I was fortunate enough to have spent last week on the California coast with my husband, his son and daughter-in-law. My eight days were full of plenty of time for me. I slept, (a lot) ate (a lot), and spent great quality time with my family. I made certain to also save time to simply rest, which I really needed. I made a commitment to myself to NOT check email or Facebook. It was definitely challenging, and incredibly refreshing. (Ok, truth be told I did check my email twice). To top it all off, a new yoga studio opened up literally one block from our hotel. I hit the jackpot.
What I often notice is that as I get caught up in the business of daily activities, it’s easy to forget to acknowledge all of the great things in my life. It’s also easy to become extra sensitive to the less than great things in my life. My mind becomes so full of lists, agendas, conversations, etc., the next thing I know it’s the end of the day, and I’m ready for bed. I also know that living with an attitude of gratitude has completely changed my life. Several years ago, I made a decision to begin and end each day with a gratitude list. Wow, the impact has been huge.
I was reminded on my vacation of the importance of learning to be thankful for all things, even those that I’m not so fond of. While it was a luxury to have a yoga studio so close to my hotel, I quickly found out it was not a style of yoga that I prefer. Ten minutes into my first class my mind started to make a checklist of what I didn’t care for about the class and why it wasn’t for me. Fortunately, I quickly remembered that the highest practice of yoga is to honor and respect everything. It’s impossible to recognize what makes us happy and brings us alive if we have nothing to compare it to. And yoga teaches that the entirety of what life puts on our path is there for our growth and evolution. All of what we do like and all of what we don’t like.
To live life skillfully means to allow space for gratitude for everything in life…. not just the good stuff. The more that we can honor all things the less we get stuck in emotions of resentment, jealousy, sadness, discontent, anger, frustration, etc. Everything is an opportunity to move into a place of greater happiness and fulfillment. This also includes people! There is no shortage of people in our lives that tend to create misery. And, the choice is yours. Perhaps rather than noticing what you don’t like about someone, first recognize his or her favorable qualities. And maybe even silently offer thanks for the chance to know them. Chances are this will allow you to soften around your dislike.
It turns out that halfway through my second yoga class in CA, I fell in love with the style. I am incredibly appreciative of what this style has to offer, and I even learned quite a few new tricks. (Sturdy canoe anyone?) It’s amazing what an attitude of gratitude can generate. We owe it to ourselves to make the best of every situation and create our own happiness and joy. Starting a daily gratitude list is a powerful tool. And it’s easy. Most times this is how I put myself to sleep. (You don’t need extra time to sit with pen and paper). As I rest my head on my pillow, I simply begin by honoring all the happenings of my day and, one-by-one offering thanks. Remember that nothing is too small. You may be surprised by how long your list gets. You may be surprised at how this daily exercise can soften negative emotions. Do yourself, and the world, a favor and start tonight! No excuses. :)