Archive | November, 2014

How easy is it to be grateful?

19 Nov

With Thanksgiving around the bend, there is a lot of talk about gratitude. From boosting your happiness to improved health, there are real reasons to cultivate gratitude.

Gratitude is easy when golden opportunities fall into your lap or when you fall in love. It is also easy to be grateful when you are comfortable and without worry. But what about those days that are challenging?

how easy is gratitude?

Yesterday, i was not feeling well. I went through my day and skipped doing things that were not essential. In the evening i soaked in a hot bath tub by candle light, and drank a grog—a northern European home remedy, in my case consisting of a shot of aquavit with hot water—to sweat out the bug. Then i went to snuggle up under a cozy comforter and topped my medication with Oscillococcinum (a homeopathic flu remedy).

What does this all have to do with gratitude? When you’re not feeling well or when things don’t go in your favor, the last thing most of us think of is gratitude. Can you remember ever thanking your boss for firing you? Or being grateful to your partner when they dumped you? Usually, our thoughts are caught up in our misery. We focus on the negative, not on any upside. Most of us need a little distance to see the positive that can arise from a negative experience. After finding new opportunities, or meeting a more loving partner, we can, in hindsight, see the wisdom in negative experiences. For example, i can look back and say: Yes, i thank the guy who broke my heart 20 years ago. Without that experience i would most likely not be living here in California and writing this newsletter to you.

The big question is, how can i gain a positive spin on experiences that do not please me in the moment? I can use the power of my intellect, my insight, and my experience with the ways of the world. Coming back to the example of coming down with a cold or flu, i could be grateful for the simple home remedies i have learned. I could also tune into gratitude for a warm house and indoor plumbing that allows me to effortlessly pour a warm bath. And, i could tune into gratitude for all the times when i am not sick, when my body works well.

In more serious cases of disappointment, frustration, and pain i can train myself to see the opportunity for growth. “Wow, i am invited to look at this issue some more!” “I can get closer to healing my fear of [fill in the blank].” Or, i can say: “Wow, the universe has something else in mind for me. What could that be?” I am not saying that this is a universal truth. I am aware there are really tough challenges that are not easily turned into obvious opportunities. Sometimes, we have to surrender to the darkness and make peace with existence. Sometimes the only question to ask is “What can i do to make it easier to go through this?”

That said, for all of us there are many easy things to be grateful for. What are 5 things you can come up with? Anything goes.

Here are some examples, meant to inspire you to find your gratitude for today:

“I got a parking spot right in front of the theater.”
“That chocolate was delicious.”
“It was nice talking to my friend on the phone.”
“I am going on a dream vacation!”
“I got to read a little before going to bed.”
“My daughter did her homework without being asked.”
“I enjoyed a wonderful walk on the marina.”
“So glad my friend is feeling better.”
“I love this new book.”
“I sat with my cat/dog for an hour.”
“It felt great to be acknowledged by … today.”

To read up more on gratitude, and the wisdom of paying attention to the small things, check out my blog entries What went well? and The Magic in Gratitude.

And if you are in the Bay Area and want to do something special for yourself, treat yourself to my Gratitude Collage worksop this Sunday afternoon. This is a great workshop to bring a friend to. You share the fun of creating, plus you up their chance at happiness. I make it easy to be generous with my Gratitude Special: 2 for $130

Sunday November 23 | 2-5:30pm | Berkeley | Register at http://evaruland.com/collage_gratitude.html

© Eva Ruland, November 2014

Advertisements

Winter Pleasures and the Psyche

2 Nov

In the few last days i have experienced a major shift. Even though we still have warm and sunny days, the grape vine plant and the apricot tree begin to lose their leaves. The days grow shorter and the evenings have become colder. And i follow suit, enjoying hot chocolate and a good book. I am reading In the Land of the Long White Cloud, by Sarah Lark. The book is an engrossing story about early settlers in New Zealand and focuses on the lives of two young British women who agree to marry strangers, in a country they have never seen, half across the globe. The two have different backgrounds and different motivations but as the story unfolds they cross paths and their stories intertwine. Big adventures unfold for each of the women, some in the wild of nature, most in the wild of human psyche and interpersonal relationships.

in the Land of the Long White Cloud

Why am i so fascinated with this book that i would mention it to you? It beautifully illustrates the complexity of life. The many story twists nurture my psyche. The part of me that likes a good adventure is engaged. The part of me that is curious about other cultures and other places is stimulated. The romantic in me suffers for the misfortunes the heroines have to endure, and cheers them on as they carve their ways to more independence from oppressive situations. I am glad for their moments of joy, and hold my breath when they have to endure yet another violent fit by a man who thinks he owns them. I admire their resilience. In a way you could say that i live through them vicariously as i am reading the book.

The same happens when i see a captivating movie. I immerse myself, resonate with a character or situation, and have a strong reaction against another character or situation. We all do this—it’s a built-in function of our psyche. It makes us respond emotionally, with compassion, with rejection, disgust, awe, joy. Most of this happens to us unconsciously. The art of growing into psychological maturity—that which Jung called individuation—is the art of becoming aware of our unconscious responses. The automatic responses do not go away, but as we become more aware of them we enter a new level of self-knowledge and we start to enjoy ourselves in a different way. We learn to step outside of ourselves and chuckle compassionately at ourselves as opposed to becoming all worked up by whatever triggers us. 

I have a practice that helps me to get in touch with the rich depth of my psyche on a regular basis: my SoulCollage® practice. The other day, in Midlife Alchemy, i had a bunch of my SoulCollage cards out for an exercise. One of the group participants remarked “You really seem to like your unconscious.” Yes, i do. My unconscious is the biggest part of who i am. I better like it! And i suggest that you begin to make friends with your unconscious too. You might have heard the model of the psyche mirrored by an iceberg: there is a relatively small top above water—that’s the conscious mind—and a huge foundation invisible under the water—the unconscious. This huge invisible part of the psychic is hidden from consciousness but is nevertheless very actively contributing to our daily lives. Our mood and our likes and dislikes all arise from the depths of the unconscious. 

I love the adventure of lifting some of these hidden psychic auto-pilot systems into the light of day. Reading novels with awareness for nuances and my responses to characters and story twists can do that, watching certain movies with that same awareness can do that, and practicing SoulCollage can do that too. How do you connect with your unconscious? Give it a try. Next time you watch a movie or read fiction pay attention to your reactions. Or come to SoulCollage® and learn how to let your soul speak by tuning into the unconscious when you choose images for your collages. It’s fascinating way to delve into the greater Self.