“If we perceived Life with reverence, and understood our evolutionary process, we would stand in awe at the experience of physical life and walk the Earth in a very deep sense of Gratitude.” -Gary Zukov
It is an understatement to say a Mother’s life is full. Meal preparation is ongoing. Dirty laundry breeds. Baths are a daily ordeal. Food needs to be purchased before you can cook it. Our cars can’t run on fumes. The phone rings at most inconvenient times. Children don’t sleep through the night, get sick and need you round the clock. Intimacy with our partners, too often, takes a back seat. Let’s face it-a Mother’s life is chocked full of challenges.
In the midst of these trials, and seemingly compounding them, our culture is disproportionately focused on the negative. Newspapers overflow with struggle and strife. The nightly news presents one horrific thing after another. There’s hardly mention of human kindnesses, joy, compassion, simple pleasures of being alive and sharing daily as a family.
Perhaps out of habit or perhaps in response to the daily barrage of negativity, our everyday conversations are often focused on sharing our trials and tribulations rather than triumphs. Prominent author and lecturer, Carolyn Myss has written that people often bond through sharing their every day problems: “I don’t like the weather, gas is expensive, I’m sleep deprived, etc.” Sharing at this level seems to be a way of being connected. Yet we might better pose the question of whether or not this is the most inspiring and effective way to share and support one another.
Habits are thoughts or actions that we have practiced over and over and over again. It is said that we have about 50,000 thoughts each day. Most of these thoughts are negative and regurgitated. That means we think the same negative thoughts over and over again!
You may be saying to yourself as you read this, “Come on, “isn’t it human nature to complain?” That may very well be true in the context of, mass cultural negativity. Yet, I suggest that we have the power to redirect our focus and choose how we relate from a more positive perspective. We can do this by examining our habits.
While talking about our problems is one way to connect, learning to share our strengths may be an even more powerful way to bond. What if we consciously chose to share what is wonderful with our lives before launching into our laundry list of complaints? Much like pancakes, which we flip over and each side appears slightly different, there is power in putting our attention on that other side; on what we like about our life. What if we developed a new habit of noticing what is working in our lives and magnified those things? How might it feel if we replaced self-judgment (which only fuels our insecurities) with compassion and appreciation?
Changing our perspective can be as simple as cleaning a pair of glasses. We notice the blur, a negative thought, and decide to refocus. We take a breath and focus on the positive. The outside circumstances of our lives still remain the same but as we focus from the inside out, we see everything in a different light. As we consciously develop a habit of refocusing and seeing the positive, our lenses begin to sparkle. We see the simple truth: our cups are half-full, not half-empty as we once thought. From this perspective we learn to direct our focus to the good in our lives and develop a more grateful outlook
This more appreciative focus is spelled gratitude with a capital “G.” With this new way of seeing, we notice our blessings instead of our misfortunes. We look for and magnify the goodness in our lives: before we know it, we see abundance everywhere.
One way to begin is to look around our houses for one minute. Notice the abundance that surrounds us. We have soft blankets for your beds, warm shoes for our feet and strong arms for hugs and holding. We have water that runs hot and cold out of our sinks, toilet paper for our bums, sun streaming in through the window and teeth in our mouths.
Redirecting our focus alters our point of view. There are many authors whose work inspires us to recognize the abundance that surrounds us. In My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. recalls a story about her grandmother’s icebox, which was a deep source of goodness. It was always full to the brim and every teeny tiny space was put to use. Every now and then, someone would open the icebox door and an egg would fall out and break on the kitchen floor. Every time, Remen’s wise grandmother would look at the broken egg with satisfaction and declare, “Aha, today we will have sponge cake!” Now that’s gratitude in action!
Each day of our lives presents its challenges. Yet we can always choose to make sponge cake with our broken eggs. We can develop a habit of wanting to feel good and looking for the best we can find in our world, instead of looking for the worst.
Dr. Masuru Emoto has become well known for his ground-breaking research in his book, The Hidden Messages in Water. Using high-speed photography, Dr. Emoto documented the patterns frozen water crystals made when specific concentrated thoughts were directed towards them. After thousands of experiments: labeling water bottles with words like “hate, love, fun” and playing music to the water he found that the content of the words determined the pattern of the crystal. His experiments showed that the most beautiful and delicate water crystals were formed by the energy of the words “love” and “gratitude”–two of the most powerful forces in the world. It is as if the water rejoices with the energy of these words and celebrates by creating a beautiful design.
Mothers can use this information and these powerful words daily as we go about our tasks. Every way in which we use water could be acknowledged with gratitude. We could mumble thanks as we water our gardens, wash the vegetables, bathe our children, run the washing machine, drink gulps of thirst- quenching water, etc.
Our water mantra of gratitude might sound something like this: “Thank you for this glass of water. It came right out of the faucet without any energy on my part. What a blessing.” “I am grateful for the water that washed our laundry today.” “Thank you for the bubble bath my children are splashing in.”
Here are some other gratitude mantras that we might adapt: “I am grateful for my strong arms that carry my child…I can boil water for tea and drink it even if it’s cold…I am a good friend and I was kind to the teller at the bank…I got the dish washer running and I now have time to read for five minutes…My heart is strong and beats without me even thinking about it and my lungs are constantly taking in air. My body works great!”
As we notice what is working in our lives and speak these truths aloud, we find hidden treasures everywhere. As we express gratitude for the simple things in life, our young ones learn that it is useful, and easier, to make the best of where we are. We become strong role models for our children as they witness us appreciating our lives.
One powerful suggestion for practicing gratitude is for us to try a few minutes of gratitude before getting out of bed or before going to sleep. Feeling grateful is a great way to welcome or finish the day. Gautama Buddha, master of compassion, told us: “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. Allow yourself to be grateful for the Divine soul that you are.”
Focusing on love and gratitude is powerful. With each day that passes, we develop faith that we are enough, we have enough and our lives are enough. Circumstances can change; they often do. Continuing a practice of gratitude will help untoward circumstances move along more quickly. Even in strive there is opportunity for acknowledgement of the things that are working.
In her inspiring book, The Dance, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, tells of leading a meditation during a writing retreat. She asked each person to sit in silence and write the truest statement possible about themselves. After a minute or so, she picked up her pen to write her own statement. She wrote, “I am blessed.” She knew immediately that this was the truest truth she could find.
Each of us can draw the power of Oriah’s statement into our own lives as we notice all the blessings that are in and around us. We can’t control the length of our lives but we can control the width and depth. Generous doses of gratitude remind us to celebrate our Mother dance!
"Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything
together in perfect harmony." -Colossians 3:14
Harmony Rose West