Gratitude: Being in Empowering Touch With Reality
Your life isn't just what experiences you have, it is how you feel about those experiences and what stories you make from them.
Let's say for example that I get cut off in traffic. What happened is the driver of the car in front of me quickly changed lanes, causing me to operate the brake pedal to avoid bumping into their car. My heart rate increased and I likely tensed up to make all the movements to stay safe. That is what happened, but what do I tell myself from that experience? "That guy is such a jerk... How impatient... What an inconsiderate person..." All of a sudden I have made a leap from my experience to stories that are demeaning another person! This happens in nanoseconds, and we all do it. From our reptillian brains (heart rate and body function) to our limbic brain (emotion) and finally to our neocortex (cognitive) brain, we process experiences through multiple layers of our being. But where do we end up? Depending on how we emote and how we rationalize our experiences, we can be left empowered or in a rut.
Anxiety will keep your body tense. Anger will elevate your heart rate. Frustration and bitterness will wear at your soul. Taking a deep breath and choosing gratitude can bring your physiology back to a relaxed state, clear your mind and open you to what is really going on outside of one immediate experience.
What I'm not saying is that you should be thankful for getting cut off in traffic, especially not while pavement is slick and it can be difficult to see. But you can be grateful for being alive! Be thankful that no one was hurt. In the many experiences and situations beyond driving, there is so much to be thankful for if we will turn our focus to it. Being grateful does not mean you must be blind or numb to pain, it simply means that challenges do not have to dominate your focus and your thoughts.
We all are storytellers. We are all meaning-making machines. And as such, we have a choice for what kind of meaning we want to make sense of our lives. While being aware of challenges and sensitized to pain, I intend to choose gratitude as my go-to way of being. Being thankful helps keep me open to experiencing more of life and is truly an empowering way of living.