COMBATING SEASONAL GRATITUDE by Cultivating Sustainable Gratitude
I am great at being grateful . . . the week of Thanksgiving.
This is not to say that I am not a grateful individual year-round. The phrases “Thank you” and “I appreciate you” are phrases I utter every day. I recognize that I am privileged, and that I truly do not have a viable excuse to be anything less than grateful every single day, regardless of season.
And yet, as Thanksgiving, and the holidays as a whole, draw near, I notice myself becoming hyper-aware of the frequency and means by which I express, or do not, express gratitude.
And I find that I have a lot of work to do.
I find that my gratitude habits are similar to my dental hygiene habits. I brush my teeth two –three times a day, every day, but I don’t really think about it. I don’t think about just how thorough I am being, or if I spend equal time brushing each side of my mouth.
But, when I know I have a dentist appointment approaching, I find myself thinking: “Oh shit.
Have I been meticulous enough to have a passable cleaning?” I become as thorough as I can be, spending ample and equal time on each side, flossing with rigor, putting time, care, and attention in to my routine rather than simply going through the motions.
Such can be said for my gratitude habits.
I find myself saying the words “Thank you” and “I appreciate it” sporadically throughout each day, but, admittedly, sometimes without much thought. I’ll say “Thank you” to someone who holds a door for me, without thinking twice, but more so out of habit than intention. I go through the motions of verbally expressing gratitude, but hardly make the time to truly reflect on what, or who, it is I am grateful for.
But, when I know Thanksgiving, and the holidays, are approaching, I find myself thinking: “Oh shit. Have I actually been expressing gratitude in a meaningful, and substantive way?” I begin consciously making an effort to tell my loved ones how thankful I am for them. I begin making time and space to visit with the friends and family I seldom see. I try to more actively give and become aware of just how much I receive.
And I realize that, that warm, fuzzy feeling I get around the holidays . . . that feeling of spending time with my humans and being brought to tears with how beautiful they are; that feeling of recognizing the abundance I have and knowing it needs to be shared with others; that feeling of my modest home feeling like the Palace of Versailles; that feeling of sheer, overwhelming awe at my simple and beautiful existence . . . that feeling isn’t bred by turkey on Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas trees, or the Macy’s Day Parade, or any of these cultural phenomena that have come to represent the holidays.
That feeling is cultivated, simply, by bringing awareness to intentional expressions of gratitude and making time for honest reflection on what truly matters, and what does not. And the beautiful thing is. . . that feeling does not have to be seasonal, and indeed can be cultivated year ‘round.
While it sounds so easy, simply being authentically grateful, it’s something that I find myself unintentionally combating all of the time. I find myself feeling more reactive than reflective; more impatient than patient; more rigid than flexible. I absolutely wrack my brain to discover why it’s not always easy for me to cultivate sincere gratitude all the time. Is it not enough sleep? Not enough yoga? Not enough time off work? Not enough time to myself? Not enough meditation?
It’s always questions such as the above, questions along the lines of “What don’t I have enough of?” that lead me so far astray from what this time of year lights a fire under each of us to remember: gratitude for what we do have.
When I take the time to actually sit and think about what my life is comprised of, those moments of reaction, impatience, and rigidity simply fade away and are replaced by an overwhelming awareness of the abundance I do have. I am reminded that bills, work stress, material items like cars or computers malfunctioning . . . all of these things that can contribute to the reactivity, the impatience, and the rigidity of my day-to-day life are so absolutely finite and miniscule compared to the infinite beauty that I have been fortunate enough to experience in my life.
And I find myself wondering how much more reflective, how much more patient, and how much more flexible I’d be if I treated every week like it was Thanksgiving week. What if, instead of waiting for holiday season to remind me of the abundance I have, I made it a point at least once every single day to intentionally express gratitude towards someone or something? What if, instead of waiting for the holidays to prompt me into seeking volunteer opportunities to serve my community, I sought an opportunity to get involved once a month? What if we, as a collective, harnessed the gratitude and togetherness prompted by holiday season, and sustained it year around?
It’s a feat that’s easier said than done, especially when so much of what we are seeing and so much of what we are told indicates that we live in particularly divisive times. And, maybe we do. But, if that’s the case, swapping seasonal gratitude for sustainable gratitude becomes more important, more integral, than ever. With the mantra of sustainable gratitude in mind, I would be remiss not to express my deepest gratitude to the Better Buzz Yoga community: our community of students, our community of teachers, our community of Sunnyside. Every single time I step into the studio, whether to teach a class or to take a class, I am inspired by the strength of practice; I am humbled by the challenge of practice; I am moved by the breath of practice; and I watch the definition of community unfold before my eyes.
Here’s to combating seasonal gratitude by cultivating sustainable gratitude together, not just this holiday season, but always.
See you on the mat.