When I get asked to think about what I’m grateful for in a yoga class, it makes me feel like a naughty 5 year old. “You’re all a bunch of ingrates!” I can hear my father yelling in disgust at Christmastime as we inevitably argued over who had the most presents. I don’t want to think about what I’m grateful for, it makes me feel like I did something wrong and I have to atone for it by being good and pleasant.
Don’t get me wrong, my dad’s a great guy – there just weren’t a lot of Love and Logic classes in the seventies, and his mom was hardcore-old-school-eastern-European-just-plain scary. We loved to hear the story about the day Uncle Gene came home with a Mohawk – Grandma greeted that decision with a volley of soaring milk bottles.
This was a quiz I had to pass to be redeemed from naughty status. “Um, my mom and my dad and my brother and sisters (generally one of them was kicking my shin at this point), and um, the turkey?” No real weight behind it. But once you got the okay nod, all was clear. Whew. Being grateful was stressful, it wasn’t something that I cared to engage in voluntarily.
So another season of gratitude is upon us and what I’ve learned from yoga is this: I don’t think it matters much what you’re grateful for, what I’d rather be asked is “How does it feel to be in a state of gratitude?”
I would request that you take a moment, close or lower your eyes, breathe deeply and sink into a state of gratitude. It doesn’t even have to have an object – just a feeling state of gratitude. And then when you get in that state ask yourself any of the following: How does it feel in your body? How does your breath feel? How does your heart feel? How does your face feel? How do your hands feel? How does your neck feel? How does your belly feel? What does your energy body feel like?
I asked the question on my Facebook page and got lots of amazing responses.
I assure you, you’ll get much more out of this exercise than you will out of writing lengthy lists of people and things you are grateful for – not that that’s a bad idea – it just doesn’t get underneath it all to the feeling state.
And why get to the feeling state? Because from there you can make healthy grounded decisions – which you may need to make over the next couple of days. Perhaps the decision not to have that third piece of pecan pie, or not to drink another bottle of wine, or not to trash Glenn Beck to your obnoxious brother-in-law. Why not ask him how he feels when he’s in a state of gratitude? He might get it, I dare you!
We are acculturated to ignore the feelings in our bodies – it keeps us in a state of dis-ease where we are likely to consume more (fill in the blank) – so it works well for the status quo and the economy. But yoga helps us reclaim the body and own our feelings. And when we are aware of the body and of our feelings, we are more likely to trust and nurture ourselves, to be compassionate to others and to take positive, transformative action in the world. We are less likely to act from a place of reactivity and more likely to move from a place of centeredness, energy, passion and love.
I would suggest this holiday season to not only give thanks, but also to feel thanks.