Choosing to focus the mind on gratitude, or anything else, is a habit that anyone can develop with practice. Last month I led a workshop on gratitude. During the course of the evening, the discussion stalled at times as we became derailed in labeling our actions, words, thoughts and emotions as positive or negative. I have slowly but consistently processed that evening's workshop. Here is a what I believe to be a useful summation of those reflections. Reflection #1
There are no negative or positive emotions. We label our emotions that way based on what we were taught or what we determined. Watch yourself as you go in and out of emotional states. Stop calling anger or sadness (for example) negative. Instead, simply observe the feelings. When we label, we often judge and then resist. This sets us up for conflict internally. This can become a problem.
Inner conflict can be a "problem", but it doesn't have to be. Inner conflict, when put to good use, pushes at you internally until you find an inner resolution. This requires a process something like this:
* Identify the conflict inside.
* Determine how this is playing out in your life.
* Change your behavior in the way the conflict is playing out in your life.
Inner conflict isn't a negative - it simply becomes problematic when we are stuck in it, looping around and around, eventually feeling victimized. Ultimately, when put to excellent use, we consciously use inner conflict for personal growth!
How we behave as a result of emotional experiences is a choice. Because of our conditioning, we find ourselves reactive, and seemingly unable to take responsibility for the truth that how we are acting is always a choice. The automatic reactiveness takes over and we feel compelled into our behaviors. This can become a problem.
We feel powerless when we behave from a compulsive place, or feel stuck in reactive responses. Simply put, reactiveness that does not come from an inner source of authentic power and joy, feels terrible! Changing this kind of reactivity can be tricky, because we need space between the whole situation, our part in it, and the reactive pattern.
* Choose a relationship in your life in which you often feel downhearted at the outcome of interactions.
* Watch the interactions carefully until you can see the pattern - "when I say this, you say that - then I say this, then you do that - then I feel this and behave like this...."
* Focus on changing the pattern - just one aspect of it. Additionally, look at the pattern and consider how it may be mirroring one with a parent. It often does. Or someone close to you, like a parent. This is how we got stuck in these patterns, when we actually were powerless.
Gratitude thinking is a habit that can be cultivated. The more grateful thoughts you have, the lighter and happier you feel; the less you are comfortable dwelling on "problems" or conflicts, thus moving you more quickly to resolve inner conflict. The thoughts and feelings are a dance that inform one another within you, creating your inner experience, that eventually creates your outer experience.
The concept is simple: I focus on what feels hopeful/what I love/what I appreciate = I feel happier. It's practicing that can give us the struggle because it involves our will and some determination. Practice, and practice more, redirecting your mind to gratitude thinking, or anything else you deem constructive, and it becomes a habit. The mind is flexible.