I’ve always been a fairly enthusiastic (understatement?) and glass-half-full kind of gal. I don’t know if I was born that way, or if my parents were just that talented, but it’s my nature. Before moving to Seattle, I joked that the hipsters were going to HATE me once I started asking how their day is going and blasting them with, as my friend Lois calls them, love beams. I know. I’m ridiculous. And probably overwhelming, not just for hipsters.
But sometimes, when some part of life is feeling heavy, I can move away from that nature. Negativity and gloom can take over and cover up my “puppies and rainbows,” or buddha-nature. In Buddhism, it is believed that we are all innately perfect, that we are buddhas, enlightened beings, pure love, and that our inherit nature is covered up by fear, insecurity, and limiting thoughts of ourselves and others. The Buddhist path is to develop a practice to slowly remove those obscurations to let our inner light shine through, and to help others do the same. This pillar of the faith/philosophy is one of the main reasons that I felt so drawn to Buddhism and immediately felt that I had come home.
When the obscurations feel like they have taken a turn and are gaining on me, when it’s hard for me to remember my light, it becomes overwhelming, and dark. For a while, other than meditating and doing yoga, I didn’t have many tools for breaking out of the funk, and sometimes I would come out of meditation and still want to hit someone :)
The practice that changed everything for me was cultivating gratitude and excitement in a finite way (not just listening to the vague “be grateful” command) and doing so on a daily basis. Here’s how I do it…
Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I do some writing. After I finish getting my thoughts down, I make two lists. First, 10 things that I’m grateful for from the day before, and second, 10 things that I’m excited about for the day to come. At first, it feels a little forced. What happens, though, is that I really do start to get excited for my day, and feel grateful for the great things I experienced the day before.
With both lists, sometimes it is hard to think of 10 things, and because of that, I have to find gratitude and excitement in the small stuff. Like walking my dog past my favorite hydrangea bushes, or saying hi to the incredibly sweet homeless woman who stands outside my grocery store and receiving her smile. When I don’t have enough excitement on my list, I have to ADD MORE! Small things, big things, doesn’t matter. I’ll add that I’d like to grab a glass of wine with my husband after work at our neighborhood cafe, or that I’ll walk over to my favorite park on my lunch break and sit in my favorite spot with the beautiful view of Seattle.
This practice forces you to create a life that you are EXCITED about, and to be deeply grateful for it.
I invite you to try it. And not just on the days you feel gloomy (it will not work), but every single day. It takes 5 minutes, and makes a world of difference.
With gratitude, excitement, and love,