It is hard to practice gratitude, when you are trying to feel thankful for all the things that you have ever experienced. 

I just couldn’t do it, I have done stupid things, I have regrets these things I would change if I could. I am a human. I do however appreciate the contemplation that all the stupidity, mistakes and regrets go alongside everything else on the path that has lead to now and for this moment and life I can find overflowing rivers of gratitude (usually coming out of my eyes).

Events in my life have taught me that the first act in cultivating self worth is to appreciate what is.

‘It just is’, ‘and so it goes’. ‘What are you going to do about it?’

Give thanks. (but)

By way of a Leila Sadeghee at East End Kula Yoga Practice (holla!) we were introduced to Brother David Steindl-Rast he says:

“There are many things for which we cannot be grateful, but there is no moment for which we cannot be grateful, because in every moment, even difficult ones, we have the opportunity to do something.”

Bad things happen and they make you feel bad and for this it is hard to be grateful - accidents, natural disasters, death, destruction and general unexpected, undeserved bad stuff is hard on the person contemplating gratitude for life.

So then I tried just looking for the opportunity.

[What even in being broke or missing the bus? yes at the very least missing the bus, let alone death and poverty!]

I can’t really argue, with myself or my teachers on this one as it’s having a positive approach to the future, the unknown and the very moment you are in. 
Whatever just happen that was bad has already past. That is already something to be grateful for (winky face).

This was a fairly grey area for me until 2012, mainly because not much bad had happened to me so it wasn’t to hard to love life but the sense of gratitude i felt was mild I’d say. In a short amount of space and time my ability to be grateful was catapulted into fully functioning black and white thanks to the experience of Life and near Death.

2012 was a challenging year for most (some people got gold medal for their efforts) my Dad was diagnosed with Cancer (he deserves a medal) and my Brothers car caught fire on Easter Sunday on a Motorway just outside Le Mans in France.
Suddenly my awareness of how fortunate I was to have this life (he recovered and we survived) went way beyond grey.

We pulled over got out of the burning car and walk away without a scratch. As the shock set in I knelt down on grass at the side of the road and looked up at the sky and in utter astonishment, gave thanks. The rush of gratitude washed over me like a wave that picked me up and carried me to shore.

That’s my story, it is pretty unshakable. I can still call on that wave when I need it and even though it is preferable to have not had that experience and all the turbulence it created, I am truly glad for what I learnt. I will always use it as a practice of remembrance.

You don’t need a near death experience. Just the practice/contemplation has been proven to increase feelings of happiness - just like working a muscle again and again even really gently still builds strength [even when]

 ‘it feels like there's nothing to be grateful for. Guess what? Doesn't matter. You don't have to find anything. It's the searching that counts.’

(from A neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier)

Then suddenly when you really need it - like I did it was there the muscle that meant I could find gratitude for life and not collapse in shock.

In contemplating self worth and self care - I realised gratitude and  compassion are closely connected and what Pema Chödrön means when she talks about compassion starting with yourself she says:

“Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.” 

To me this practice is to let myself off the hook, accept the moments that have passed that I cannot change and to cultivate a practice of looking for the opportunity to be grateful in every moment.

Through these exercises - I have developed a self worth muscle it a bit like how through core strengthening exercises my stomach muscles after 6-7 years of trying to feel them, are almost starting to show. Both hidden under years of eating cake as compensation (sound familiar?). But now I am able to lift my feet off the floor, when I balance on my hands and stand up for myself.

Here is my mind map on understanding how to cultivate gratitude: it includes suggestions from people I have already referenced and conversations I have had whilst contemplating these ideas:

Gratitude mind map: thank you Leila, Katie, Jake and Bri.

Gratitude mind map: thank you Leila, Katie, Jake and Bri.

this is what it says

  • Not everything has been good, that is life
  • Some Things I regret
  • Some Things that are bad and dark have shown me great good and light in every moment there is the opportunity to practice gratitude
  • Daily Practice - conscious effort to think ‘what am i grateful for?’
  • Seeing the opportunity in every moment
  • Being open to receive the opportunity you deserve and was your birth right. (take the fucking donuts)
  • Knowing when is enough - taking notice of when everything is alright, let alone fantastic.

Practicing looking for the moment in every movement. I like use yoga to explore the relationship between body and mind, taking positive steps using my feet, building strength and stamina. Feeling what you have that you are already grateful for, starting with your body.