How’s this Friday find you? Grateful for friends, family, friends-who-are-family, full bellies and the gift of modern over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for turkey (or other) hangovers? I’m checking a few of those boxes myself this morning, so my heart is full…and so is my coffee mug.
This week, our focus was – not surprisingly – on gratitude, and the slightly grey area of being thankful while also being ambitious. Our mindfulness challenge for this weekend is more about the gratitude side of the equation. While I actively encourage the process of visualizing your dreams for the future you hope to have, it is also important to engage in grateful reflection for what you do have in a manner that is disconnected from what you would like to see it turn into. It’s tougher than you may think, especially when you’re in a time of life that is all about going after the next thing. But you’ve never been one to shy away from something just because it’s hard, right?
Step one is to find your mindfulness zone. If you’re not sure what that means for you just yet, then find a comfortable seat in a quiet place where you will generally be left alone for even just a few minutes. If you can, close your eyes. As your mind continues to zoom back and forth with thoughts, do your best to notice them without engaging them. In other words, “Those are some thoughts,” instead of, “Hmmm, good question, how am I going to work that out?” Instead, try to direct your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to simply breathe. Is it warm or cool? Where do you feel it in your body? Maybe your nose, your throat, your chest? Make an effort to hold your focus here, and if it wanders off and back to other thoughts, just gently bring it back. That’s the process. That coming back to your breath is the meditation.
Then, you’re ready for your next layer – gratitude. Internally, to yourself, simply say, “I’m grateful.” You may want to (silently) repeat this to yourself a few times, or sit with the echo of the statement within you. As you do this, you may begin to picture people, things or experiences for which you are grateful, or you may not. Doesn’t matter. This is simply about cultivating, even for a few minutes, a mindset of gratitude. It’s about recognizing that you can always be thankful – for specific aspects of your life, or simply for your breath. Just like your breath, that perspective is always available to help center you.
When it feels like all you’re trying to do is get at it, and so much of what you think you want is just beyond your reach, it’s easy to forget the present moment. It’s easy to lose track of what you do have. Although it can often be fun, life is generally not easy. You have walked a warrior’s path to be where you are right now, wherever that may be. And yet still, you have breath, you have your presence, and – I’m guessing – you have the love of people who do not care what you “get” next.
Interestingly, gratitude can help you figure out what matters to you. It can help you determine what’s worth going after, and what you can maybe do without. Find the time this weekend to intentionally sit with “I’m grateful,” and you may be surprised what comes up. You may find that your cup is full, even if there may also be room for more. If you do, this weekend is your excuse to drink up, no over-the-counter aftermath required.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder
Photo credit: Brigitte Tohm