Cultivating Gratitude

“Gratitude is the open door to abundance.” Yogi Bhajan

Our human brains, specifically the amygdala and the hippocampus, are designed to remember negative or “dangerous” incidents and interactions. Back in the day, it was more important that you notice the rattlesnake than the glorious field of wild flowers you found him in.

This trait can be crippling as the weight of negative events and interactions accumulates over time. Our tendency can be to get stuck thinking about the negative, which tends to attract more negative energy. (Have you ever stubbed your toe getting out of bed and had your morning deteriorate from there?)

One practices gratitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that we “cultivate gratitude.” We are not born with gratitude, but we develop it through exposure in our environment and through skill-building. In dark times, when we are in the midst of pain or struggle, finding thankful thoughts can be challenging, but this is the time it is most imperative.

Wayne Dyer suggests going outside, even for five minutes, and paying close attention to the miracles of nature. Surround yourself with positive friends or family.

Create a practice of awareness for positives in your life by starting a daily gratitude list or journal. If all you can see at the moment are basics, start there: fingers for writing/typing, running water, a bed to sleep in . . . Develop a habit of appreciation. Not to avoid sorrow, grief, or anger, but to soothe some of the pain – to help create balance.

And to welcome your experiences, as Rumi suggests:

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.

Give yourself 30 days of a daily gratitude practice and see if your perspective doesn’t shift.