As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving I know the word that often comes up is Gratitude (probably quickly followed up by stress, anxiety, or dread at navigating complex family dynamics.)
For a long period of time I shied away from the practice of gratitude. Like many of the spiritual practices I had embraced, it started to feel a bit like spiritual by-passing. In other words, it felt like a way to try and skip over or deny moments of hardship, devastation, or stress.
"Just focus on what you have to be grateful for," sounds great in theory, but when you are knee deep in pain or turmoil, statements like these can feel incredibly hurtful to the authentic experience you are navigating through.
Not to mention that thinking about gratitude when you are sad, angry or hurt is a huge leap in your emotional state, and can feel overwhelming to try and accomplish. And then when you aren't able to shift into feeling grateful out of sadness or despair you use it as yet another reason to beat yourself up.
So, the practice that helped me reconnect with gratitude in a way that felt meaningful, empowering, authentic, and ultimately bad-ass is the practice of "thank you."
Here's an example:
I have a few intense, opinionated individuals in my life. As an empath I am very sensitive to the moods and changes of energy in others. I would encounter one of these individuals after they had endured a trying day, and immediately feel the brusk-ness of their emotional state. They would say something that I would take as a personal jab, and instead of jumping into defense mode I would take a deep breath and internally say:
"Thank you. Thank you for helping me. I do not know how this is helping me. Quite honestly I don't like anything about this. I don't like how you are acting. I don't like how I feel in response. AND, I am willing to be open to receiving new perspectives and I am open to seeing how this is helping me."
*Notice here the importance of being honest with yourself. This is the key to authenticity - honesty with yourself and what you are feeling.*
Almost immediately I would get the feeling that these scenarios, these prickly people, were helping me untangle myself from being responsible for everyone else's happiness. Helping me untangle my sense of worth from the varying moods of those around me. Helping me recognize that when other people act out in unsavory ways it has nothing to do with me. Helping me recognize my capacity to be sovereign in my relationship with my own heart regardless of external circumstances.
Every time I would get triggered by someone I would drop into this thank you practice. And one of the greatest gifts that arose was the recognition that these people were simply triggering and bringing to the forefront of my awareness the next aspect of my heart that needed love, acknowledgment, compassion and tenderness.
The aspect of me that want's everyone to feel good and happy so that they have more emotional capacity to give me love. The aspect of me that want's to be perfect. The aspect that want's everyone to believe what I believe. The part of me that want's everyone to like me. The part of me consumed in anger, judgment, frustration, irritation, etc.
"Thank you. Thank you for helping me recognize the next aspect of my heart waiting in line to be loved by me as never before."
So as we prepare to head into a day that can be stressful and trying, may we arm ourselves with this bad-ass practice of thank-you. Through this practice may we recognizing that all of the characters of our family are here to serve our highest evolution, triggering and bringing to the forefront of our awareness the next aspect of ourselves that have long been denied our love and compassion.
May we receive this gift so that we can untangle our dependencies from others and embrace our power and capacity to reclaim all fragmented or denied aspects of our humanity, becoming the healer, guru, parent, lover and friend to the innocence of our own heart.