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'renot 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 should probably come 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,
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
(hey, hit the 2 sets of bullet points for the short version!)
In my book Scooch! I wrote about my experiment with the idea that it might be a friendly Universe. Starting so broadly (the whole Universe!) naturally took me to smaller-scale experiments in life about … anything.
So why experiments and what constitutes grand?
I’m pretty enamored of the idea that all of life and aspect of life is or can be an experiment. Looks to me like it’s closer to the truth (how much do we really know for sure?) and everything loosens up a bit and feels better if you know (admit?) you’re experimenting.
Since I’m no scientist, I think of experiments as playful and fun, not serious and scary. As a life coach, I encounter people’s fears and the self-generated pressure that we human beings typically put on others or on circumstances until we realize we’re in charge of whether we opt in for pressure or not. I’m in favor of setting things up and cultivating mindsets for maximum spaciousness and ease. Hence, experiments!
Here are some ways to think of experiments:
Why a grand experiment? I do like to say, If you’re going to bother experimenting at all, make it a grand experiment.
The following could make a simple, humble experiment very grand indeed:
(Need some support with questioning thoughts or reframing?)
(Need help choosing or holding your focus?)
(Need help following a path of least resistance and/or choosing ease and forcing nothing?)
(Need help reeling it all in when you’re discouraged or distressed?)
Have fun with your grand experiments.
Love & blessings, Jaya
P.S. Hey, now you know why I set up dating as a grand experiment. Get my free pdf to support your own grand experiment.
Have you ever shown someone a startling blossom or alien bug and been disappointed by the way they say, Amazing, and then carry on? Like it was nothing? Like—what kind of amazement has no power to jolt them out of sleepwalking, even for a moment? Don’t do this to yourself. Drop a notch deeper into presence.
Once you think you’ve seen something, look again.
Try any of these tactics to drop down a notch, drop deeper into presence. What we’re after here is meeting the dynamic reality of this moment—not your concepts about it or all the prior decisions you’ve made, the stories you’ve rehearsed, the names and descriptors you’ve got down. (Red cardinal. Jenna when she’s moody. This much half-and-half.) These simple measures could literally take one more second—or whatever you like better in the moment.
Especially if you’ve had a thought about the being or thing perceived (and thus turned it into a concept of itself), look again as if for the first time. Apply this to the most familiar face (even in its most predictable presentation), the flower you walk by (yes—even if it did already spike appreciation), the cup steaming with the known hot beverage.
Now and now and now, just for now: just one notch deeper into presence.
Love & blessings, Jaya
(Would you, could you believe that it’s supposed to be easy?)
I just found a little note I wrote for myself with an Abraham-Hicks quote that struck me: “The path of least resistance is also the path of greatest joy, greatest clarity, and the most fun!”
Abraham’s path of least resistance is a crazy-simple concept: You watch for and find the easiest, most effortless spot to next place your foot. Don’t see the whole picture? Don’t have a start-to-finish plan? No problem. Find your next step, knowing that’s enough. Take the easiest step you have access to.
You can do it tired, scared, confused. Point yourself roughly in the right direction (as I talk about in part 4 of Scooch!) and step forward, wherever your foot can land without some big leap or forceful stomping.
You can do it with curiosity instead of dread; you can stay tuned for the guidance rather than fear you’ll get it wrong. You can trust yourself to course-correct as you go.
It’s always okay to find you’re in resistance. Watch it dispassionately, compassionately. Then find your point of least resistance, and step there. Rinse and repeat; rinse and repeat. You’ll see and feel the resistance melt away. You’ll find the momentum builds as you go, often surprisingly swiftly.
To proceed along the path of least resistance, start by noticing when you’re in resistance.
In your body, resistance can feel like
You’re in resistance when you're
It also helps to be clear about the signs that you're on a path of least resistance:
How to follow the path of least resistance:
All you need to do is gingerly pick your way along the unknown way, one step at a time, simply finding your next point of least resistance. What’s the easiest way to go that feels like it’s in the right direction? Forget the whole picture. Don’t call this one step a drop in the bucket. Your point of least resistance simply gives you access to movement. One step, and another, and the next, until you’re moving so well, you forget you didn’t know how to do this. You’ll course-correct as you go, so don’t worry about whether you’re heading just the right way. You’re meant to build and ride momentum.
Hey, it’s not just that the path of least resistance will get you to where you’re going in the most effortless way. Remember the quote I began with from Abraham-Hicks? “The path of least resistance is also the path of greatest joy, greatest clarity, and the most fun!” So when it feels like that … you’re on it!
Love & blessings, Jaya
Note that an earlier post on least resistance approaches these concepts from another angle.
Photo on left courtesy of zwalshphotography
A Formula for Meeting Feelings Well
I’ve got a sentence for you to play with—a formula, actually, with an X to plug something into, but its purpose isn’t mathematical. It’s to support you to move through any strong feeling better, with greater awareness, in a way that’s kind to yourself. It has the lovely effect of both allowing you to come closer to a feeling, while simultaneously giving you distance and perspective—thus beginning to set you free, or to disconnect overt suffering from pain or discomfort.
Unavoidable Pain/Optional Suffering
There’s no way to avoid feeling bad sometimes. It seems to be a reality of a human life on planet Earth. We haven’t done something wrong or failed at being an evolving human being when we feel bad. Grief is real. Depression strikes. We have angry reactions (and they’re actually useful, sometimes, to show us that something’s off and must be dealt with) or feel building frustration (which is useful to call us to a reset if we catch it and respond!). There’s truly no problem with feeling bad. The problem is that we let it get to us, hijack the mind, and take us down the rabbit hole—or to places far uglier and less cozy than I imagine any rabbit hole to be. We quickly go from pain or discomfort to overt suffering--and that part is typically optional.
Think-Feel Feedback Loop
You’ve seen yourself put a story to what you’re feeling, right? You’ve caught yourself reviewing details of the story that seems to be the obvious cause of a bad feeling. Absorbed in the story, you intensify the feeling, and that stronger feeling asks for more story. Redundantly reviewing its details and your assessments of it (not fair, not okay, makes no sense), you get sucked in deeper; the feeling gets stronger still. Taking off on some defensive inner response (not what I meant, not my fault, not what I usually do) or some wretched interpretation (unseen, abandoned, betrayed), you may successfully get stuck in a bad feeling and perpetuate it for some time.
Come Close to Feelings You May Want to Push Away
Even if you try to shove it down, you can’t quite shake it off. It colors whatever you do—certainly your sense of well-being, possibly what others around you experience. The dark cloud you carry around may dim the whole room. Or are you someone who pretends it’s all good, unaware you’re radiating something false and impenetrable that frustrates and mystifies those around you?
But you could come close to the feeling instead, even magnify it for a moment, and really let yourself feel it. (By feel it, I mean feel it, not think about it.) Hey, the feeling’s here anyway (it’s present), so you may as well give it your awareness (your presence). That’s where my formula comes in.
Tell yourself, This is what X feels like. Ideally, sit down or lie down with it a moment, but you could do this while working on the computer, or performing any rote task. Here you are, living your human life. And here’s this normal (painful) feeling: X.
If you can close your eyes, this can help you drop fully into the feeling, even for 30 seconds or a minute. I’m going to first walk you through coming close to the feeling, then have you notice you’re gaining distance in so doing.
Plug In a Feeling Name for X
Your first job is to fill in the X with your best label or name for the feeling at hand.
This is what loneliness feels like.
This is what techno-frustration feels like.
This is what worry about someone you love feels like.
This is what distress over planetary problems feels like.
Whatever it is, name it, plug it in for X, and take it in.
This Is What X Feels Like
This. This is what it feels like. The phrase itself holds an invitation to feel it, so that's your second job. Not just feel it, but feel it precisely. You could
In short, come close enough that you truly let yourself feel what you’re feeling. In this way, you get present to the feeling. By not ignoring or minimizing it, you teach yourself that you’re fully equipped to feel this painful sensation: it’s not bigger than you; it won’t get the best of you.
Into the Feeling, Out of Conceptualizing It!
Perhaps most important, this gets you out of transferring a bodily sensation to the mind, making a concept out of it, bypassing the actual felt, sensory experience of what’s moving through you. This in itself is powerful. It also allows the feeling X, I believe, to better move through you and move on: you know, that pesky the-way-out-is-through thing.
The Simple Power of Breathing a Feeling
And while you’re giving X your awareness, you might consciously give it breath, though it’s likely that will happen anyway. The breath is soothing, calming, leveling to the nervous system. The breath is kind. You might think in terms of the breath wanting to support you and get you through whatever you’re moving through.
The breath, too, is a felt, sensory experience that we seldom feel at all. When you sit with this formula, tune in to the breath (no manipulations needed, though you’re welcome to slow it down and deepen it if you like—it’ll go that direction anyway if you give it attention for a bit).
Gaining Distance from the Feeling by Joining the Human Race
As you repeat This is what X feels like, be aware that any number of human beings have felt this way over time. Right now, some are feeling it right along with you. Connect to them. Be one with them. You might even imagine specific faces. Take these from all the continents, from various races, ages, socio-economic levels, gender expressions. We are all one. You are not alone, and in holding awareness of others in the same boat, you cast your vote that they feel relief too, that they feel less alone too.
As you simply keep holding what X feels like with the gaze of the compassionate, dispassionate witness, noticing that others feel it too, welcome yourself to the human race. Take the compassion you’re able (probably more easily) to extend to others, and bring it back to yourself. (Aw, sweetheart, Ow.) And know it's okay for you to feel this: it's something that human beings, in the course of a lifetime, over the course of eons, feel and have felt. Why shouldn’t you feel it too, just for now? There’s no problem.
And you don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to add in and review and get preoccupied with the story of the hour that seems to have launched the feeling X. You can just feel this pain. You can let it move through you and move on.
Love & blessings, Jaya
p.s. Want a list of things NOT to get involved with when you feel bad? Here are my well-loved (helpful, practical) 11 Rules for When You’re Discouraged or Distressed.