Midday, the tenderest plants in my gardens wilt in the desert heat. And so does the gardener! As I practice cultivating a happy life in my inner Gratitude Garden, I notice my tendency to get “complainy” when temperatures linger in the teens (typical of our “Dry Summer”) or when sticky sweat doesn’t evaporate on the muggy days after monsoons set in. What’s a gratitude gardener to do in the face of daily physical misery? Other than investing in a coal-fired electricity- devouring a/c, that is? (Not an option: this gardener by definition is dedicated to “living lightly” on Mother Gaia).
My mentors like SARK and my coach Scout Wilkins tell me to “allow” what is, without judgment, and to focus on the things I can be genuinely grateful for. Pollyanna (remembered very unfondly from childhood) would have me look for the silver lining to the clouds [my old Inner Cynic would reply, “clouds–of steam?”!].
I now believe Pollyanna may actually have had the right idea: to focus on the positive wherever we can find it. I still object to her obnoxious, overly cheerful denial of “what is.” There’s often a blessing, a gift or lesson, in the heavy, hard, or miserable things that life throws at us. By accepting the unpleasant, we can access the gift. Then, by diverting our minds to what we can be grateful for in the midst of the misery, we plant the seeds for happiness to return. Every grateful thought cultivates the soul’s soil to grow more things to be grateful for!
And so, each summer morning as I soak the earth in my permaculture gardens with water from the neighborhood well, I savor the brief blessing of the cool air with its hint of moisture. My garden beds are mulched to hold as much water in place as possible in this low desert where evapotranspiration vastly exceeds precipitation. My spirit is mulched by the morning’s gratitude practice. Garden and gardener accept the day’s challenge, wilting midday if we must, then rebounding with the evening’s watering (coconut water for me, yum!) and the return of [relative] coolness.
Lest this sounds too Pollyannaish, and unlikely to work for the harder challenges of life, let me give a testimonial. Last week I left Trader Joe’s in the early afternoon with a big bag of frozen food, including a quart of my favorite Coffee Blast! ice cream. On my way out of town, my van’s water pump died with quite scary loud banging. I was able to pull into a parking lot, grateful for that refuge from the extremely busy street and for the small remaining charge on my phone battery. It took over two hours for the tow driver to show up and get the van to my mechanic on the other end of Tucson. The repair shop office had a new air “freshener” (which should read “air toxifier”–those chemicals are toxic for anyone, but especially for someone with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities!). I had to wait outside in my car for over an hour (no a/c cool refuge for me, gotta breathe!) before my best friend got off work and came to retreive me.
I was please to notive that I easily maintained my pleasantness with all involved in my little drama—including with my own mind! The months of gratitude gardening have borne fruit! I was able to maintain inner and outer peacefulness in spite of unpleasant physical symptoms from heat and pollution, long waits in challenging locations, a large repair bill, and yes, the completely melted ice cream! Everyone involved in my story was helpful (even if a bit slow!), and formerly shy me initiated mutually enjoyable conversations where I was able to affirm each person’s abilities and express gratitude for their help. Interestingly, my recovery from that day’s chemical exposures and stresses was remarkably brief, done by midmorning the next day rather than taking several days as it used to! I believe gratitude made all the difference. And I believe gratitude is helping me not only be happy “in spite of” my illness, but actually healing it.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Would YOU like to become a happier person? If you would, do you have a regular gratitude practice? If yes, you want more happiness, but no, you don’t have a gratitude practice to help you, here’s the simple one I use:
Start keeping a gratitude journal: Each morning when you wake up, take a few minutes to write down five* things you are grateful for in that moment. Take a few deep breaths and feel into your deep gratitude for these things you have listed….
You can go deeper…. Where in your body do you feel your gratitude at this moment? What color is it? What does it taste like?What does it sound like?
Yes, even on a morning after too little sleep, feeling headachy or perhaps even “down with the flu” there are things to be grateful for—the stove that is heating the water for your favorite beverage, the reward that whatever task you’ve gotten up to do may bring you, abundant food in the larder, the pillow that awaits your return…. (I have noticed that thoughts such as these help my morning headaches leave more quickly! Grumping about how bad I felt certainly did not. Many people are now teaching that what we focus on is what we get more of, and experience has made me a believer.)
If you want to accelerate your progress toward greater happiness, start a complementary celebrations log, listing 5* things you celebrate from your day just before you go to sleep. This journal is the place to notice evidence of “the magic happening”—desired changes taking place, dreams coming true, little (or big!) miracles…. Feel into this “celebration”—does it make you feel satisfied, joyous, ecstatic, excited … grateful, happy?
*You can change the number five to your own magical number (some coaches suggest three, but I often have trouble stopping with five!). Feel free to elaborate as inspired with longer journal entries or perhaps some artplay. My own journal entries have become more colorful over time, which makes me even more happy when I look at them. (I intend to start adding glitter soon!)
I believe that by doing these simple practices you will one day soon realize you are HAPPY and that your dreams are coming true.
ps… Coming soon, the launch of my first e-course, Journey to the Gratitude Garden–Seven Weeks to a Happier Life. I think it is beautiful!
I’ll give a 50% discount on the course to all who post substantive comments on this blog!
via Nature Wisdom Journey » Blog http://naturewisdomjourney.com/2013/08/04/summertime-gratitude-challenge/