Tag Archives: love

A Different Kind of Gratitude Practice

Looking Towards Heaven

In a recent post, I shared how I had discovered that a key in experiencing gratitude was not to go out looking for things to be grateful for, but rather to receive and allow in the beauty, the goodness, the inspiration, the truth, the love, and the gifts of whatever or whoever is in my presence in this moment. When I allow myself to receive, gratitude is then simply a natural expression/outpouring.

Following this thread and deepening further, I’ve come to another way of practicing gratitude, one that allows me to feel and experience gratitude on many levels, without all the effort of trying to force it. I came to this practice through a realization that gratitude is a part of who I am on an essential level, and my experience of it is therefore not dependent on outside circumstances. In other words, I don’t need something to feel grateful for in order to feel grateful. If I’m not currently experiencing gratitude, I can simply begin to open to it — turn my consciousness toward the energy and essence of gratitude already within me — and allow it to come to the forefront of my experience now (regardless of my outside circumstances). I like to think of it as tuning my radio dial to “gratitude.” The best part is that I don’t even need a mental concept of what gratitude is supposed to feel like to practice this.

Blue flowerThe practice looks something like this: First, I let go completely of trying to bring to mind someone, or some situation, which I want to be (or think I should be) grateful forInstead, I bring my attention into my still, quiet center, and I begin to allow myself to open. Then, I ask to experience the energy and essence of gratitude inside a particular part of my physical or energetic body. I like to bring in physical and energetic layers. For instance, I might ask deep into the core of myself, “What does it feel like to experience the energy and essence of gratitude in my bones?” I feel deep into my bones. Then, I wait and notice. What do I start to notice as I tune into my bones? My intellectual mind has no clue what gratitude would feel like in my bones! It has no concept of such a outlandish thing… thank goodness, because then I can just feel whatever I feel, no expectations. Then, I might ask, “What does it feel like to experience gratitude in my tissues?” or, “What does it feel like to experience gratitude in the fluids of my body?” or, “What does it feel like to experience gratitude in every cell of my body?” I allow myself to trust that whatever sensations I’m feeling, those sensations are the embodiment — the vibration and experience of — gratitude. Amazingly, the sensations I have felt are often surprising and are not what my mind would label as “gratitude.” And yet, at the same time, I notice myself starting to feel more and more gratitude in my daily life through this practice.

I used to think gratitude had to come in response to something in the world, that I needed to find something “worthy of gratitude” in order to experience it. Now, I’ve come to see that not only is it about fully receiving the beauty that surrounds me in the world in this present moment, gratitude is also already present inside of me. And when I allow myself to feel and experience the gratitude already inside of me, then (or sometimes seemingly simultaneously) I feel grateful for something in my outer world. There is no effort in this; instead, once I am embodying the “vibration” of gratitude, I really have no choice but to begin feeling grateful for things in my life. In this way, I don’t have to hunt with my intellect for things to be grateful for. It simply happens naturally once I tune in.

In gratitude & love,
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Reflections on Gratitude

Sunlight through treeYou probably know by now the power of gratitude. Everything seems lovely when you are enveloped in gratitude. You may even keep a gratitude journal or have engaged in other practices to help you feel gratitude every day. If you’ve committed to any of these practices and you’re like many people, you’re probably noticing significant improvement in your overall sense of well-being. After all, consistently feeling and experiencing gratitude is life changing!

You can imagine my surprise when I recently approached the big “G,” and instead of increasing feelings of gratitude and well-being, I felt as if I was on some sort of mad, desperate hunt for something to be grateful for. In fact, it even felt as if I didn’t have much of a concept of gratitude at all. As I began to look for things to be grateful for, my mind flipped through all the events of the day, one after the other, comparing and contrasting and categorizing, deciding if this or that thing was something I could (or should) be grateful for that day.

Well, you can probably tell already that I didn’t end up actually experiencing or feeling much gratitude this way! In fact, the whole exercise felt fake to me, like I was pretending to be grateful, hoping that the whole “fake it till you make it” thing would work out eventually. I figured if I thought about being grateful enough, it would actually start to happen. But to be honest, it never really did, at least not consistently, and definitely not easily. Surely being grateful doesn’t have to be so much work!

flower 24

Fortunately, a moment of grace in the midst of my struggle finally arrived. I realized I was missing an essential side of the equation: receiving. I came to realize that gratitude and appreciation are the natural expression/outpouring of receiving and allowing in the beauty, the goodness, the inspiration, the truth, the love, and the gifts of whatever or whoever is in my presence in this moment. Gratitude is not something I can force but is rather a natural and automatic expression/response that occurs when I allow myself to receive.

And so, in order to more easily feel the fullness of gratitude in my life, rather than looking for things to be grateful for and attempting to force the feeling, I look at what is in front of me now (no matter what it is) and make it my strong intention to open to receive the gifts — the beauty, the love, the teaching — being offered. I do not need to know what the gifts are when I open to receive. I simply ask to receive those gifts with all earnestness and trust, knowing they are there to receive. I pray in this way using words such as these:

May I receive and feel fully the gifts being offered in this moment.

May I receive and feel fully the beauty, the goodness, and the love this person is offering me now.

As I begin to receive the gifts being offered, gratitude and appreciation well up and pour through me naturally and without effort. The more I open to receive, the more gratitude expresses and moves through me, for it is a natural, reciprocal flow of energy. In this way, I never need to seek or look for what is “worthy” of my gratitude, for there is beauty in all things and in all beings, no matter the circumstance. It is only a question of receiving and allowing it in.

yin and yang

Energetically speaking, gratitude is a gift — an outpouring — a yang aspect of the flow of Love / Life / Energy. This is illustrated clearly in the expression, “to give thanks.” And, there is always a yin aspect to Energy, creating a balanced flow of the whole system (the toroidal flow of energy, the in and out, the yin and the yang). In this case, the yin aspect of the flow is the receiving and allowing in of the gifts — the beauty, the goodness, the truth — being offered in this moment. I find I cannot be truly grateful for anything if I do not recognize, receive, and truly feel the beauty in front of or within me in this moment.

It is in this recognition that I have shifted my focus to opening to receive the gifts in front of me, even if my mind is at a loss as to what gifts are present in that moment. I simply open to receive, knowing beauty surrounds me even if I cannot yet feel it. In only a few seconds, I often find myself overflowing with gratitude and appreciation.

With genuine gratitude,
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The Dreaded Question: What’s Your Passion?

Flaming heartFor as long as I can remember, I have been searching for my true passion. It seems all the self-help gurus start off by asking, “What is your passion? What turns you on and lights you up?” This is the point where my eyes glaze over, I slink down in my chair, and I have had to admit: “I don’t know.” There are certainly things I like doing. There are causes I care about. I am fascinated by certain topics and areas of research and contemplation. But is being involved in these things my true purpose and passion? Is this what I am here to do in this life? This is where I have gotten lost.

In these last few weeks, something around this search for my passion has begun to clarify for me. My perspective on what passion actually is has begun to morph. I had been thinking about my passion as something I would do. After all, when people speak about their passions, they are usually talking about something they do. For instance, they say things like, “Music is my passion,” or “Art is my passion,” or “Science is my passion.” When the self-help gurus attempt to draw out our passions, they ask things like, “What brings you joy? What are you doing when you feel joyful and alive? What makes you feel happy and passionate?” So, naturally, I’ve been thinking all this time that my passion and purpose would be wrapped up in something that I’d be doing.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if my passion might have less to do with what I’m doing and more to do with what I’m feeling, being, and then ultimately expressing into the world. And so I started to ask myself this:

What feeling or state of being do I most want to experience and wish with all my heart that others could also experience? If I could somehow gift myself and others any kind of experience/feeling/state of being, what would it be?

Would it be to feel loved? Safe? Valued? Inspired? Empowered? Connected? Cherished? Alive? Vibrant? Clear? At Ease? Awed? Joyful? Compassionate? Light? Open? Restful? Grateful? Follow your heartThis is a whole different kind of question, and I’ve had to really get quiet and listen to my heart. Amazingly, what has come to the surface is something I cannot exactly put into words, yet it feels uniquely me. It is a specific feeling state that I have felt come forward inside of me… in fact, it feels like it is simply the real me coming forward. And what I’ve come to see is that THIS IS MY PASSIONI have been looking for my passion in the wrong place! All along, I had been thinking that there was something out there for me to do — some grand purpose — and that when I found it, I would know it and finally proclaim, “This is my passion! This is my purpose!” Instead, I have found my passion is an experience/feeling and not something inherent in something I will be doing. Rather, whatever I choose to do will simply be a vehicle for me to express my passion into the world. Of course, then I immediately understood something else all those gurus have been saying: It doesn’t really matter what you do. It only matters how you are being (and feeling) when you do it.

Have you ever noticed how inspired you can feel in the presence of someone who is passionate? I’ve had the experience of getting totally jazzed about some product a person is selling merely because that person seems so incredibly passionate about it. I admit I have bought some very strange items only to wonder later why in the world I bought them! What I am seeing now is that I was resonating with that person’s passion, not with what they were selling. We are vibrational beings, after all! I started to feel inspired, or joyful, or hopeful, or whatever qualities that person was being and expressing, because I was resonating, in my own way, with those qualities that they were embodying. Then, because of my confusion about the nature of passion, I mistakenly thought it was the product they were selling that was causing them to feel good (and so I bought the item as well, thinking it would cause me to feel something I desired). But it was not the product that was inspiring me. It was that person BEING their passion.

Sun rays in blue sky

So for me, the question then became… okay, then how do I choose what to do? I still need a vehicle through which I can express my passion. If it doesn’t matter what I do, then how do I choose what to do? Here are some questions I came up with to help guide me in this process:

What might I choose to do where, when I do it, it feels easy for me to connect with, embody, and experience the quality of my passion? What could I imagine doing where it seems like it would be easy for me to feel and express that quality?

Do I have skills, talents, or gifts through which I could easily imagine conveying or expressing this quality (my passion) to others and to the world?

How can I, in ALL that I do, both embody (“be”) my passion and convey or express it to others?

This process is helping me form a vision and choose the vehicles through which I want to express my passion. Instead of trying to find things to do that would (supposedly) ignite my passion, I am instead practicing on a daily basis remembering and embodying the qualities — the feeling states flower 8— of my passion. I keep asking myself again and again, “What feeling do I most want to experience and wish with all my heart others could experience?” This is my passion! I let it fill me to the brim! Clearly, my passion isn’t just about me feeling good. I want to share it. I have found that the desire to share it — to express it — is inherent in the passion itself. And, what I’ve come to see now is that the way to share it is to BE it. When my whole being vibrates with my passion, others will begin to resonate (in their own unique way) with those qualities. This is how I can share my passion with others. Perhaps that’s at least partly why Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And so now it seems my life (and my challenge) is about bringing that passion into all that I do — for myself, and for all those whose lives I touch.

What’s your passion?

In love & in gratitude,
Penny