting.
But I know gratitude journaling doesn’t always feel natural in the beginning. It seems a little forced, a little contrived. Maybe it even is a little in the beginning. Stick with it a while. Go back and read your entries from time to time. You’ll see how you grow the more you do it. The more natural it becomes.
I read a few of my old ones before writing this post. In fact, that is the reason I decided to write the post. When I read my old journal, when I was at my “highest,” I felt the difference in myself. The way I felt then vs. the way I feel now. My heart lightened up. A smile slid across my face.
Yeah, you may read an entry of your own, and it may sound a little silly. A little naive. Truth is, though, if you read it carefully, you’ll hear your inner child speaking. It’s a kid state of mind in some ways. That’s not a bad place to be if you ask me.
I thought instead of simply telling you to practice gratitude or to keep a gratitude journal, I would share a little of something from mine (or the one I’m about to start again). This will be my first entry in my new gratitude practice. Sometimes it’s just easier to see something in practice.
You’ll notice that my entry will focus on some of the “not so positive” things in my day. I do that purposefully — mindfully if you will. It’s easy to be grateful when it’s a sunny, beautiful day, you’re hanging on the arm of a handsome guy, and you’re working at a job that you love and makes you millions of dollars. What’s not to be grateful about in that situation?
When you’re unemployed. Worried about how long you can pay your bills. Sitting on your sofa looking out at a gloomy day. Being grateful isn’t as easy then. That’s when you need to do it most, though. That’s when it will have the most impact. Trust me.
If you can be grateful during the low times and start to feel better about yourself and life, imagine how you’ll feel when you are having those good days. It’s like happiness dividends from the bliss bank.
So here’s my first gratitude entry. Oh, by the way, I write my gratitude journals like letters to the universe. It feels like I’m having a conversation with a friend, and that works best for me.
You know the weather can get me down sometimes, but not today. It’s close to evening, and the sky is a deep gray. It’s soothing and calming. Soft and velvety. Still and peaceful. Steady in its grayness.
A few lighter clouds drift by like fleeting thoughts. I see lightning flash from time to time. A glow within the darkness. I think it may rain soon.
You know, Universe, I’m so grateful for the rain. It washes everything clean. It feeds the trees that I love so and makes the world lush and green. I love the sound it makes as I’m dozing off to sleep. It blocks the noise of the busy street outside.
I feel peaceful and safe, although a storm is brewing. Like I’m in a warm, dry cocoon. I thank you so much for that.
You know I listen to rain when I meditate. When I need to wash myself of negativity. Funny, it does the same thing in real life, too. All the dirt and grime, the things that don’t belong in the world, they wash down the street into a drain at the bottom of the hill. It makes the world shiny and new.
I don’t thank you enough for the gray days, Universe. In fact, I usually complain. I apologize for that. I’m only human. Without them, though, the things I love wouldn’t exist. The plants, the trees, the birds, the creeks, rivers, and moss on stones, mushrooms on a decaying stump. It creates the landscape where I live and feeds the landscape in my mind.
Gray days, Universe, let me look inside. Curl up and get to know myself better. Read a book. Enjoy a poem. Tinker on my piano. In some ways, they are more about loving yourself than the sunny days. They are personal and introverted. Not in your face like those sunny days. But don’t get me wrong, I love sunny days, too.
Ah, I hear thunder rolling in the distance. The sound of thunder soothes me. The flashes of lightning are coming faster. I do actually love thunderstorms, Universe. The gentle ones, like tonight, make me realize how close to nature we really are. Nature still controls our lives. We’re more removed from it now, but the relationship is still the same.
Our homes were once our caves. We still come in out of the rain. We still burn wood on the coldest of nights. And camp beneath the starlight. We’re still connected, Universe, we just have to work a little harder now to notice it. That’s why I am writing this journal.
Thank you, Universe, for this beautiful world. For Mother Nature and all her power and all her glory. I thank you for a world that supports me and sustains me. That reminds me of the cycles of life. That I’m not alone. That there is a whole world of people and animals and trees and plants circling through the same cycles as I am. That I am part of nature and nature is part of me.
I thank you, Universe, especially today. I have worried about finding a job and how long I can pay my bills. I trust you will be there for me when I need it most, Universe. You always provide. Like today, with this gray day, that I didn’t realize I needed. A day where I can focus on the good things in life. The things I love. The things that matter. Thank you for that. Thank you for the gray days.
Now that may not do anything for you, but I can tell you it makes a world of difference for me. The beauty of gratitude journaling — or however you practice gratitude — is that you are an adult seeing the world from that childlike perspective. Yet, you’ve grown enough to understand all of the emotions you are having and you’ve learned to control them a little better in your old age. You know that bad things happen and they often happen to help you grow.
You get to see the wonder of the world while wrapped up in the stability of adulthood and mindfulness. There’s not a much better view of the universe than that … and there’s not a boulder in sight.