November 24th 2018
Chapter 6: Gratitude practice
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to you. Wherever you may be in this moment, I hope your breath is present, is full, and is nourishing you. I hope you are taking good care of your self this weekend. I hope your heart is warm.
I had a challenging week with my daughter, mostly physical, but my mind and heart were very much challenged too. Here was the combination: single mother + sick child + poor sleep + work schedule + no extra set of hands to help/relieve = the last five days of my life. I have been here before, many of times, and each time feels like the first. Weeks like that ask everything of me. Every-fucking-thing. Weeks like that wreck me. Weeks like that also strengthen me, though I don’t recognize this until after the storm has passed.
I woke up Friday morning feeling terrible; We had our hardest night of sleep yet. I had an alarm set because I had to teach a yoga class that morning. My head was pounding, my throat was aching, and my mood was: frustrated as fuck. I peeled myself out of bed and began my morning. Something about a morning routine is so special to me. Brushing my teeth, washing my face, making a warm beverage, and sitting down to write, puts me in a pretty sweet space. Even after an icky night of sleep. I pulled out my gratitude journal and stared blankly at the pages. I had no fucking clue what to write because truthfully, I wasn’t feely ooey-gooey-positively-grateful in that moment. I was feeling frustrated and totally dropped in to my victimhood. Then I had a thought, “what if all of my current frustrations were blessings?” and I sat with that for another moment. What if I wrote down everything that was frustrating me in my gratitude journal and looked at it with a different lens? So I gave it a try. A
few things I wrote down were: single motherhood, poor sleep, coparenting, my financial situation, and lack of alone time this week. I then read everything aloud and placed “I am grateful for..” before. Then I laughed because who the fuck was I trying to kid? Am I really grateful for this stuff right now? I paused. I closed my eyes. I remembered the last time I felt this shitty. I remember growing from last time. I came back to this moment, opened my eyes, and thought “yeah, I am grateful for these frustrations” because they are what encourage me to expand. They are what motivate me to grow. They are what inspire me to be the best version of myself. I closed my gratitude journal and headed out to teach my class.
I can recall the time in my life where I wanted to start a gratitude practice. I was a newly certified yoga teacher and had been teaching for just a few months at this point. I was hearing the word ‘Gratitude’ often within the yoga/mindfulness community. Though I knew what the definition was, I remember not knowing how to practice it. We as humans can speak something our entire life without ever truly embodying and living it. I found myself perplexed in that way.
It was October in 2014 and I was about 5 months pregnant. I decided to take a solo trip to Portland for the first time. It was my ‘babymoon’ in a way; My last adventure by myself before my child would arrive earth side. I had never been before and didn’t have any friends in the area so I heavily relied on blogs and yelp to navigate the town. I used buses and trains to get around and spent much of my time walking quietly in the crispy Oregon weather. I stumbled into a large bookstore downtown one day. One of the first books I saw on display was titled “Rain, Reign” with an illustration of a little girl running in the rain. This felt serendipitous because I would later name my daughter Rayne (which was inspired by Bali’s mystical rain/sun storms.) I continued on and pretty much walked down every aisle for the next two hours. I fucking love bookstores and this was the ultimate experience. I eventually stumbled upon a section of journals. I picked out a small bright green gratitude journal.
Scanned through a few of the pages and purchased it within minutes. That was the only thing I bought at the store that day. That was the day I began my gratitude practice.
Fast forward to the present and I have filled two of those journals and am currently on my third. In hindsight, It was the beginning of my writing practice. It initiated my writing flow. It is perhaps the reason this newsletter is even a real thing.
I remember it wasn’t easy at first. Creating and maintaining a gratitude practice, that is. It took me weeks, maybe months, to create a consistent practice. Then at some point it became a part of my morning routine, and when I was away from it, I missed it. It became such a meaningful part of my day that I began applying it in other areas of my life because that felt good. I started signing my emails with it, speaking it aloud, and practicing silently in my mind when I was out experiencing life’s offerings. At some point, it took over. It became a part of me. I had reached a point where I was literally embodying Gratitude. I have photographic memories from my past that I can travel back to in an instant if I close my eyes, all because I remember the sensation of gratitude in those moments. To be clear, expressing and embodying and feeling gratitude does not always imply experiencing peace. In fact, some of the most challenging times in my life is when I tend to practice gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is more than a word; A definition.
It is a lens. It is a perspective. It is a choice. It is a way to show up. It is an embodiment. It is a practice.
A lifelong practice at that.
Some days, I have to complain and write down everything I am frustrated with to recognize and uncover what I am actually grateful for. Some days, I forget to sit down and write in my journal because I choose to be busy instead. Some days, I act a damn fool like the white privileged woman that I am and show very little gratitude to for my life. Some days, I am grateful as fucking hell and others I slip deep into my wounded child and throw a tantrum because I didn’t get my way.
It is a practice.
A lifelong, fucking, practice.
Want to be grateful? Start your practice.
It may not feel genuine at first. It didn’t for me.
Remember when you were a baby and were learning to walk for the first time? Then you fell 97,000 times? And even now, as a grown ass adult, you fucking fall?
Nothing happens overnight.
Just start to practice.
See what happens.
I love you.
Bree Irene Gwinner