I've been away for a little while. Let's just say, Life took over. I have been focused and on my purpose to serve and use all of my talents and my resources to help others so that I leave a legacy of Love. Somehow, time to Blog was not available. And, it's good to be back!
I so look forward to writing a Blog on Gratitude as we close out the year. My intention with the choice of this title, The Heartset of Gratitude, is to change our perception of gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion which comes from the heart. Just as we have 5 senses, to see, hear, smell, taste and touch, our heart is another one of our senses -- it can feel gratitude. Heartset brings to the fore our awe for how we experience life and the world.
In my experience, gratitude practices typically evolve over time. Often, gratitude practices start with thinking about 3 things or people we are grateful for... and progresses from there to Gratitude Journals, Gratitude Letters, Gratitude Meditations, 10-day and 21-day Gratitude Courses.
The key is for gratitude to become a daily ritual.
This year, The Heartset of Gratitude takes it deeper. We focus on the practice of gratitude in our most challenging times. In this way, we become more aware that gratitude is a way of looking at the world through both the good times and the challenging times. We start to move to a higher level of awareness that even in the dark days we can feel grateful. Deeper yet, a Heartset of Gratitude sees change and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
Let's begin with a few quotes for focus and inspiration:
This last quote contains a process -- a framework or tool -- that we can all learn and use to increase our awareness and deepen our gratitude practice to support us in our dark times, through our challenges.
The old familiar saying was coined by Ray Dalio, a billionaire American investor and hedge fund manager. One of Dalio's guiding principles in his business was: Pain + Reflection = Progress. This is a business person's language. I get it! [A short digression. As I did my research on Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, I learned he was born in Jackson Heights, Long Island. Who knew! Jackson Heights is where I was born. Another delightful small world story.]
In a wonderful meditation, recently posted on Insight Timer, The Art of Gratitude , David Gandelman paraphrases this saying into Pain + Reflection = Growth. This is in the language of personal development. I get this too … now. This 21-minute meditation discusses the 3 Gs -- Ground in Gratitude and Giving. By way of background, David is one of my favorite teachers with over 81,000 followers on Insight Timer. He is a coach, author and spiritual teacher with a focus on energy and the wisdom traditions.
This perspective makes a lot of sense in the context of teaching about energy and contemplative practices. Many of us have heard the quote, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice." I will sidestep the issue of the attribution of this saying. It has been widely attributed to the Dalai Lama and also to Haruki Murakami and M. Kathleen Casey. Whoever the original author, the nugget of wisdom is that while none of us escapes this journey on earth without some form of pain, we do have a choice -- we have tools available to all us to work through and transform our suffering. The tool, of course is contemplative practices, including prayer and/or meditation. Reflection.
Gandelman then goes even further, however, to add gratitude to the process:
Pain + Reflection + Gratitude = Growth.
Now the process deepens into reflecting on and identifying the the negative emotions we are feeling that may be blocking our feeling of gratitude. Perhaps we are feeling pain, hurt, grief, loss, anger, sorrow, resentment, or some combination thereof. The question is: can we be honest and face this negative emotion and be grateful for what it is here to teach us? Can we be grateful for sorrow?; for Resentment?; for feeling overwhelmed?; etc. When times are really hard and challenging, can we have gratitude for it anyway? Can we see the rainbow through our clouds of negative emotions? Can we still say 'Thank you', with a grateful heartset? By honestly facing and accepting our negative emotions and obstacles, we can then use gratitude to help heal ourselves and come out on the other side and Grow.
Gratitude is the secret sauce or the rocket fuel that allows us to break through our resentments, frustrations, losses, and more. Gratitude and grace can give us hope and faith in ourselves and in something larger than us.
That is the real work. As David says, " All growth comes from the friction we experience with Life and the Reflection." I truly hope you will listen to the full meditation -- many times. I know I have!
It is hard work. And, the work never ends. Life continues to throw at us new events and experiences, lessons and challenges to be learned at deeper and deeper levels. Who is to say when you may feel up to doing the work? Only you can answer this question.
Can we do the work to find the lessons for us to learn? Of course, we can! This is where a daily gratitude practice comes in. This is the strategy of taking small bites of the apple, as the saying goes.
In 2022 after an amazing vacation to the ancient ruins and cities of Malta with a wonderful Guide, my world turned upside down and inside out. My world had gone crazy and felt out of control. When I happened to cross paths with a dear friend at the Polls in November, she asked me, "Where have you been? It seems like you have disappeared from the planet!" Indeed.
The details are not important -- and honestly, too personal. My challenge was to face the emotions of total overwhelm, resentment, and fear, deep fear of loss. On reflection, a few of the lessons I learned were the lesson of acceptance at an even deeper level, and the lesson of surrendering to what is, what I cannot control. This means I was ruthless in prioritization of my time and energy as I focused on being of service to dear family members, friends and pets. I called on all my organizational skills, my courage and conviction that I can move mountains. I pulled out every tool in my tool kit and some new ones too from an Energy & Intuition Course. I called on my Angels. I continued and deepened my daily meditation and gratitude practices. I KNEW I was on my purpose. As I did the work I was saying to myself -- "I am right where I need to be, doing what I was meant to do."
I am about to start my 4th journal of 2022 on my cheap and precious Composition Notebooks bought at Walmart. I often close my daily Gratitude Journal in the morning with one of two, or both these phrases: "I deserve all JOY!" and "Thank you God for my Life. I have no complaints!"
The background story on the last phrase is my adaptation of an ancient Japanese story I read in the footnotes as I studied Stephen Mitchell's Tao te Ching many years ago. The story is:
"A hundred and fifty years ago there lived a woman named Sono, whose devotion and purity of heart were respected far and wide. One day a fellow Buddhist, having made a long trip to see her, asked, "What can I do to put my heart at rest?" She said, "Every morning and every evening, and whenever anything happens to you, keep on saying, 'Thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.'" The man did as he was instructed, for a whole year, but his heart was still not at peace He returned to Sono, crestfallen. "I've said your prayer over and over, and yet nothing in my life has changed; I'm still the same selfish person as before. What should I do now?" Sono immediately said, "'Thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.'" On hearing these words, the man was able to open his spiritual eye, and returned home with great joy."
To me, this is a great story of doing the work, trusting the process, having faith in yourSelf and your Higher Power -- and ultimately acceptance, without judgment, of the way things are. And one day, a miracle happens and you start to feel peace and joy. Ooops -- and then you lose it again and start the work all over. LOL.
Speaking of Joy, my other lesson in 2022 was a deeper understanding of JOY. Kahlil Gibran's observation, "There are those who give with joy and that joy is their reward" sums it up for me. The Joy of giving, the joy of being of service is my reward -- precious beyond measure. I am right where I need to be, doing what I was meant to do. Peace. Joy!
Did I make mistakes? Was I always my best Best Self? Of course not! I am human -- and I have learned, over and over again, the power to forgive myself. Acceptance. And so, there are true moments -- fleeting as they may be -- of Peace and Joy. Thank you for allowing me to share my story -- my challenges and my lessons.
I wish you persistence, resiliency, determination, courage -- and most importantly a Heartset of Gratitude and Love.
In closing, I would like to offer an Irish Blessing which recognizes the challenges and the blessings in the life lessons for all of us. For example, failure and humility, sadness and courage, trials and strength.
"May your joys be as bright as the morning,
And your sorrows merely be shadows
That fade in the sunlight of love.
May you have…
Enough happiness to keep you sweet,
Enough trials to keep you strong,
Enough sorrow to keep you human,
Enough hope to keep you happy,
Enough failure to keep you humble,
Enough success to keep you eager,
Enough friends to give you comfort,
Enough faith and courage in yourself to banish sadness,
Enough wealth to meet your needs,
And one thing more…
Enough determination to make each day
A more wonderful day than the one before."
I believe the feeling of gratitude, the Heartset of Gratitude, is one way Love expresses itself in our life. John Milton is eloquent in his observation on the value of gratitude:
"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies,
those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
Thank you dear friends and readers. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a thousand times over.
Till next time, with big love and deep gratitude,
May you be happy now and always, Alison
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