There’s nothing complicated about practicing gratitude – it’s simple. To accomplish grateful living, you need not do a thing: no further education, no purchasing materials, no place to go, no one else to consult, no lab results, no appointment to make, no membership fees. In fact, it’s remarkable how accessible the practice of gratitude actually is, especially considering the significant benefits – you don’t have to change anything on the outside of your life.
Gratitude is simple – in fact, one of the best ways to get more grateful is to simplify – everything. Including your practice of gratitude.
Here’s the catch: simple and easy are not the same thing. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Easy implies no effort – an easy practice of gratitude would mean you would achieve it without trying.
That’s not the case. Gratitude isn’t inherently easy for everyone. Some people are better at it than others but all of us, at some point, – slip into autopilot, we overlook the gift of life, we forget to appreciate the everyday blessings. We are not mindfully aware.
To be consistently thankful, to remain mindfully aware, requires energy and effort.
Today, I invite you into an exertion of this energy and effort. I invite you to take a look at an area of your life that is very uncomfortable to review. I’d like you to look at your entitlement. Ugh – even the thought of it makes me cringe, but I know from experience, this is a gold mine of humility – and from humble ground springs forth an invigorated appreciation for what is.
With this group, myself included, entitlement is not the word that comes to mind. After all, we’re the ones practicing gratitude and actively seeking to become better people…kinder, more loving, aware people – during the month of December, no less, when schedules are insanely busy and energy is low anyway. We’re the ones pouring our hearts into our families, working hard, generously giving back. We know how to do this be a good person, live a good life thing.
That’s all true and worth admiring about us. We really do shine. Though sometimes, it’s exactly that shimmer that distracts us from what is deeper, beneath the surface.
Entitlement hides beneath little rocks of envy, materialism, narcissism and the days we find ourselves cynical. And I’m not talking about the pathological end of any of these – I mean to suggest that every single one of us experiences ordinary, commonplace entitlement the moment we believe “life owes me something” or “that person owes me something.”
Entitlement can sneak up on us when we compare ourselves to others, when we find ourselves in self-importance, arrogance or seeking admiration or approval.
Our American culture breeds entitlement. Social media has made it worse. So, we’ve all got it somewhere and to varying degrees. No shame – we’re in it together.
Boldly confronting your entitlement clears a pathway for thankfulness. We can do that together, too.
I have to look no further than my relationship with my physical health to face down this beast of privilege. For decades, I have taken my body for granted.
If I had a symptom, I would throw Advil at it and keep going. If I was slowed down for any reason at all – I was annoyed, downright resentful. I had no sense of being in a relationship with my body. I expected it to do what I wanted it to do, without any pain or fatigue. With this attitude, there was no room for gratitude.
I know some of this was my youth but not all of it – because I live with two 16 year old girls who respect and pay attention to their bodies. They appreciate food and hydration and rest when their bodies are tired. And these are not girls overly concerned with controlling their body. They don’t talk about weight, they don’t “push past” their limits – they don’t really talk about their bodies at all, probably because they’re busy being embodied.
They’re in a healthier relationship with their physical reality than I ever could have experienced at their age – in fact, I’m only sort of learning how to relate this way to my body as an adult.
Being pregnant a couple of different times in my thirties introduced me to my body for the first time. I hate to admit it, but even with the miracle of growing a baby, I didn’t pause enough to thank my body. I was often envious of people who felt great being pregnant – and the moment I wasn’t pregnant, I expected my body to return to normal, as if that was even an option.
For the past (almost) nine years of my 40’s, I’ve learned more about my body and I’ve come to respect what it needs to feel good. I’ve also resented the limitations at times. There are things I can’t do that I miss doing, there are foods I can’t eat that I miss eating. When I’m in the space that I *should* be able to do those things, I can get frustrated. And the envy – how come all of those 50 year olds can still have 3 glasses of wine and I can’t even finish one without feeling like shit?
I have been humbled. I know many of you have been, too.
It is the humility that has brought me down to earth, connected me to my own experience of this body I inhabit. Entitlement is lofty – it’s an idea in the mind. It’s an illusion and it’s not true. No one deserves any more or less than anyone else. All of life, in all of the ways we get to live life, is valuable.
When we see the life we get, regardless of what anyone else has – when we experience the health we have, regardless of what anyone else has – we can receive life as a gift. It wasn’t owed to us. It has been bestowed upon us.
I can no longer claim great health in a well-working body just because I got born. I no longer believe I am entitled to that experience. It would be great to have it. I can definitely do things to pursue it – and I have been taking more responsibility for my health, my body and my commitment to feeling good. That is my right. That is our right. Each of us has the right to pursue health and happiness. That right is also a gift.
With energy and effort, we remain mindfully aware, humbled. When we switch what we have taken for granted – be it health, marriage, close relationship, a creative spark, a warm home, a decently paying job – and instead, we take that same thing as a gift, we increase our capacity to receive. We are deserving of every gift we get. Don’t think for one second deserving and entitlement are the same things – there is a major distinction between them – and that distinction is gratitude.
DAY 19 Reflection Questions
*What do you take for granted? Where do you feel entitled?
*As you consider any area of your life that you have historically taken for granted, bring mindful awareness to appreciating that area with an invigorated sense of gratitude.
*How has your health been this year? Is your body healing now? Have you had to change something in your life or go through a procedure or treatment to help your body feel better?
*Letters of gratitude are a great way to connect you with the feelings of wellbeing that only gratitude can amplify. Write your body a thank you note – it’s been there for you all this time. It’s still here and it’s sending you messages all day long about what it needs. Even when we ignore our bodies, they continue to speak to us. It’s really easy to get impatient with a body when it doesn’t feel well – and yet, our bodies are the ones so entirely patient with us as we can go weeks, months and years not paying attention to the gift of them.
*If writing isn’t your thing, connect with your body in some way today. A walk, a shower, a bath – dance in your living room – and feel so, so grateful that you have a body and that you can enjoy life through the experiences of that body!