Hello and welcome to Friday, March 18, 2022. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again. What’s motivating and inspiring you today?
Some days it can be a struggle just to get out of bed. There is a daily practice that we can do, however, to make this struggle, and other struggles like it, a thing of the past.
This week’s practical suggestion is simple and yet can produce profound changes in how you perceive and interact with this sometimes-messy world. The following daily journaling exercise can take as little as five minutes and it is broken down into three parts: Gratitude, Impermanence, and Meaning.
Gratitude: Though I must admit that writing a gratitude list each morning can sometimes feel contrived and inauthentic, this part of the journaling practice alone has created a huge shift in how I think about the world and my life in it.
One problem that troubles so many of us is that we focus our attention mainly on what is ‘not right’ in our life. Our minds seem determined to notice and mull over (and over) what’s wrong or what’s missing. The media doesn’t help. But a focus only on what’s lacking creates an extremely inaccurate picture of what’s actually happening in the world around us.
Though unfortunate events happen…from minor irritations like traffic or some mean thing someone once said to you, to grander scale problems like the pandemic and Putin’s war on Ukraine…there are exponentially more things going on that benefit our lives. These often get overlooked or taken for granted.
When I write my gratitude list I include things like my education, food, and clothing. I also list things like my sobriety, the people in my life who support and love me, my job, the roads I drive on, and the fact that I have a car. I’m truly grateful that I have time for leisure and recreation. I often reflect on the fact that I have a cozy house with hot and cold running water, a bed to sleep in, and a refrigerator and pantry stocked with food. There are times when I call to mind that I’m healthy, have access to highly educated nurses and doctors, that I don’t have cancer, a toothache, a broken bone, or a stubbed toe. Sometimes, when I feel really inspired, I reflect on the infinite causes and conditions that had to coalesce for me to be alive and have all the opportunities and resources to which I have immediate access in this moment. Though there was a time when I was consumed with the problems of the world and how, if only things were different, I could be happy, I really didn’t believe that I had much to be grateful for. This practice of writing a gratitude list has helped me to see just how wrong I was.
While I listed many things above, your gratitude list doesn’t have to be fancy or long. Each morning, simply jot down a few things that you are grateful for. It is a well-established fact that we focus on, grows. Over time, watch how your gratitude list evolves and expands into something that transforms how you perceive your life and the world around you.
Impermanence: You have a precious life, but you won’t have it forever. The number one cause of death is life, and no-one is promised a tomorrow. In the beginning, I struggled with death. I was deathly afraid of death! In time and with skillful guidance, I began to understand the usefulness of reflecting on my own eventual, inevitable demise.
This reflection on death isn’t meant to be morbid or grounds for regret, anxiety, or sorrow. When we live with the awareness that our life is temporary, intentionally cultivating gratitude for all we have, including this day, this moment, we are inspired to live each moment more fully.
Sustained, embodied awareness of impermanence helps to reduce the suffering associated with our aversion to difficulties and our attachment to things pleasurable. As we move through the day, we’ll find that we are less bothered by inevitable change if we can maintain awareness that everything is transient. When times are tough, we are comforted that they will pass. And when times are enjoyable, we deepen our appreciation knowing that this too will change. When we can readily call to mind the transient nature of all things, it makes the difficulties a bit easier to bear and inspires us to engage more deeply during uplifting times and to savor especially the ordinary and routine times of our day, and life.
Meaning: The last piece of this practice asks us to call to mind what will be important to us at the end of our life. Is it all the things that we worry about, stress over, and concern ourselves with each day? Though they are not insignificant, are things like a leaky roof, a flat tire, having to work in a job that you may not like, a future vacation, or how much gas costs now really going to matter to you in the moment before you close your eyes for the last time? Probably not that much. What will most likely matter is the quality of your relationships and how you showed up to the events in your life.
In thinking about what makes up a good day, is it a good day when traffic moved smoothly, dinner was tasty, and your boss didn’t yell at you for something? Or is it a good day when you showed up as the best version of yourself, even in challenging and difficult situations? Though we can learn from it, it never feels good to wish that we would have showed up differently when things got rough.
When we are clear what a meaningful life looks like, it gives us direction in the choices of our day.
Journaling on these three areas each day is truly transformative. Over time (and it doesn’t take as long as you may think), you will find yourself feeling more uplifted and inspired and less prone to react negatively when unsettling things happen. In time, you will find that your complaints are replaced with solution-oriented thoughts and actions, and you will have a deeper awareness and appreciation for the ordinary events in your life. This is not academic; this is my experience.
If you would like more information or some personal instruction to get you started, I am here to help.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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