We are a bit behind the times as Gratitute was the theme of the month for July, but the Lovely Elle Randall recently shared her thoughts on Gratitude in her blog (http://ellerandall.blogspot.com ) and we thought it was so wonderful we had to share with all of you! Namaste! Erica & Laurel
Gratitude – What are you grateful for today – by Elle Randall
Thank You. Two words that can change the world. If a simple ‘Thank you’ was expressed more often; with more genuine feeling behind it, think of what kind of world we would live in. I’d like to think that people would smile more, help each other out more, be kinder, be nicer, and definitely be happier.
Last month at Harlem Yoga Studio, where I teach and practice, I decided to dedicate all of my classes to cultivating gratitude, after all, it was our theme of the month. I started with introducing gratitude as a practice, much like our yoga practice. So just like we get on our mats and bend and fold and meditate, we must also spend some time each day visiting that part in our minds and our hearts that house all of our “thank yous.”
We started the first week by being grateful for the things that came easy; people that we love that love us back, circumstances in life that worked to our favor, our talents, our strengths, poses on the mat that we excelled in, and so forth. We took time to re-live these things, smiled at them, then offered up a heavy dose of gratitude to the Universe for these blessings. This was our ‘Rose,’ the fully bloomed flower that is everything we wanted it to be.
The second week, we dove a little deeper into our practice and began cultivating gratitude for the ‘Almosts” in our lives. These were thoughts, circumstances, people, and even poses in our lives that were ‘in the works.’ That person that you care about, but for some reason after 5 minutes of interacting, you start to disagree. The project at work that is bringing about immense stress, because it could go both ways; succeed beautifully or fail miserably. That tiny bit of self-doubt that sometimes comes out to plague us when we are caught in the most anxious of circumstances. The arm balance or inversion that you sometimes get, but sometimes don’t. It was here that we started with the practice of visualization. We simply visualized what we wanted, and cultivated gratitude for it. We said thank you to the process, as well as to the visualized outcome. It is this pouring of love and light towards a positive outcome that will help us maintain the upward spiral in the practice of gratitude. This was our ‘Bud,’ the almost bloomed flower in our lives, and gratitude was the light and water that it needed to turn into a ‘Rose.’
Then on the third week, we opened up our hearts and our minds and tried our hands at being grateful for the difficulties in our lives. This is where the practice itself becomes a difficulty. I shared a personal story with everyone, to show them that I was willing to go through the vulnerability with them:
‘Two years ago, I went through a heart-wrenching break up. I was emotionally destroyed and physically drained. I have never been so shattered in my life, and I didn’t know if I would ever recover. I asked my mom what I should do. I told her I just want to move on with my life and stand back up. She said “Here’s what you do. Every morning when you wake up, after you’ve done your morning yoga had your breakfast, go sit at your desk, take out your journal and pen and write ‘THANK YOU Universe, (your ex’s name) is Happy and Healthy.’ Write that line over and over again for at least an hour, everyday. And while you’re writing it, really feel the gratitude in your heart and genuinely wish him well.” I thought my mother was crazy! I mean, I felt so much rage towards this person, how could I possibly wish him health and happiness? But I did as she said, and as hard as it was, I wrote everyday, and practiced being grateful everyday. After some time, not only did the anger dissipate, my life started unfolding in such a magical way that I could hardly believe I was ever that sad, distraught person.’ This week, our practice was all about perception, because difficult times and difficult people exist in everyone’s lives, what is different is how we choose to view them. If we choose to view them as lessons learned in life, then we are able to cultivate gratitude for it. It is this gratitude that allows us to forgive whatever this difficulty is, and it is this forgiveness that allows us to let it go. This was our ‘Thorn;’ the piece of the flower that could poke us and hurt us. But if we are grateful for it, then it becomes part of the flower, and we understand the role it plays in the big picture. The ‘Thorns’ in our lives are what allow for the ‘Roses’ to thrive and shine.
The final week in the month of Gratitude, I left everyone with a quote to ponder and meditate on. I took it from Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, who teaches Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness. He said: “The word ‘Appreciate’ has two meanings; one is to be grateful or thankful for something, the other is to increase in value or quantity. Therefore, ‘When we APPRECIATE the good, the good APPRECIATES. And when we DON’T appreciate the good, the good DEPRECIATES.'”Pretty interesting huh? So we must continue to appreciate the good in our lives so that good things, good people, good thoughts continue to surround us. This practice of gratitude must be constant, no matter the circumstance, because it is by cultivating gratitude that we continue to attract the good.
It just so happens that NYC was seeing a lot of sporadic rain that last week in July, with many of the rain clouds hovering over the studio during the times I was teaching. So I said: ‘I wonder, if we spend our time in class appreciating the sun, would we get more of it?’ According to Dr. Tal, this was the way to do it. Now, I don’t claim to be a miracle worker, but I can say that we didn’t see any rain after every one of my classes got out that week. In fact, I think I even saw the sun peek out a few times after coming out of Savasana. =)