… from the bungalow

An Attitude of Gratitude

11 Comments

Gratitude. It’s at the top of my list of traits that can change the world. Number one is Love. Really “seeing” others and practicing genuine kindness; those things come from a place of love and can make the difference between peace and war. But gratitude–honest-to-God appreciation for the things in my life–is crucial. Giving thanks is one of the most powerful catalysts for change. I really believe that.

When I was a kid and going through First Communion Class (the Lutheran’s version of Catechism in the Catholic church), my pastor said something to us that has always stuck with me, even (especially) now as a non-Christian adult: Always start prayer by giving thanks. Gratitude shows humility and appreciation, which allows room in your heart for acceptance and growth.

I am blessed to have had a life-changing experience involving acceptance and appreciation. Well, many experiences, but one major experience stands out in my mind. It was during a “conscious connected breathing” workshop with Jack Fontana. Before we got started, Jack talked to us about what we might expect and explained that, “There is no such thing as pain; only intensity.” During this group exercise, we were guided into a breath- and music-induced altered state of consciousness. (Note: If you’ve ever considered doing such an exercise, please don’t let my personal experience scare you. What happened to me happens to only a small percentage of participants. Mine was just particularly… intense. And it was a powerful experience.) During the height of my experience, I felt a lot of “intensity.” I began to tighten up. Everywhere. I had spasms in almost every muscle in my body. I imagine I might have looked like someone with cerebral palsy. Trapped in my own body and subconscious…

I wanted out.

But then something occurred to me. I was holding on so tightly to the very thing I wanted to get away from that every muscle in my body clenched up, clinging on for dear life. “Stop fighting,” a voice told me. Accept and embrace. So, remembering what Jack had told us beforehand, I did just that. I knew I wasn’t going to be hurt. I knew I was safe because it was “me.” My mind, my body, my spirit. I wasn’t trapped at all.

So rather than trying to fight against my body, I pushed into it. As much “intensity” as I was feeling in my muscles, I tightened them even further. As I did this, I began to feel a sense of power I’d never felt before. The thing in my subconscious that had come into the light–the thing I wanted to retreat from–became nothing more than a fragile, pitiful little thing, and I embraced it. I thanked it for the purpose it had served, but knew that it was no longer needed. And it was in this moment–a moment of true, humble appreciation–that everything began to relax. My arms slowly uncurled and I felt a tingling sensation that worked its way down from my shoulders through my fingertips, like someone was peeling off a layer of ick. The fire in my legs was slowly put out. Even my face had been frozen, but was now starting to ease into a neutral position. I had done it. I had let go, and I was free.

I simply turned the tables. I then knew on a very deep level that this thing didn’t own me. I owned it. And if I’m going to own something, I own it. Ownership is at the heart of responsibility. Taking ownership of the things that happen in our lives brings a sense of contentment and control. But this realization could not have occurred to me had I not started with acceptance and imbued it with love and humility to create–you guessed it–gratitude.

Gratitude allows you to let go and look to the next thing, the next step, the next stage. When you focus on the stuff you don’t like by “wishing” it away, there’s no room in your life for the thing you want to replace it with. But it isn’t about simply ignoring the bad stuff. If you ignore your heating bill long enough, you’ll find yourself in the cold. Instead, may you be grateful for the resources you do have, find contentment in knowing you have enough and know that there is more in store for you.

Enlightening (and storytelling) from the bungalow,

Chris

There are so many more interesting things that happened during that experience, but it would be beyond the scope of this post to go into too much detail. But what about you? What are you grateful for? Or, how has gratitude changed things in your life for the better?

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Author: Chris

A dad with a self-evaluation complex. Also a music therapist, college enrollment administrator, and hippie-nerd.

11 thoughts on “An Attitude of Gratitude

  1. I remember the first time you shared that experience with me. You were crying just talking about it, and it made me cry. I have since hoped for such an enlightening experience, but no such luck. Of course, that defeats the purpose of this post. In my desire to have such an experience, I forget the other wonderful, magical things developing within me, spiritually. I know that in time, I will have that release, as well. I only have to be patient. YOU are teaching me these things.
    I am grateful for YOU.
    Keep writing, Chris. It gets better and better every time.

    • Thank you, Karin. I know that not everyone has had the opportunity to do something like this, or is willing, or has even heard of such a thing. That’s exactly why I share. I love being able to learn or grow from someone else’s experiences, so why not share some of mine?

  2. My new mantra for 2011 (and onward): Practice gratitude, honor ordinary, lean into joy

  3. I had a similar experience, less physical and on the spiritual level. It was at a retreat led by Jimmy Carter’s sister, Ruth Stapleton (now deceased).
    It was very Christ-centered. It was life altering.

    • Cool, I didn’t know that about you, Mary. Thanks for sharing. This experience was most definitely a spiritual one. There was much more to it, but too much to get into in this post. Thanks again for reading!

  4. There is something similar to this in what I have been taught by others on my journey… they referred to it as ‘confronting your shadow’. While it isn’t exactly the same, it is closely related, I think. In that experience, you see everything you dislike about yourself, every negative emotion you’ve felt and couldn’t let go, as though it were a phantom, either in meditation or in dreams.
    I, personally, have begun to experience this… the key is to accepting that phantom as part of you, and loving it– because love can heal the wounds that time cannot, and only you can love yourself for the things that other’s can’t see.

    The object of my gratitude… well… although I may not show it at all times, I am grateful for everything… for my life, my family and friends, all of my experiences, and everything I have waiting for me. Though that may sound odd, since it’s so vague, it’s the truth.

    • Yes, that’s the idea. We all have shadows; most of us just ignore them and allow them to be part of who we are. I say face ’em, embrace ’em and let ’em go. 🙂

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