November 2011

The past few days, in particular, have been alive with talk of gratitude.  There has been much intention around being thankful for what one has, with the “what” ranging from health to family and friends, a house, a job, food on the table, and objects that hold  significance for us.   Of underlying importance is the motivation to appreciate the people or things that  otherwise may be taken for granted as we move through our daily lives.   The moments of “counting our blessings” are valuable and help to shift  our view to the larger picture of what is important for us.   However, the caution to be offered is not to be content to stop at this point.  There is an even bigger perspective possible.

The question to pose is whether one can also feel gratitude for the events or relationships that are difficult, even devastating.  It’s not so easy to have warm, loving feelings when considering these situations, especially when they happen to us or someone we love.  Generally what shows up are emotions of anger and rage or the sense of being pommeled with waves of grief and despair.  How can one be with these sensations in a loving way?  How can one feel thankful?  Perhaps this seems beyond what should be asked or expected.

What is involved is not simply moving through anger and blame to be able to get to a place of forgiveness.  Such a shift already demands the letting go of one’s hold on intense thoughts and feelings surrounding the event or relationship.  How to even imagine getting to the point where one could identify “gratitude” as the sensation that is present?  If one could get to that point, how to explain being appreciative in an atmosphere where anger and grief can serve as important additives to fuel vengeful or retaliatory actions and events?

There cannot be one right way to open the door to gratitude for what tears us apart inside.  However, tools do exist that can support movement in that direction, toward a letting go of suffering.  Isn’t “suffering” the bigger name for what is happening when one is consumed by anger, rage, blame or grief?   In the midst of the storm of these emotions, there is also energy which can bring about change in moments of full, present awareness.   Being with one’s self in meditation, in movement or stillness, can bring one’s body/mind to a place of mindfulness.  In that place, one can make a choice to let go.  It may not happen right away; practice is needed.  The guidance of a trained practitioner or teacher may be helpful.    The next steps involve repeatedly going back to that place to keep the door to gratitude open.  A shift can happen from meeting life’s situations with reactivity to meeting them with receptivity.   What is truly most amazing about opening to gratitude in this way is that the reward is a taste of what it really means to be free.

To begin, one need only imagine and hold the intention that there is, in fact, a door to be opened…



The question is – When I show up on my yoga mat or my meditation cushion, in what way is this practice mine or all about me?  Not that it’s about someone else.  Of course not, but perhaps there is a way to be with this practice that can shift my attitude of possessiveness toward it.  My intention here is that it would be less about me.

One might believe that this is about playing with words, but consider the larger picture.  How might I show up for this practice so that the experience is more  “being” with than “doing?”   What comes to mind is that perhaps I can participate in the practice instead of directing it, and, in that way, I am less involved in the doing.  How would it be to step onto the mat with the intention of the practice unfolding as it needs to, in this moment and then the next?

Imagine that you don’t have to try hard or make something happen.  The perfect posture or pure meditation moments are not the ones where I’m driving the boat.  Instead, they are the ones where I get out of my own way.  And I trust that all of you know what I mean – when you show up with SERIOUS intention and, of course, expectation of what is to come of your intention.  And then, too often, it’s all about you – how balanced, how strong, how focused, how flexible!  That’s when the moment of self congratulation sneaks in and takes over, and, again, it’s all about you!  Or, perhaps, the situation goes in the other direction, and you identify how weak, how tight, how distracted, how uncomfortable.  Judgment or disappointment lands, and it’s still all about you!

What might it be like to simply BE with the practice, allowing the energy of what is unfolding to be the guiding force?  I have a very clear past memory of struggling to do a particular yoga posture,  aware of the difficulty in the moment and the focus on my breath, my muscles, my alignment, my attempts to create ease.  I was occupied with the sense of expending energy when it occurred to me that my experience could be re-framed in an opposite way.  In this new scenario (isn’t  it  always a story that we’re telling ourselves), I was  receiving energy by being in this posture.  I wasn’t doing the posture; I was being it.  At that moment, the struggle was gone.  Did the posture then look any different?  I don’t think so.  But my investment in the experience had shifted so that I wasn’t doing the pose; I was being it.

What works for you to get out of your own way?  Is it simply a shift to the present moment or a change in the story line?  Try interrupting your hold on what’s happening for you the next time you show up for yoga practice or meditation.  See how it is to allow “unfolding” to be the energy out of which your experience arises.  If it turns out to be less about you, there may be more room for being with the actual experience of practice.