gratitude lists

WITH YOU, I BREATHE: A forty day yoga column

#35: gratitude lists

A few days ago, I talked to my friend and suggested she start writing gratitude lists. We’re good friends–meaning I’m a good friend to her and she’s a good friend to me–and she took my suggestion. Apparently she wrote a list at a bar, while waiting for a friend to arrive.

When he saw her, he asked What are you writing? She said, A gratitude list. He just looked at her. She encouraged him to think of one thing for which he was grateful. He couldn’t think of something on the spot and finally filled the silence with a joke. He said, This sore throat I’m getting.

For months, I’ve been writing and emailing gratitude lists with women in my yoga teacher training. Every day, we just send them to one another. Oftentimes I’m grateful for the people in my life. Sometimes I’m grateful for things concrete, like salt and vinegar chips, coffee or my mattress. Other times, I’ve grateful for the abstract–patience, humility or fortitude.

Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini Yoga to the United States, once said, “Gratitude is the open door to abundance.” I find this to be true. Once I started writing daily gratitude and feeling more and more grateful, I saw how much I had. The abundance in my life was always there, gratitude allowed me to see it with clarity. In viewing my life with a sense of gratitude I felt fortunate, I felt a sense of joy.

On good day, I write gratitude lists with ease. During bad days, I feel a sense of resistance. I find myself only focusing on my challenges or struggles. In other words, I just shake my head and think, But I hate everything. It is on these days when writing a gratitude list, when cultivating a sense of gratitude is most important. Yogi Bhajan once said:

 You must appreciate your misery, no matter how painful it is. The moment you start appreciating misery it will run away. You don’t have to do anything. Misery doesn’t need appreciation. Misery needs to give you pain. The purpose of misery is to put you through pain. As soon as you start appreciating misery, its purpose is lost. How is misery going to be there?

Maybe it runs away, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not sure yet. But I’m one of those people who will try to be grateful for a shitty day, if only because there’s a chance that will make it less shitty. Which reminds of Nina Simone’s song “Ain’t Got No–I Got Life.”  She acknowledges what she does not have and celebrates what she does have.

Right now I’m writing this at a table with my friends. One of them is doing my friend’s make-up and the other is on her phone which has a sparkly pink case. We’re talking about whatever it is women talk about in private. It’s hard to continue writing this without being distracted. There are things to listen to and say and drink.

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