During the many years of studying and teaching yoga, I remember the statement “gratitude is the greatest attitude” to be as important on the mat as off the mat.
I still believe it to be a great anchor for re-focusing awareness and yet, I have also come to realize something else.
I was talking with a friend who expressed how disappointed she was with herself for not being able to be grateful all the time. After all, isn’t this what we are supposed to do? To be grateful and act as if?.
Well, I personally came to a different understanding last Fall when I found myself being both very grateful and very aware of how many things were sucky (new word!) in my life.
It was a sober and raw realization at a cellular level, not an intellectual principle. And even though it was hard, I was able to hold both in my consciousness without feeling bad or criticizing myself. It was empowering and freeing, freedom being the key word here.
I often hear about the concept of gratitude and it has almost become a trend. However, at times this trend seems to promote negation and denial instead of an acceptance of what is real and what is not. There is a forced “act as if” and all will go well.
The imagery that came to me this afternoon, inspired by the Mars-Venus square aspect, is the following: Mars is standing in the middle of the battlefield, looking around, assessing the damage, the bodies, how far all has come, what is next. At that moment, Venus appears in the horizon, beautiful, succulent and Mars completely loses sight of everything else. There is an immediate shift in his state of mind, from the dread and loss towards what is beautiful and dreamy.
The one state does not negate the other, but there is an awareness of both and a choice of where to focus further.
What I am proposing here is that gratitude, being grateful and expressing it, is of paramount importance. And yet, when you find yourself not able to resonate with it, don’t just pretend. And don’t feel guilty that you cannot feel or be grateful. There is enough guilt in this world to make everyone a millionaire!
Instead, take a moment or two, and acknowledge whatever is not working. Then find one thing that is inspiring, even if it is only a song or a beautiful sunrise on a cold, shitty morning. The human heart is intrinsically attuned to what is true, beautiful and just, and by practicing finding one thing, the “all sucks” attitude gradually shifts.
At the end of the day, this is another duality, it is not an “either/or” situation but a blend of both. When we are able to embrace this, to hold both sides, there is freedom because we are in charge of what we think and feel, and we don’t depend anymore on others’ dictation. And, this process takes practice!