Thursday, July 7, 2011

A battle between Ennui and Gratitude

I am having one of those days when I have a very long to-do list, but I cannot seem to make myself do anything that actually *needs* to get done. Of course I can manage to play Words with Friends, troll on the internet for blogs and recipes, and watch episode of "Mercy" on Netflix, but forget about mopping the floor or doing my Yoga Teacher Training homework. It's sort of a mix of the blah's and the I-don't-want-to-work-I-want-to-bang-on-the-drum-all-day's. If I was going to be this unproductive, I wish I would have just gone to the beach!

One thing I can say for myself is that I have been letting some ideas marinate in my head for the practice yoga class I am supposed to plan and teach at this weekend's penultimate training. It would be better if I was farther along in my actual "lesson plan," but I will get there eventually, I'm sure.

I've been ruminating on the concept of Gratitude, which in yoga philosophy is called Aparigraha. One of the 5 yamas, Aparigraha is also translated as "awareness of abundance, fulfillment," or "non-greed, non-possessiveness." It's one of the main tenets of yoga philosophy that encourages us to reflect our true nature by living in peace with ourselves and each other.

Gratitude is also a topic that came up in an article I read for our pre-practicum class last session in school, and how important it is as part of Positive Psychology. The article was about how to be an "authentically happy School Psychologist." Research done in the field of positive psychology found that people who kept "gratitude journals," where they wrote down things, events, or people for which or whom they felt grateful, experienced greater SWB, or subjective well-being. Essentially, people who make an active effort to feel and express gratitude are happier. Research suggests these people enjoy their work more, are more energetic and optimistic, and are more likely to offer help and support to others (If anyone wants the citations for these articles, just let me know!) So why don't we all do this every day?

As a society, we have Thanksgiving Day as one day a year when we pause to give thanks for the blessings in our lives, but the irony is that we eat like gluttons on that day! I'm not necessarily saying that we shouldn't -- I love green bean casserole and turkey with fresh cranberry sauce! -- but a part of Aparigraha is feeling grateful for the abundance we *already* have in our lives and not needing to grasp onto all these other things.

Amazingly, Gratitude can also be a powerful antidote to angry or frustrated feelings. I know that when feeling upset, it can be extremely difficult to access logic or opposite positive emotions. (Trust me, I definitely don't manage to do this all the time.) But on the occasions when I have been able to stop, breathe, and think about something I am thankful for, it is easier to let the frustration or anger go. If Anger is a block of ice, Gratitude melts it into water so you can no longer hold onto it. One example from this past winter: I was waiting on the train platform, early in the morning. I was tired, it was cold and raining, I had a long day ahead of me, and to top it off, the train was late for the gazillionth day in a row. I could feel the frustration rising up inside, like this day was already doomed... but I was able to stop and think...Well, at least I have a warm coat on, I remembered to bring my umbrella, and I have a mug full of hot coffee. It could be worse. And by concentrating on those things I was grateful for, I just couldn't hold on to that frustration anymore, and the day went on OK.

So today, even though I haven't been as productive as I should have, I am still grateful for many things: For the beautiful summer weather, for the wonderful Farmer's Market in town where I got these scrumptious raspberries and this stunning dahlia, and for coming home to a cool air-conditioned apartment.

(In the background of the photo, you can see Gatsby being grateful that I let him lick the empty peanut butter jar! And here's hoping the husband is grateful I didn't go ahead and eat all the raspberries myself :P )

1 comment:

  1. Namaste!
    We share a kinship in the way we think. I will testify to Gratitude journals. I have kept them off and on and they are very nourishing. There is always a silver lining!

    XO SM