I am on the plane back from Istanbul to Oslo. Flying through the clouds and listening to Tokio Myers “Our Generation” album in an attempt to isolate the noises around me and concentrate on my Monday’s blog writing. So what would I write about today?
I have started practicing graatitude some time ago. I remember how it started. It was a conversation I had with my mother at around 3 o’ clock in the night. It was Christmas and everybody was sleeping. I was very frustrated back then, tired of my work, tired of living abroad, tired of being away from my family and friends. “It is so hard” I told her “It is just so hard”. I was complaining about this and that and the other and I was going on and on… I remember stopping and looking at her because she had that look on her face. “What is it?” I told her”What are you thinking? What is the verdict today?”.
“Well,” she replied “I hear you. I listened to you very carefully and I feel for you. Let’s talk now about how many things you have achieved. You just have to take a step back from the situation and be grateful about all the blessings you have in your life. How many people live the life you live, traveled the places you traveled, went into spiritual journeys? You love pushing yourself. That is great but you always have to take a step back. You are alive, you are healthy, why don’t you start there? Be grateful. Don’t concentrate on the hard, concentrate on the blessings”.
Well she was wright. Only the fact that I was healthy was a blessing and I could start there. But you know what they say, sometimes you have to lose something to appreciate it. I did not understand back then what being grateful meant and the power of it. I read about it in books, poems and quotes, yet still I couldn’t grasp the power gratitude held. What I understood back then or what I thought my mother was trying to say was that I was ungrateful. I was ungrateful for the things I had. So what I did was this: instead of focusing on being grateful for the things I was actually grateful for, I forced myself to be grateful for things I was not grateful for … Well gratitude does not really work this way.
How to practice gratitude
One day I took a paper and a pen and I was trying to figure out what was I really grateful about. In the beginning I wrote during the morning time to give my day an energy boost. I would write things like “I am grateful for being alive today. I am grateful for my family.” Later on I started writing during the night “Today I am grateful for the food I ate and my friend sharing coffee with me”.
Instead of focusing on the things that was wrong and the “problems” I had I started focusing on things that goes well. In the beginning it was very difficult to find things I was grateful for. After a while and the more I sticked with my practice, gratitude just came out of me naturally. Were there days that I skipped my practice? Of course, plenty. Am I doing this every day now? No. Now I do not need to write things down. Now I feel the gratitude all the time. From that first day I practiced gratitude to now my life has completely transformed. The way I see my life is different. I am able to get out of the picture and see all the good things going on despite the circumstances. My life has slowly become better and better. If you concentrate on the negative you will become negative. Imagine focusing on positive though! Imagine the positivity you can attract. Writing down all the positive things that happened during my day and not taking things for granted not only has made me more mindful but it slowly started giving me a new perspective in life. You write a new different thing you are grateful for each day and in one year you might look back to 365 ” great “things. So imagine you have a bad moment. You can open your little notebook of gratitude and go through all the grateful moments you had during the year. You swift your focus, your energy on the good and positive. Well this is a life changing experience!
Ok all this is good, I hear you already, but what happens when you are actually having a bad day? I mean it is impossible to always concentrate on the good. Things happen around you! You have problems. What do you do?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book “On Death and Dying”, there are five stages of grief (the “Kübler-Ross model)
They are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. However if one applies Ross’s model into the problem situation we see that we also go through the same stages when we deal with a problem. So when a problem occurs usually our first reaction is to deny it. Then we get angry and we start bargaining how we can deal with this. Then we can accept or be in denial . If we are in denial we get depressed because there is not much we can do about the it. Until one day we have to finally accept the situation and move on with your lives.
So now when a “problem” occurs I follow this simple thought:
I have a problem: Can I do something about it?
If the answer is yes I have a solution so I work on it! Problem Solved!
I have a problem: Can I do something about it?
If the answer is no then I accept. The faster I accept the quicker I get out of the depression stage. The more I resist the more I dive into a depression state of mind and become hostage of my denial.
I have a problem: I have no idea what to do about it!
Now of course there are problems in life where ta simple yes and no answer to the question can I do something about it is not enough?
How do I deal with that?
My answer is acceptance again. You have to accept that you are dealing with a difficult situation and you have no idea what to do about it. We accept that we are dealing with a complex situation. Don’t try to force a solution. Nothing good comes out of forcing. Focus on what you can do. Can you do something about it now? Then go back to scenarios 1 and 2. If there is nothing you can do about it just give yourself time and accept. No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it (Albert Einstein). Our mind can become our enemy. We let it get us worried. We let fear overpower our senses. Let go, accept, be free!
I am on my way back to Oslo and I look at the sun outside of the airplane window. The sun, which I haven’t seen for a while and I always took for granted while living in Greece. I am writing my thoughts and I wonder:
Would this little blog changes one persons day?
Would I get someone practice gratefulness? A
re there people that read this who follow these practices already?
Would they like to share their wisdom with me? Who knows.
Life is full of questions waiting to be answered.
There is one thing for certain today.
Today I am grateful and I accept.
I am grateful for this trip.
I am grateful for this moment.
I am grateful for the new foods I tried and for the new smells I smelled.
I am grateful for the good friends I met.
I am grateful for the new people I met and the new roads I walked.
I am grateful for the moments of laughter and the moments of silence.
I am grateful for coming back safe at home and I am grateful I get to live another day.
Today I am grateful. Today I accept the things I cannot change while I have changed the things I can and I have the wisdom to know the difference.
Today I do not take the gift of life for granted.