It can be hard to feel grateful when the world seems so full of chaos and aggression. We may feel justified in adopting a negative attitude. We may feel jaded.
Gratitude naturally arises when we acknowledge our abundance. Conversely, abundance results from gratitude and giving. This is a much more uplifted way to approach the season’s cheer, whatever your feeling about it.
Abundance Is Your Birthright
I’ve been reading a book by one of my former psychology professors at Naropa, Bruce Tift, called, Already Free. In it, he offers suggested exercises to help identify patterns that keep us stuck in outmoded ways of relating to life. In one of the exercises, he suggests to clients that they commit for a fixed period of time to refrain from complaining. He writes:
“…when people do experiment with the practice, the results are very interesting. They start to realize that their attitude of complaint–of [there being] a problem– has been serving a function. It has been allowing them to keep their life at arm’s length. It’s given them an excuse to postpone living their life in the moment.”
We could stop expressing our displeasure for one month, for example, and see if we can identify what discomfort the act of complaining attempts to cover over. If I feel anxious about getting sick, for example, I might complain if someone leaves the door open to the cold air outside. Rather than complaining about the door being left ajar, I could look at my fear or perhaps even history of people not looking out for my best interests. That’s a rather benign example, but the exercise can bring up heavy-duty stuff.
The Gift You Always Wanted
Rather than dwelling in what is going wrong, we could simply practice feeling what we are feeling. We could learn to tolerate the sensations that normally prompt us to complain. This one simple skill is perhaps the key to peace of mind. We don’t have to get so worked up when things don’t go our way. We could relax.
Rather than complaining, or beating yourself up, or numbing out with the egg nog, try Bruce’s simple suggestion, and refrain from making complaints about anything, just for one day if it is all you can manage.
Practice giving at your edge, just by making this one offering.