Each January, with renewed determination, most of us make New Year’s resolutions and plan to better our lives. There are two basic components that affect our ability to make a change: 1) our thoughts, feelings and words; and 2) our actions. Every statement, thought or feeling can be seen as a prayer, creating a vibration that is carried out into the world. Action is also required to bring about change. When you have done all you are able to do, give thanks and, depending on your belief system, allow spirit, God or the universal energy to take over. When our feelings, words and thoughts are in alignment with our actions, we will co-create the life of our dreams. This year, make a resolution to live a life filled with gratitude. Watch for inspiration, and expect to be inspired throughout each and every day. When something wonderful happens, take a moment to give thanks for it. The positive energy that you put out will come back to you tenfold.
In contrast, it’s not possible to feel grateful while obsessing and worrying about the outcome of a situation, because our focus is on our lack of or need for something. Whatever we focus on continues to grow, and the universe naturally responds with more lack and more need. Similarly, when we yearn for something, we desperately want it to happen, but we’re really afraid that it won’t. Yearning and trying to direct the outcome of a situation beyond our control will cause us to suffer feelings of frustration, anxiety and despair. Like a deer in headlights, we are also likely to become frozen with fear—and unable to take action.
Sometime during our lives, we all find ourselves in situations that hurt us. If you are facing hard times and are dealing with a serious problem or catastrophic illness, you may not be able to honestly feel grateful. During times of despair, after doing all you can, the only option is surrender. Surrendering is a positive practice that comes with the development of spiritual trust. The dictionary’s definition of surrender is to give up, or to abandon. But in the spiritual sense, surrender is the total opposite of giving up. It is an act of complete and utter faith. Surrendering is not an act of willpower. Determination and willpower are wonderful traits, but without surrender, they can become stubbornness and attachment. Surrendering is a release. Like a deep exhalation, it’s not about doing; rather, it’s an undoing, a softening, a letting go. And when we surrender, we’ll begin viewing each experience from the soul’s perspective. Once we do, our suffering lessens and we may once again have moments of thankfulness.
We all know that it is much more enjoyable to spend time with someone who has a pleasant attitude than with a habitual complainer. But words of gratitude are much more than pleasantries. Giving thanks moves the process of manifestation from a state of doing to a state of being. The most powerful words that can be uttered for the purpose of co-creation are those of gratitude. When you give thanks for something, it’s a statement to the universe that it’s already in your possession. The universe naturally responds with: And so it is.
We can cultivate gratitude through prayerful visualization. It’s an enjoyable and powerful practice that can dramatically change our attitudes and, ultimately, our lives. Each and every day, imagine that what you want to have happen has already occurred. Instead of praying for something to happen, close your eyes and envision it. Actually experience (through your feelings and visualization) what you’d like to have occur. When you feel complete, punctuate your prayerful visualization with a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude.
Prayerful visualization has no limitations and can be applied to any situation. It can be directed toward your own well-being or to the entire planet. When you feel hopeless and frustrated by the turmoil in the world, close your eyes, and through prayerful visualization, experience a peaceful world. See young soldiers reuniting with their families. Feel the joy in a mother’s heart as she hugs her son. Expand upon your prayerful visualization until you feel content and grateful. This practice will feel quite a bit different than praying for peace, or for anything else. When you’re praying for something, you’re focusing on your need, and on what is lacking. This might seem like a subtle distinction, but the feeling it evokes is very different. And the feeling is the prayer! Rather than pleading for something that we feel is missing in our lives, we’re surrounded with the answered prayer and filled with the feeling of fulfillment and gratitude.
Prepare for inspiration by being conscious and aware of the things, people and events that make up your day. Try to pay attention to the sights and sounds you usually take for granted. Oftentimes, we lose sight of the everyday graces that make up the fabric of our lives. We can take our cue from babies, young children and the elderly, who are in a perpetual state of joy and awe as they continually look for something wonderful to turn their attention to. Have you ever returned from a trip and been amazed by the beauty that awaited you right at home? I know that I have. Sometimes, just a slight change in our perception can awaken us to the inspiration that was there all along. Rediscover the joy in the familiar. Just because the sun rises and sets each day, it’s no less remarkable. In fact, it makes the event all the more miraculous!
Yoga teachers often encourage their students to cultivate a “beginner’s mind.” They understand that when something is new to us, we’re open to fresh perspectives, concepts and ideas. As I walked into my yoga class recently, I expected to be inspired. I was not disappointed, and found inspiration in my teacher’s precious and insightful closing words: “I give thanks for all the joy that being conscious brings.”
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #32.
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