In #12 of “15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently,” the authoress (sweetly named “The Purpose Fairy”) tackles gratitude and its opposite.
This is a particularly thorny pair of opposites in my opinion. In fact, just a little over a year ago I spent a week and a half with one of the most powerful mentors I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with, Byron Katie. We (by which I mean me and about 500 other folks, give or take a few hundred) gathered in Los Angeles, California, for nine straight days of intensive training in what Katie calls “Loving What Is.”
It took me at least half of those days just to figure out that “loving what is” (is = what is present in my life right now) does not equal being content with what is.
Loving what is also does not mean tamping down on the desire to dream a future for myself or others that looks different.
Rather, loving what is refers to acceptance.
Without the first step of accepting what is, we cannot welcome what is. If we cannot welcome what is we cannot learn from it. If we cannot learn from it we are prevented from making a choice to stay with it or move beyond it towards whatever life has waiting for us up ahead. Without loving what is, we stay stuck in what is. Katie stayed stuck for two decades, ultimately surviving a desperate suicide attempt to rise from her own ashes into a new found ability to accept, welcome, learn from, and grow into the fullness of her own life.
Her story affected me so profoundly, and I found my time with this amazing wise woman to be so deeply, truly, rarely beautiful!
I also marveled that Katie actually thought she could teach us to “love what is” in just nine days – and then managed to do it in four. (In case you are wondering how we spent the remaining five days, well, we practiced. Katie practiced all day long with us too – this is one gal who walks her talk with the energy of 10 of me!)
There is another facet to gratitude versus ingratitude which “15 Powerful Things” hones in on. EXPRESSING our gratitude. The article states: “they [happy people] express their gratitude” – and this of course takes tremendous awareness and even greater humility.
As a former ungrateful person myself (a person who now engages in weekly written expressions of gratitude just to make sure I stay in the habit), I can share that from my own personal experience anyway, ungrateful people are also often insecure people, because letting down the protective wall they have erected around themselves long enough to say “thank you,” “I appreciate it,” “how thoughtful!” and other expressions of gratitude means becoming vulnerable – at least for a moment or two.
Ungrateful people are also often hurting people. Walls don’t get built because wounds heal. Walls are built to hide – and protect – unhealed wounds.
Ungrateful people are also people who don’t see very well. They might have 20/20 vision in one area of life – their profession, say, or their ability to parent their children – but in other areas their growth is stalled out at whatever age the deep wounds were first inflicted.
All this to say – gratitude takes great, GREAT courage. And great courage takes time. My mentor first started me out with the discipline of writing out five things I did well each day and then a commitment to thank myself for those things before falling asleep each night. This was VERY uncomfortable to me – and it actually felt wrong and arrogant for some time! But I was so miserable in my griping, grumpy whining about how life had dealt me a bad hand that I couldn’t even stand to listen to myself anymore, so I was desperate for a change and thus willing to try what she suggested.
This discipline changed my life for the better, and slowly but surely helped me to build up a tolerance for, and eventually a joyful acceptance of, the presence of a grateful outlook towards myself, my life, those around me, and this world.
Today’s Takeaway: Are you perhaps struggling to find anything to feel grateful for in some difficulty or hardship you are facing? It may help to try on Katie’s suggestions for size – try instead to first just accept that the issue is there in your life. Next, issue it a kind welcome – invite it in for tea and a chat, perhaps. Ask it what you might learn from its presence. Give it a hug of gratitude for being willing to share its secrets with you. Then dream on – and move forward with a grateful heart. If this feels better with this particular situation, try it with something else you are struggling with too and see if it helps!
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Last reviewed: 9 Aug 2012