Embracing What Is
July 13, 2011 § 7 Comments
Profound gratitude is about accepting, loving, and embracing all that IS, not just the wonderful things – that’s easy but it’s not true gratitude. We tend to think that if we express our sincerest gratitude for the smell of our morning coffee that we have a pass to complain about traffic, this is not gratitude. Complaining, striving to change things, and resisting are the opposite of gratitude, in such an environment gratitude will not flourish. I am speaking from personal experience, but I imagine others have experienced this kind of duality of pseudo-gratefulness. In America, I’m certain everyone has witnessed this pseudo-gratitude in full effect around the end of November. We spend a day with our friends and families giving thanks for all that we have only to turn around the very next day in ravenous consumption. This is not true gratitude and it brings about pain, suffering, and in the case of black Friday, debt.
I had this habit of pseudo-gratitude for a long time, and it still rears its ugly head from time to time, this habit led to such confusion, dissonance, and emptiness. I was saying “thank you” for everything I could think of but I wasn’t living gratitude. I wasn’t embracing everything, I was picking and choosing what I loved and did not love. I did not love my history with my dad. I did not love the debt I was in. I did not love everything about my body. I did not love my tiny apartment. So I tried being thankful for things I did love, like my husband, the smell of jasmine on my street, the food on my plate, the income from my job and on and on. In the mean time, I worked hard at forgetting the history I had with my dad, I worked hard at paying off debt, I worked harder at losing 5 pounds, I started searching for a way to move out of my apartment. So the gratitude I felt for the beautiful things in my life started to be overwhelmed by the resentment of trying to muscle the other things into my control. Clearly something had to change and it wasn’t going to be those things on my list.
It all finally changed with my commitment to wholeheartedly embrace life. I made the conscious decision to embrace the unknown, to embrace my weaknesses and embrace the same in others, to embrace change as it happens and not force it when it doesn’t, to embrace mistakes, discomfort and vulnerability, to embrace spontaneity and the faith it requires, to embrace all that is and ever was in just as it is. It was hard, at first, like “you want me to embrace the fact that my dad was an abusive alcoholic?” and the answer, of course, was “yes”. And then I was like, “maybe I’ll start with easier things like being grateful I have a healthy body”. Now that was easy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t experience a life of true gratitude until I dug down deep and found gratitude for the really gritty stuff. Once it happened, though, gratitude just started radiating out of me. I didn’t have to think about it or practice it anymore it just became a part of my being. This is not to deny the fact that I am human and flawed and still make plenty of mistakes but this commitment to gratitude has profoundly changed my life.
If you are struggling with the habit of pseudo-gratitude I recommend starting with the hardest thing to be grateful for, you’ll thank me later! Find that thing and embrace it just as it is. For me it was an old story I told myself about my dad, if only he had been less drunk or more caring I could really be grateful. It didn’t work to wish it had been different. It didn’t help to ignore it either. I finally sat with the feelings and the stories embraced them as they were without wishing them different. In that space they began to transform. Suddenly, I had a deep understanding of my relationship with my dad and a deep sense of gratitude that he is exactly who he is. Nothing actually changed but my willingness to embrace it all put it in a different light. In this new light everything is just as it should be. My 5 extra pounds are still here but in this light I’m just grateful to have this body. My debt is still hanging out but in this light I’m grateful I have the awareness not to add more debt. I still live in the same apartment but in this light I am profoundly grateful to have a home filled with love.
When things arise that I don’t like or that bring about resistance in me, I shine this light of gratitude and feel the transformation. I hope that this light shines in your life today too.
~love and gratitude~