The well-known yogic text The Bhagavad Gita teaches us not to look outside of ourselves for happiness, but to realise that peace and happiness lies within. When we rely on things which are external to us to bring us freedom, we inevitably bind ourselves to discontentment even more.
Our ego experiences joy, pain, loss, desire, greed and happiness, and we ultimately become attached to these experiences by either attempting to push them away, or by clinging to them – either way, it doesn’t tend to end well…
So a fast track route is to find gratitude and with more gratitude comes feeling content.
In a world that is constantly bombarding us with messages of lack, perfectionism and forward motion, we can feel empty, exhausted, and far away from peace.
I'm not saying we give up, stop dreaming, striving, and pushing forward. But perhaps creating more balance around the need for perfection or a perfect life.
Many of us live in the West and we already, have access to things than more than half the world's population. Running water, sanitation, food, public transport, and education. I write from the UK, I know even these things are flawed and many people in the UK are in poverty and don't have access to what they need, but the point I'm making is the things we take for granted.
Recently the water was cut off to my home, without any warning, it was out for a few hours, and I realised how incredible it is that I turn on a tap and get water, I make tea, put on a wash, wash my hands.
I think it's very hard for us to live in this state of awareness, but I taking 5 minutes in the morning to focus on what we do have can create new neural pathways and help us find more empathy and feelings of peace.
I'd like to add, this isn't toxic positivity, which, sadly can happen, whether that's in the wellness industry or from our family of origin, I'm not saying that you should white wash your experience with gratitude to feel content. This isn't when someone comes to you saying 'I'm struggling' and you say, 'look on the bright side, you have so many to be grateful for'. It is a fine line to tread, and quite hard to write about.
But I know, from my perfectionism and tough self judgement that I can get stuck in a loop of lack "why arent I living in my dream home" "why don't I have more friends" "Why can't I go on holiday more".... the dreaming, the pressure and heaviness that comes with feelings of lack, of trying to get stuff done, to trying to be the best version of ourselves all the time. We look at social media, many of us everyday, we are being bombarded by images, words, stories and adverts that are telling us we could be doing so much better. Externally and internally. And my goodness, this can feel rough at times. It can lead to pain, discomfort, low energy...
If you'd entertain this little practice:
Sit for a moment with your eyes closed, notice your breath, your feet on the earth.
Then bring to mind a person or place you are grateful for, see this clearly, the image, perhaps the actions of this person, or colours and light of the place.
Placing your hand on your chest, breathe into your heart, allow yourself to smile or connect deeply with the gratitude you feel for this person or place, and how they/it has impacted you life.
Take a moment and breathe, let go of the practice.
Do the same, but draw to mind the images that you might've seen recently on social media, or while you were commuting or out and about. Perhaps like me, you have particular thoughts that are hardwired in you that are driven by lack. Take a minute to explore, but carefully and from a distance, do not get drawn into these things but see them at arms length.
Place a hand on your heart, and notice how do you feel, how's your heart, what is your energy like?
Take a breath and let go of that practice. To finish, come back to an image of joy, it could be a sunset, a persons face or your pet, but make sure you finish with your heart in a safer lighter place.
So, how did that go? How did you feel? Perhaps it was harder to find the gratitude or perhaps there was some discomfort. For me, there's a noticeable shift in energy, this practice can also feel incredible 'real' the noise of work and troubles gets a little quieter. It might bring a smile or some tears of thanks for what we have, this is also from connecting back to our hearts and feeling deeply again.
I have a huge post-it on my fridge, it says 'What am I grateful for 1. 2. 3.' Every morning, when I make tea or coffee, I see this and I stop. I have to think of three different things and breathe it into my heart. I also take this a step further into my journal, and write a little note of thanks.
These practices aren't always easy, especially at our lowest moments. But they provide a chink of light in the dark and a moment to be with our hearts.
As I often say, life is complicated, but it is a gift, it's really quite remarkable we are here at all. It's just sad we live in a culture where we aren't taught to focus on what we have, otherwise capitalism wouldn't work(but that's a whole other blog post!)...
Let me know how you get on,
Lots of love, Josephine x
PS: I'm grateful to YOU x