Thursday, January 20, 2011

Latitudes of Gratitude

Okay fine, I admit it—I took the lazy man's approach to that headline. Rhyming is always my go-to when I'm in a hurry. And these days, I'm in a hurry almost every moment of the day. Even when I'm sleeping, I think I'm probably rushing through REM so I can wake up and get stuff done.

I did find a few free moments Monday night, however. And I used them to attend my very first meditation class.

It was quite fascinating, listening to the teacher's lecture on shedding self consciousness; attempting to stay serene for 30 whole minutes when the most I've really ever tried to meditate is about 120 seconds; hearing questions people had regarding their personal meditation practices.

But the highlight of the night for me was a quote the teacher recited.

Acceptance culminates in gratitude.

Perhaps this is a core Buddhist principle and I'm just too far removed from that philosophy to know it. But oh the power of that statement. Imagine if by accepting different things in our lives, we could actually become grateful for them.

The idea of this appeals to me greatly, and also seems like the biggest struggle in the world. I am very good at accepting certain things—waiting in traffic for example. Often, it allows me to listen to great music or just have quiet down time. So even though it can be frustrating, there are may instances in which I end up being thankful for it.

Other things—people, rules, ways of thinking—are nearly impossible for me to accept, let alone be thankful for.

As I pondered the quote after class, I realized that just like meditation, gratitude must be practiced to be perfected. You almost have to force yourself to feel grateful for it to start coming naturally. Force yourself to look at the positives; to find reasons to say thanks. "Force" is probably a terrible word to be using here, considering we're talking about acceptance... But I think in some situations, a gratitude journal or ongoing list of upsides is the only way one can reach a point where they really accept something and see it for its goodness.

It's even harder for me than usual to adopt this way of thinking right now. I am swamped at work, carrying the Giant Wedding To Do list with every muscle in my mind, trying not to count the days that Mr. W has been gone, looking for breathers in my over-booked social calendar. Frustration feels a lot more comfortable right now than gratitude does. But I guess that just means it's that much more important for me to try to cultivate gratitude every day...


Sizzle said...

You know I love this post, right?

Of course I do!

I am happy to hear you are meditating. Love that quote too. Going to jot that one down and post it up at my desk (ok, everywhere).

I only meditate at most for 20 minutes. My teacher said that longer than that if you are not a seasoned meditator, can be counter-productive. Some days I only go for 10 minutes but it all helps.

laura said...

Acceptance culminates in gratitude.
Remember this when you are opening gifts that are not on your registry. :)

LesleyG said...

I love this. It IS hard to remember to be grateful, when we're drowning just a bit. Even if it is gifts in which we're drowning.

Scribe said...

I used to be a glass half full type of thinker. It actually pissed people off, and lately, that has been switched and I find myself counting items on a list of negatives. As of this past January, I turned over a new leaf. Instead of automatically turning to the negatives, I've started taking a deep breath (meditation) and going through the good checklist. It's a slow process but worth it in the end.

Oh, and I use traffic time the same way and often can be seen singing to other drivers in the next lane. I usually get a smile.

Big Sister said...

I love our cousin Laura!!! She is right!

I'm glad you went to the class and I think it will help you clear your mind of all the clutter, even if just for a few minutes here and there.

Now go start accepting things....

You've Got to Be Kidding Me said...

I think after enough practice, acceptance naturally transforms into gratitude. I see it as a process, a universal and continual unfolding. I think you get to a point where it's hard to see the difference between acceptance and gratitude. Or maybe I'm over-thinking it? I'm re-taking my temple's mediation workshop this spring. I took it about a decade or more ago and I thought it might be nice to revisit. Glad you're enjoying yours.

Danielle said...

Almost every book I am reading right now hits on this exact statement. it is so true and yet so hard to actuallyallow yourself to do! I am trying like hell though!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Apparently you've been spending a bit of time with Siddhartha lately, eh?

Have you ever been out to the Lake Shrine?