Attitude of Gratitude: the why and how of positive thinking

Attitude of Gratitude: the why and how of positive thinking

Our life is shaped by our words, we become what we think. –Gautama the Buddha As we gear up for the thanksgiving holiday, it is a good reminder to contemplate and appreciate all the blessings in our lives. While each of us has things to be grateful for, we also experience pain and suffering. I am currently going through a difficult time with someone I love very much. I experience periods of deep sadness, frustration, and grief. However, these negative emotions pass and the feelings of peace, love, and joy return surprisingly quickly. I attribute this directly to the practice and contemplation of looking for the good that I have been steadily engaged in over the last several years. According to the book “Buddha’s Brain” we have on average 60,000 thoughts per day. 95 percent of those are repetitive – the same thoughts again and again every day and multiple times per day. 80% of those are negative. That’s about 45,000 negative thoughts per day. Ouch. If we do indeed become what we think as the Buddha says, we had better figure out how to change those numbers. The desire for freedom and happiness seems to be a universal human desire. Yet we are bound by our thoughts and often resist the very things that will lead to happiness. The term optimist carries with it some connotations of naiveté and folly. We’ve all met people who are relentlessly positive and while they do seem happier than the rest of us, honestly, this trait can be annoying. Trite platitudes like “it’s all good man” seem to lack compassion for the...

A Tale of Two Yous

Photograph by KatB Photography Have you ever been nervous for a job interview or a date and had someone tell you to “just be yourself”? What on earth does that mean anyway? If you’re anything like me, the command to be yourself is likely to make you even more self-conscious than ever. We have so many different identities and often take on different roles in different situations. Think about what you are like around your friends vs your family. The roles we take on in a given situation can be useful, but they can also start to change us in unhealthy ways. During my brief stint as a web project manager for a large multi-national corporation, I was called into the bosses office one day and given a talking to. Among several other offenses my two bosses told me that I was “very negative”. Wow. That threw me for a loop. When I first started the job, I noticed how much everyone around me complained. I decided that I would be a bright shining beacon of positivity in our gloomy basement office. Yet, little by little my determination to be the example of light eroded as I unconsciously began complaining in order to fit in with the corporate culture. Apparently, I went a little too far. As hard as it was to hear, I was grateful that my bosses pointed out my stinky attitude. The change from Positive Patty to Negative Nelly had occurred so slowly that I wasn’t aware of it. From that point on, I made it an absolutely unbendable rule that I would not say anything...

Meditation made easy(ier): 7 tips for making it happen

I’d love to have a penny for every person whose told me that they wish they could meditate, but… (insert an excuse here).  I get it.  As simple as meditation is on the surface, it is a very difficult thing to do in this fast paced world.  The picture above is a lovely stereotype for how meditation looks and feels…However, when we first start meditating, it’s easy to feel like a failure because we don’t attain the above ideal.  It has taken me years and years of trying to actually develop a regular practice.  And honestly, I still fall off the wagon sometimes.  Here are some things I’ve learned along the way to help me get back on. Set a reasonable, do-able amount of time.  5 minutes?  10?  You can always go longer if you feel like it.  But if the amount of time feels daunting to you, you will find excuses not to do it. Set a timer so that you don’t have to think about the time.  Often you will be surprised at how quickly time goes by. Make sure you are sitting comfortably.  It is fine to use a chair or sit against a wall, but maintain good posture so you don’t get sleepy.  Experiment with different configurations such as pillows, blankets, meditation stools, etc. Meditate first thing in the morning.  If it’s the first thing you do, you won’t get distracted.  Don’t allow yourself to do anything else first (except maybe pee). Meditate every time you get a chance.  Waiting for a friend, in line at the bank, stuck in traffic.  The more you do...

Anytime meditation to relieve suffering – you can do this sitting or anytime, driving, doing the dishes, walking, etc.

Begin by cultivating a loving acceptance of yourself. Soften and open to your own good. Breathe and feel and experience the love you feel for yourself. Think of someone who automatically brings up feeling of love for you, such as a child, intimate friend, or spiritual teacher. Absorb and memorize the feelings that they bring up for you. Think of someone neutral and continue to project feelings of deep love to this person. Think of someone that you struggle with. Send them love and compassion. Check in with yourself and see how you feel, both physically and emotionally while doing this. When you feel your energy begin to shift away from love, return your thoughts to one of the previous people until you are able to connect back. You can do this again and again. Finally, take all the positive feelings you have built up though your practice and send it out to all beings who are experiencing suffering right now. If you are inspired to focus on a specific person or group of people such as the people Haiti, do so. Repeat...

More on water

I just found a quote that puts my last post in a concise and beautiful form. This is from Julie Rappaport in her book 365 yoga daily meditations: Practicing yoga without clear attention to the breath is like trying to grow a plant without giving it...