When I was told that this month’s newsletter topic was gratitude a part of me was not grateful for that news. I think on that day I wasn’t in a good mood or not feeling well and gratitude was the last thing I was feeling in that moment. To be honest, I was feeling pretty angry that day at cancer and indulging in a full on pity party. I didn’t feel grateful and I didn’t want to write a blog on gratitude. Thank goodness I had a few days to think about and write this blog. By the next day my mood had shifted and I was ready to think about gratitude.
Life is like that. The one thing that is constant in life is change. Change in moods, change in weather, change in circumstances, even a change in President. So how does one remain grateful when you aren’t “feeling” it? Well, I like to say: fake it until you make it. Yep. That’s right. Fake it.
So how do I do this? I start by making sure that when I am having a pity party and eventually I am even starting to annoy myself, I stop what I’m doing for a moment and make a quick gratitude list in my head of 3 things I am currently grateful for. Some days it can be quite a challenge to come up with one thing let alone three.
So, I start with a deep breath and VOILA! There is my first item for the list. Breathing! I am grateful to be alive and to be breathing. More than that, I am grateful for the breath that sustains me and supports me in my yoga practice guiding me and reminding me of the unity, manifested as breathing, which links all people on this planet.
Thinking about the breath and yoga brings me to a second item for my list: my yoga practice. Even on the days when I cannot get on my mat for Asana (the yoga postures that you see in a yoga class) due to treatments for cancer, I still have my yoga practice and the other 7 limbs of yoga to lean on and practice to keep my mind quiet and steady. Even from my bed I can practice pranayama (breathing) and listen to a meditation app on my phone to relax and comfort myself.
Wow! Those thoughts lead me to more items for my list: gratitude for my bed and for a house to rest in when I am recovering from treatments. This makes me think of my favorite pillow and my two snuggly dogs, and my family that cares for me on these bad days. I think of my friends who text me to check in, friends who come over to my house and bring me food and conversation to tempt my appetite and feed my soul with their loving presence. Now I have another thing for my gratitude list. Soon my list is long, my mood is lighter and my heart is full of compassion for people in this world who don’t have loved ones to care for them and may not have a bed to rest in.
Fake it until you make it. It works.
During this time of year in our culture we can get lots of mixed messages from popular media about gratitude and things can become askew. There are many beautiful examples during the holidays about the important things in life; experiences and time with loved ones and the opportunities to reach out and support people who need extra help in their lives. There are also messages that equate love for others with material goods…A.K.A. gifts. We all know and say many times that the holidays are not about the gifts. I personally believe this to be true yet I get sucked in every year trying to find the “perfect” thing to express my love and gratitude for family and friends.
I start the holiday season out every year with the best of intentions to not lose sight of the REAL meaning of season but you know what? I cannot tell a lie. Every year by December 23rd I am stressed out! I am pulling my hair out trying to find those last few “perfect” gifts, I am overwhelmed by the mountain of things that still need to be gift wrapped, I am dreading the credit card bill that will arrive in January, and I am not feeling very grateful or full of holiday cheer. In fact, most years on December 23rd I just want the whole thing to be OVER and I cannot wait to rip down my Christmas tree and put all the decorations back in storage.
Doesn’t this sound Zen??? Where in the heck is that gratitude list when I need it???
Cancer changes many things in our lives; both good and bad. For me, this year it will bring the change of not stressing out about the holidays anymore! I have officially lowered (or thrown out entirely) expectations about the holidays and I refuse to get sucked in again this year. Instead, I have decided to fake it until I make it. When I start to feel the pressure to find those perfect gifts for my loved ones I am going to remind myself to stop, take a deep breath and make a gratitude list in my mind at that very moment. When I am living in the present connected to my breath and focusing on what and who I am grateful for I can become the observer of my own stressed out insane self and shift my awareness, returning to gratitude again and again. In every situation there is always something to be grateful for. Dig deep and you will find it even if at first you need to fake it.
May this be the year that we let go of something about the holidays that doesn’t serve us or bring us joy. May this be the year that we start and stick to a daily gratitude practice. May this be the year that we do not neglect our yoga practice during the holidays because the insanity of the season starts to take over. May this be the year that we get ourselves on our yoga mats even if we don’t “feel” like it. Fake it until you make it. It works.