Gratitude has been all the rage for some time, but some of us can't stomach it.
I was blown away the first time I heard Abraham-Hicks talk about why appreciation is more powerful (and more satisfying, more supportive of joy and well-being) than gratitude.
Gratitude almost always hits me wrong. This, mind you, is in the context of living life as a project in presence, cultivating ongoing awe in the beauty that gets through the cracks no matter what, meeting every face as the face of god, looking for all that supports me at every turn and finding it. I'm not the grinch.
Still, mentions of gratitude can set off that internal cringe.
I hear too many people treat gratitude like a should that somehow, when reached for (especially when they feel terrible), will bring them up a few notches on some spiritual grading scale (that I'm pretty sure nobody, no deity, no entity of earth, heaven, or hell is tabulating).
People are typically being hard on themselves when they rush to gratitude. They're not being still for what actually needs to be met that they're misinterpreting as a failure to be sufficiently grateful.
It amounts to shaming themselves to push themselves into something supposedly more elevated. Thus, they take the focus off themselves when perhaps a different and more clear focus on self would provide the needed release or breakthrough or ability to see the glass half-full.
Anyone who knows anything about my work knows I'm not a validating therapist willing to sit around listening for hours to people retell the story of how life or others have kept them down. But it's not about shoving down or shaming the stories! The beautiful breakthroughs happen in catching how you're framing things with no judgment (WITH ZERO JUDGMENT) so you can consider, dismantle, and reframe your own thinking and see something new, full of possibility. There's pain-body work to be done, too, to meet and soothe what feels bad without believing it shouldn't feel bad. This stuff is powerful, transformational.
Gratitude in itself isn't evil, but it doesn't pair nicely with should. That's a great thing to watch for in your own thinking and speech: "I should be grateful."
Really? When you're saying you should be grateful, consider it may be a royal distraction (never mind spiritual bypass). You might gain more from coming closer to whatever you're thinking and feeling that's throwing you off.
My favorite current teacher, Abraham-Hicks, explains that appreciation is stronger than gratitude this way: There's often a flavor of unworthiness in gratitude. As in,
When you're in appreciation, you simply solidly feel good about what is. You're taking in what you love about this reality, this person, this meal, this state of affairs, these finances—whatever it is. You're feeling in to your own inner sense of appreciation, and it's authentic! Conversely, gratitude can feel more like an external concept to reach for, or even to force.
So consider trading in gratitude for appreciation this Thanksgiving. Or say both, "I'm grateful for ..." and "I appreciate ..." Try both, in tandem or at different moments! See if, to you, there's a nuance or a world's worth of difference.
Consider dropping the requisite gratitude list and instead keeping an ongoing tally of all you appreciate in your life, your partner, your family members, the place where you live, the job you've got, the skills and resources that support you, the body that serves you.
Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for connecting to my world. I so appreciate your presence here.
love & blessings, Jaya
P.S. This post follows last year's Recipes for Easiest Holidays Ever. Many recipes are included, preceded by a pep talk on presence. Lots of sub-headings for easy navigation.
Recipes for Sanity & Self-Honoring during the Holidays
It's not just your crazy mother or clueless cousin doing what predictably makes you quietly go insane. It's you. It's that you predictably go quietly insane.
This collection of simple and radical recipes should get you to more nuances of grounded, present, open, easy, humor-aware. (For a humorous angle on what normally feels like no joke, see the Recipe for Not Being Driven Insane by the Ones Who Drive You Insane. There's a radical experiment possible with the Recipe for Letting Go of Control—take it to heart.) All of this should support you to give thanks at Thanksgiving (and beyond) from a genuinely appreciative stance.
Use the headings to navigate all the material below. Go to what serves you and what you want to serve. Recipes are preceded by some notes on presence. (I'm on a personal and professional mission to keep going deeper and getting more subtle with what it means to be present.)
These are the recipes covered below (scroll down to "RECIPES BEGIN HERE" and sub-headings below that of specific ones that call to you):
Notes on Presence
Going back to known people and places with predictable challenges and triggers doesn't require replaying the same call-and-response scenarios.
How is it even possible to do it differently? In a word, presence.
Presence is the how. It's the thing that allows you to have half a prayer of choosing (hey, even super-solid agency in choosing) how you want to respond, as opposed to reacting from your well-rehearsed personality strategy. It even helps you find your footing again when you catch yourself in reactive mode, either internally or externally. (Sharp tone? Rolling/glaring eyes hijacked by your inner teen?)
I actually believe it's not that hard to cultivate presence and step in differently. And in fact, your quotient of ease will keep increasing as you do, then it gets easier and easier.
When you're in the past reviewing or measuring the present against all you've ever dealt with; or when you're in the future (even, how will I get to the end of this day)—you've left the present. You've therefore abandoned yourself (because your actual self is here, now) and you're not engaged with your smarts, wit, potential clarity, power of choice, compassion for self and others (I could go on). You're also unable to take responsibility for self-care, never mind total self-honoring that nurtures and invites your best self.
Presence doesn't require exertion. It's more about relaxing and allowing than straining. It does require a willingness to keep practicing, keep coming back, keep tuning in. It also requires allowing what is: thus, when you're present, you'll be present not only to the love and nice smells and unicorns and rainbows, but to the twisting in your gut, the painful ideologies of other human beings, your own tense body and judgmental mind, and so on. Presence means tuning in to and allowing whatever is—not setting it up so that you control what is (probably what you're up to when you can't relax).
Uh, what's the point of getting present (in the midst of what could be love-fun-warm-fuzzies) to what hurts, feels bad, creates sorrow, anger, and tense resentment?
I've got 3 great answers to that.
Great answer #1: You're in reality and aligned with what's actually happening when you get present to all of it. This means you're more sane, and more equipped to think clearly. (Delusion is so messy.)
Great answer #2: Since presence means tuning in to ALL that is, you get to choose your focus. That's actually a lot of power—just be willing to be sloppy and graceless for a minute; elegance will gradually increase. Your choice in focus will allow you to respond more often than you react, which includes responding kindly to your own reactivity when it grabs the reins. Presence means you're here in time and space, alert to what's actually happening, accepting it and responding to it authentically (including moving toward what you want more of and away from what you want less of).
Great answer #3: Presence also allows you to make choices, draw boundaries, and note when you need a break, a reset button, or any form of self-care. Presence allows for swift course-correction.
Swift course-correction is one of my favorite things to play with. Never beat yourself up for noticing you're not present. Then there's no pain in finding yourself off-track (you WILL sometimes find yourself off-track): with no judgment, you get to simply and quickly course-correct as awareness comes in. A neutral metaphor from Abraham-Hicks is the rumble strip on the freeway: as soon as you feel the tires go bumpety-bump-bump-bump, just veer back into your lane. No need to self-chastize or agonize over being on the rumble strip again. (One of my favorite simple phrases to go to: There's no problem.)
RECIPES BEGIN HERE
Recipe for Letting Go of Control (the disaster-zone metaphor that puts it all in perspective)
Recipe for Presence
Use these three steps to COME BACK to presence. (They can be gone through over and over and over. If you think it's not working, this could simply mean that you're not willing to go through them one more time, now.)
Recipe for Being at Ease
Know, going in, some basic things about ease. (Think of ease as closely related to personal power. Picture a large cat: ease; power.) Periodically remind yourself of these. Note that the recipe for presence pairs well with the one for ease.
Recipe for Connecting to Others You May Not Typically or Easily Connect With
This one likely boils down to, Be quiet if you have little or nothing to say and be real when you speak.
Recipe for Not Being Driven Insane by the Ones Who Drive You Insane
This makes a game of the whole thing. What if you were having fun with your aversions and judgments instead of by turns indulging them and feeling bad about them?
Recipe for Connecting to Source, Self, and Others
P.S. A recipe for the gratitude-intolerant also exists on this blog.