The art of being grateful


The enlightened give thanks for what most people take for granted. As you begin to be grateful for what most people take for granted, that vibration of gratitude makes you more receptive to good in your life—Michael Beckwith

Michael Beckwith is the spiritual leader of Agape, a community based in Los Angeles (and online) dedicated to take a stand for love, for peace, for being a beneficial presence on the planet. Michael is, unbeknownst to him, one of my spiritual mentors. He is a man of peace and love and remains humble. Last night he posted the quote above on his Facebook page, and it made me think.

How to be grateful when life is frustrating

You see yesterday I had a free morning: in fact my first client wasn’t until 2 pm. I decided this would be a great time to write my next article. I had already decided it would be about simplifying your life, under the heading of, ‘Are you juggling too much stuff?’ And so bright and early I began. By 2 pm I had written pages, cut out parts that I thought were too political, edited it, changed the slant, but by 2 pm it still wasn’t finished.

From 2—8 pm with a break for tea (dinner!) I coached people on the phone and then from 8 pm until 9.30 pm I tried another angle with my simplifying your life article. It just wasn’t flowing! It was too, well, to me, boring. How could I send it out if I thought it was boring? I decided to leave it. I clicked on to Facebook to see what was happening in the lives of my friends and community. Michael’s message caught my eye. His thoughts of being grateful reminded me that being grateful isn’t just about the good, the ordinary and the small stuff. Being grateful for your life means embracing all of our life including the mini disasters: like wasting 6 hours on writing an article that still wasn’t ready for publishing.

Lying in bed I thought about my day. I felt frustrated about my lack of progress with my article, but I decided to take off my I’ve-wasted-my-day hat and replace it with my let-me-be-grateful hat. What had I learnt from this day? My article originally contained a chunk of political commentary about how our work-life balance needs to shift. These ideas are really important to me, but I cut them out because they feel out of place in an article on Life Coaching and Emotional Healing. I realised part of my frustration was that I do want to write about this. Through the eyes of gratitude I saw I can and perhaps I need to do this, but not here. Part of me even questioned the very purpose of writing these articles—that was, though just a temporary thought. And although by the days end I had concluded my article was boring, the truth is that parts of it are good. My writing has evolved over the last few years of writing these articles. I’m grateful for you, dear reader, for giving me the opportunity to write, for although I always hope my writing will help make sense or improve an aspect of your life, I am deeply aware that it helps me too. The last thought before I closed my eyes was that I should abandon my article on simplifying life and instead embrace and share with you ideas about how being grateful can change your life.

Begin by noticing the good in your life

In life it seems that we are programmed to notice the bad, sad, tragic, and fearful far more than the happy, peaceful and loving acts in our lives and the world, which is why newspapers focus on the former. And yet gratitude is exactly the opposite. It is about noticing the good, positive, happy, peaceful moments in life, for when you do, you literally begin to see things differently. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but subconsciously you choose how you perceive people, events and things. The more you focus on the good things the more you will notice just how much good is in your life.

An interesting experiment shows how this happens at a cellular level. If food is placed in a petri dish containing living cells, they will gravitate towards the food. If you later place toxins in the same petri dish, then the cells move away from it. (Biology of Belief by Prof. Bruce Lipton). At a subconscious level we are doing the same, but for some people the fear of the toxins (fearful, sad, tragic, worrisome) makes them notice them more than the good, because they are trying to stay safe.

Even the most optimistic of you can improve your noticing of the good stuff and expressing your gratitude for it. And for the fearful, worriers among you, changing your view point will dramatically change your life. Let me show you how…

30 Days to change your life

Can I offer you a coaching challenge? It was one I used to do for people who came on my Design Your Life weekends – and it proved very popular as it is both simple and powerful. It will take a few minutes each day for the next 30 days. Each day write 5 gratitude statements in a journal or digitally that begin with:

  • I am grateful for/that…
  • I feel blessed that…
  • I am thankful for/that…
  • I am so lucky that…
  • I feel honoured that…

To show you what this would look like, this is how mine would begin:

  • I am grateful for the love of my 2 daughters, Tasha and Tabitha who light up my life.
  • I feel blessed that 4 angels, Jeannette, Hilary, Denise and Helen came into my life to help me create my beautiful home and retreat house, The Jasmine House.
  • I am thankful that my body is strong, flexible and healthy which allows me to do everything I love to do.
  • I am so lucky that I live by the sea. To be able to sit each day and watch the tapestry of light, movement and sound of the sea every day, is truly magical.
  • I feel honoured that my work allows me to help people heal and improve their lives.

When people do this exercise, it nearly always starts with generalities like this. When you do it everyday, it becomes more specific. For example, this morning I could have written:

  • I am grateful that I saw Michael Beckwith’s Facebook post as it showed me how to complete my article.
  • After a few days, you will notice it gets somewhat more challenging to find things for which you feel grateful for, but this is the idea. It makes you notice more and more wonderful things in people, events and things in your life. And now comes the really challenging part. After you have written down your 5 grateful statements, I would now like you to briefly write about something or someone that you don’t feel grateful about. In fact, the opposite is true.

    Who or what is that? Is your boss driving you nuts? Do you have a client/supplier/employee who is ruffling your feathers? Is a member of your family pushing your buttons? Who or what are you not feeling the love for? Write this down too. Now put on your gratitude hat (as I did with my simplify your life article). What is this situation showing you? What have you learnt from them or it? What can you be grateful for despite the outwardly negative things that you are experiencing? By doing this exercise regularly, it teaches you how to turn any negative situation into a positive.

    Reconnecting to nature by noticing its beauty

    sea spray
    When people came down to my Design Your Life weekends and when they now come on a personal retreat, I take them on an early morning walk before breakfast.I believe that simply being in nature is deeply healing.

    I am indeed lucky to live in a beautiful place, but no matter where you live, nature is never far away—even if it’s found inside a manicured town or city park. So as part of your stepping into gratitude, begin to notice the sun, sky, trees, plants, flowers, animals and every living thing. See the patterns and colours of the trees, plants and flowers. Hear the sounds of the animals, birds and insects. Notice the weather in all its variances (yes, it’s easier to appreciate the blue skies and sunshine and not so much the grey skies and drizzle, but even drizzle has beauty in it.). Be aware of how the land undulates. See the how rivers, lakes and the sea reflect the light of the sky. Watch the rising and setting of the sun. Notice it all. Be in awe of it all. Soak it in. Being grateful that you have noticed it helps you realize that you are connected to this beauty too.

    I am always interested to hear your thoughts, views and ideas. Get in touch via the comments box below.

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