As I reflected on 2018, there were many times throughout the year that I experienced feelings of overwhelm and fear. The main trigger points for me was seeing an increase in natural disasters and mass shootings, and the division within the country due to a political landscape that has proven to be polarizing. I can recall a few major moments where I was so worked up in my mind with all the “what if” scenarios that I reached official meltdown status. I mean the whole shebang! There were tears, shortness of breath, my mind was spinning out of control, and I just wanted to crawl into bed and hide.
After allowing myself to feel those uncomfortable and scary feelings, I thought about how I could help myself. I knew that if I was feeling this, my clients probably were too. I knew that by doing my own work through those moments where nothing made sense, I could help others shift as well. What came forward was to deepen into two practices that I found to be essential in cultivating inner-peace. They are being in gratitude and being present.
Both practices have been on my radar for many years now, but it wasn’t until this year that I had such a visceral understanding of how intertwined they are. Being in gratitude can do so much for your overall well-being because it anchors you into what you already have and allows for you to see all the blessings that are available right now. If you live in the past, then you are likely to experience depression or regret, and if you live in the future you are likely to experience anxiety and worry. But by being aware and living in the present moment, you can take things one step at a time and not get lost in the abyss of uncertainty. What a blessing that is!
Let me give you an example of this perfect pairing. After the fires in Paradise broke out and the shooting in Thousand Oaks occurred, I was struck by the sorrow and despair of the situation. Fear gripped my heart when I thought of it happening to our community. So, I did the one thing I had control over which was to focus loving thoughts and heartfelt prayers to the people whose lives were turned upside down that day. And then I sat in absolute gratitude that I have a home to shelter me, that my community is safe, and that my friends and family are alive and well. I remained present in that moment, which in turn opened myself up to release the fear of the unknown.
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There are many ways that you can put gratitude and being present into practice. First is to be aware of what you are feeling. When you notice that you are feeling out of sorts, stop and ask yourself what is coming up for you. After identifying that, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Breath in the fresh air and release any stagnant breath. Then flood that part of you that is experiencing discomfort with compassion and love. Once you are residing in that energy, you can let your mind move into gratitude for all that you have. Another way is to make a daily list of what you are grateful for, or some people have a gratitude jar that they put in the hallway so the whole family can participate.
To deepen into the present moment, I like to sit outside or look out a window and just allow myself to arrive. Pay attention to the movement of the trees or listen to sounds of the birds. Nature has a way of grounding you. When you are eating something, be mindful of how it tastes and how it makes you feel as you eat it. If your mind starts to take a trip into the future, gently bring your thoughts back. I like to visualize that I have a rope tied around my thoughts, and then I pull them back to the present moment. This gives me a mental picture to helps support the exercise, and as a bonus it gives me a laugh!
Spiritual Seed: By living in the present moment and practicing gratitude, we are inviting inner peace into our lives.