“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” ~ Hugh Downs
At any given moment, there are so many blessings that surround me. There’s the external things and the internal things; from my beautiful apartment, to the forest behind it, to my car, to the heat that warms my apartment, to my laptop, my instruments, the food that stocks my fridge, the maple trees and the lush plants on my front porch that make me feel surrounded by aliveness; my job as a Nia Trainer; my job as a freelance writer. These are some of the beautiful external blessings that feed my body and soul every day. To balance this are all the many unseen, yet vividly palpable blessings that go even deeper than material objects: My resilience, self-awareness, inner peace, ability to transform, acceptance, openness to emotion, love, compassion, expression, self-healing, my healthy body; the Joy of Movement, present in my cells.
Finally, there are the blessings that bridge these two worlds: My family, my relationship, my friends, my students, and my connection to the sensation of life in every living thing. Adjectives don’t do justice to what these blessings mean to me. They are an essential part of my reality that reflect the sacredness of life back to me every day.
After writing all this, I’m left with a sensation that feels not only sustainable, but inspiring and fulfilling. It’s the sensation of gratitude. When I sense gratitude, I sense relaxation in my body, warmth, and I sense my nervous system shift into a greater state of calm as my breath deepens. Literally, gratitude helps me breathe in life more fully.
What is the sensation of gratitude in your body? What are your “go-to blessings” that you turn your attention toward when you’re wanting to choose and sense more of it?
Dr.Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is one of the top researchers on the topic of gratitude in North America. According to Emmons, gratitude is a “chosen attitude.” What I love about this statement is that it so closely mirrors Nia’s process for sensing Universal Joy: we say that the first step is to choose it. Choice is a powerful vehicle for transformation because it puts the response-ability square in our lap. When I recognize that feeling grateful is a choice, my entire reality shifts because I see, feel, and experience my life through a lens of appreciation and abundance, rather than resentment and deficit.
One of my favorite authors, Dr.Joan Borysenko, has an entire chapter in one of her books called Champagne Suffering. Although the term has nothing to do with how to cure a bad prosecco hang-over, it does shed light on the topic of gratitude by recognizing the everyday things that can distract us from sensing it…
Champagne Suffering refers to the little inconveniences we encounter throughout the day that can easily work on the ego to feel like we are “suffering”, when in fact, we’re just experiencing the daily realities of living in a body on planet Earth. Some examples include traffic, broken appliances, sore muscles, lines (at the grocery store or otherwise), arguing with a loved one, undesired weather – you get the idea. They’re the kind of things, that, when put into the greater perspective of life, are small hurdles to overcome. My Nia Trainer friend Jill Factor told me such things have also been called First World Problems, a term I also love! Having an awareness of champagne suffering helps keep my feet on the ground while also widening my viewpoint of myself and the world. When I am unscathed by menial distractions i.e. when I don’t sweat the small stuff, the amount of positive, creative energy within me seems to multiply ten-fold.
Gratitude changes my cells, and being changed, I see the world anew. It brings out the best in me while also bringing the best to me, as I get to witness the many blessings that surround me. Sensing gratitude, I feel the depth of my aliveness and the infinite power of uttering two simple words, “Thank you.”
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie