This has been a week filled with gratitude as blessings have come pouring into my life in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” When I have times like this where good things overflow in my life, gratitude is easy. It comes naturally out of the overflow of the heart.
The challenge is finding a way to maintain this readiness to express gratitude when things are not going as well—the times when blessings appear to be few and far between, the times when it feels like troubles are what is overflowing in our lives. And yet, it is in those times when a consistent practice of gratitude can be most helpful.
I read a post by Ilene Solomon recently in Tiny Buddha called Shifting Suffering into Gratitude: Go Upside Down that talks about this challenge of being grateful when times are hard. Ilene recounts finding a way to shift her perspective that grew out of her yoga practice of doing handstands. A handstand gives us the chance to see the world upside down for a short time. Quite a shift in perspective! Sometimes this physical change in perspective can help us metaphorically “see” our lives from a different perspective as well.
She tells of how this shift in perspective enabled her to many things to be grateful for in the very midst of the sadness she was facing. Finding gratitude even in her challenges changed her experience of the situation, which helped relieve her suffering.
I love the synergistic nature of this interaction. A shift in perspective about the situation enables a greater sense of gratitude in that situation, and the greater sense of gratitude enables a more positive experience of the situation, which automatically shifts perspective about the situation, which increases gratitude … and so on.
While handstands are not everyone’s cup of tea, it is possible for all of us to find ways to shift our perspective about the things that are happening in our lives in a positive way to make space for gratitude. As our practice of gratitude increases, it makes this shift of perspective toward the positive even easier.
Likewise, if we start with an increased practice of gratitude wherever we can find it, it begins to shift our perspective on life around us to become increasingly positive over time, which makes the practice of gratitude flow even more easily.
For some of us, working on a change in perspective to make space for gratitude may be where we need to start. For others, expressing gratitude to make room for a shift in perspective might be more fruitful. Perhaps a focus on both areas may be needed by others to get moving. No matter where we start, the two practices work together to increase the ease at which the other flows.
We will all always face times of hardship in our lives. It is a part of living. But the more we have practiced gratitude and shifting our perspective in the positive direction, the easier it will be for us to maintain a sense of gratitude even in those hard times.
So, I am consciously using these moments when gratitude comes so easily to help me shift perspective on the parts of my life that are more challenging so that I can find gratitude even in those places. It’s good practice to prepare myself for future times when it may not feel as easy to be grateful.
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