A quarter of gratitude

by | Apr 4, 2012 | Mindset

living in a year in gratitude - first quarter
As I mentioned last year, I decided that, starting in January, I would work my way through Angeles Arrien’s book Living in Gratitude, one month at a time as laid out in the book. Well, the first three months have flown by and I thought it would be nice to share with you my progress.

The way this book works is that you are given a selection of Reflections and Practices for the month and you choose to focus on two or three of each. At the end of the month, you review how you did around that month’s theme in the four quadrants of spiritual growth and character development.

January – Begin anew
The theme for January was new beginnings in all areas of life: work/creative service, relationships, finances/right livelihood and health/well being. For the reflections, I chose to focus on what I was learning in these four areas and how I was approaching these areas with child-like curiosity and wonder.

January turned out to be an amazing month for me. My love life blossomed (after a year of focusing on divorce, it was nice to focus on dating for a change). I began in earnest the process of letting go of things that no longer served me and held me back. I learned about the power of vulnerability and how to better trust my own inner voice. Along with my love life, my prosperity blossomed, as well. In January, I had a lot to be grateful for.

For the practices, I jotted down something that made me happy every day, so by the end of the month I had a list of at least 31 things that made me happy. They ranged from getting a new camera (which I am still enjoying!) to having a lovely lunch with friends to being able to refer business to a friend of mine.

In review, January was a good month, a fun month and a month of growth and realizations about myself.

February – Attend to the Heart
It is no surprise that February’s theme was matters of the heart … from romantic love to approaching life with a full heart. My reflections for the month focused on who my teachers of the heart were and what I was learning about love. It gave me the opportunity to begin some forgiveness work and bless the lessons I learned while going through the less than opportune times of my life.

My love life slowed down a bit as my business life picked up the slack. My practices focused on paying attention to where I could be grateful and be more tender and affectionate. I also chose to notice how people around me express love and affection. It was eye opening. The subtle body language of people I saw on the street was pretty darn interesting … things I never really noticed before became obvious.

In review, February became more about appreciating the people who support and encourage me than it was about romance. And that was a revelation in itself.

March – Compassionate service
For some reason, I found March’s theme the most challenging. Its not that I don’t like being of service … quite the opposite. I love being of service and so more for free than I probably should. My challenge this month was thinking of my service to others in a bigger and larger context. The book focuses on service to people when it comes to charitable work, and my charitable work has usually focused more on environmental and animal rights activities. That said, I did help with the Unstoppable Gala which helps educate children in Africa … so I did do some human-based service.

One of the practices I challenged myself to was contemplating the following invocation from Gandhi:

“Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him ….

Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? Will it lead to self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?

Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

I found myself rebelling against this. Not against that one should aspire to accomplish those things … but knowing that not every choice you make has anything to do with those things. Sometimes I’m focused on a smaller picture. Sometimes I’m focused on an even bigger one. I never did figure out how to deal with that, so I just forgave my self for the cognitive dissonance and moved on.

In review, March was a month of rest, as things slowed down from the frenzy of work I did in January and February. In retrospect, maybe sitting back and taking care of myself is a form of compassionate service to others. It’s like they say on airplanes … in the case of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. I guess I needed to regroup and recharge so I can head out full charge in April.

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