Linda: Gratitude is acknowledging what we have. When cultivating the attitude of gratitude, we focus our attention on what we have rather than what we lack. When we are not comparing ourselves and our possessions to others, there is a lessened tendency to feel envy. We still experience desires, but we choose to focus on the resources we possess that allows us to fulfill our dreams. In the process, we cultivate an appreciation of the ordinary, particularly those aspects of life that we previously took for granted. This attitude is one in which saying "thank you" springs forth naturally and is genuine.
When we live in a state of gratitude, we have a heightened recognition of the beauty of small things. Gratitude is a living ritual, and like prayer, it can be practiced whenever the feeling arises. There are some common times to practice, like waking up in the morning, before bedtime, and before a meal. It is the depth of the connection to what we are feeling that impacts our experience. The more specific we are in regard to what we are grateful for, the greater the benefit.
As much as we may avoid change in our lives, change is inevitable in life. Regardless of our efforts to resist it, life is going to give us opportunities to deal with change. Resistance to change can take many forms such as a tendency to complain, to be in a mood of grievance, self-pity, excessive judgment, criticism of others and/or ourselves, and an increase in our levels of anxiety or resentment.
It's painful to feel that we don’t have enough, even when we do.
When we live with an ongoing experience of insufficiency, we feel that we don’t have enough love, money, time, friends, or security. I have worked with people who are so wealthy that they literally don’t know what to do with it all, and yet they constantly worry that they don’t have enough and are obsessed with accumulating more.
Although this perceived deficiency is not grounded in reality, for them, the need is real. They are deficient in something other than money: gratitude! They have spent so much time focusing on their desire for more money than they have become habituated to seeing the world through that lens. As a result, they never reach a point of satisfaction.
When we fail to include gratitude in our daily prayers, we bring the attitude of insufficiency to everything in our lives, including our primary relationship. We view our partner in terms of what they are failing to bring to our relationship, rather than what they are giving. This attitude causes us to see them with judgment, criticism, and or even contempt. When we view them through these negative filters, they feel our judgments, whether we speak them aloud or not. They in turn feel unappreciated and unloved, and don’t want to give love to us.
Consider the antidote to living with a sense of lack
The antidote to feeing ourselves from this cycle is to see the source of our disappointment with our relationship may have more to do with our own attitude than it does to do with our partner’s failings. This does not mean that they have nothing to do with the disappointment we are both experiencing. But rather than project blame for our dissatisfaction, we can finally see our part in things.
Gratitude is simple, but not necessarily easy.
It can feel very vulnerable to accept one’s part in a relationship breakdown. It’s particularly hard if we’ve been reaffirming our innocence and our partner’s guilt. The good news is that it is possible when both people are doing their own work, the shift can occur very quickly. Even when only one person is doing their own work, things can change. Often, the other partner joins them in their willingness to do their work as well. In those situations where there is a refusal to stop blaming, there may be a need for professional help.
Comments to, and about each other, affirm a deep sense of appreciation for the people in our lives. We can make a conscious choice to focus on what we like about other people, and our life in general. This practice over time can become a pattern that expresses itself effortlessly and continuously. It should be noted that an important aspect of these expressions of appreciation has to do with the absence of any expectation of reciprocity. When acknowledgments are freely given without coercion of any kind, it is appreciation in its purest form. And that is one of the sweetest things that you can give to your partner, to yourself, and to your relationship!