mindful Gratitude Challenge Week 2

Below are the activities for the mindful Gratitude Challenge for week 2:

Day 8: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: *Appreciating Choice*

And now for something short and sweet and “just in time”: As we begin to wrap up this election day in the United States, let’s bring some gratitude and awareness to the freedoms we experience in this country, and specifically the freedom of choice. In mindfulness, this freedom to choose is where we find opportunities to grow, as seen the in quote by Viktor E. Frankl, Physician and WWII Holocaust Survivor:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

This statement speaks to the “space” … where we can intentionally halt the conditioned automatic reaction, and bring awareness to other possibilities, in this moment. And if we decide to do something different, just by pausing we are stepping out of the auto-pilot in which many of us find ourselves (meeting the status quo). By pausing, and considering this “space”, we find opportunities that we may not have considered before– those not based on defensiveness to allow us to survive. We may find opportunities based on a conscious awareness. This pausing may help us “see” things from a different perspective: one based in non-reactive equanimity (coming from a place of calmness). If we decide to choose the response that we may have selected initially, at least we know it was made with intention, instead of with no consideration at all. And if we decide to choose a new response, we can rest well knowing that it may allow us room to grow in new ways we might not have imagined, and attain new freedoms.

So, as you go to the polls on this day, and as you reflect on your choice this evening, bring gratitude to the opportunity to choose (not all countries and nations have this privilege), and bring some awareness to why you are making this decision. Acknowledge yourself for not making this decision on auto-pilot, following what has been conditioned because it is so. Recognize this is a moment, and pause in this space. And in that “space” reflect on your values and aspirations for your community, for this nation, for this world. Perhaps you are considering the lesser of the two evils, or voting for the opponent of the one you do NOT want to win. Or perhaps you are exercising your right to choose. Whatever that may be, may it be a choice that resonates with the wisest part of yourself. With gratitude, exercise your freedom of choice.

Day 9: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: *Appreciating Resilience*

It is now the day after the Elections in the United States, and “the people have chosen”. Perhaps your choice for President did not win. Or perhaps your choice won. Either way, today you still have the ability to CHOOSE: how you will show up in the world now that changes will be occurring. You are still able to choose how you will hold your values as guiding principles in the decisions you make, and interactions you have with others. You are still able to choose to cultivate gratitude, love, compassion and mindfulness in your days and in your moments. You are still able to choose your focus for today, and begin anew.

Every day we have the ability to begin anew—coming into this day without judgment, and preconceived ideas about what will happen. Mindfulness allows us to do this by focusing on this present moment, and not being caught up ruminating and worrying about the future, or regretting and rehashing the past. Mindfulness allows us to be in this moment with more clarity—seeing it for what it is.

It is in choosing in this moment, not the past or future, that we are able to begin anew with non-judgment and acceptance of what is here, and recognize the next healthy step to take based on our values. And if we allow our values to guide our decisions, we know we will show up as the best possible version of ourselves. Gabby Bernstein, Spiritual Expert, talks about how important this is as we move into our lives after the election in her brief Facebook timeline video entitled, “A spiritual response to the election results.”

As you go into your day today, bring gratitude to the fact that you can still choose your response to whatever situation you face. You can choose to begin anew. You can accept what is here, and look at it for what it is. Perhaps there is an opportunity to acknowledge a silver lining: something to be learned or a good thing to be gleaned from a dire situation. Focusing on silver linings is another way to cultivate gratitude and strengthen your resilience at a time when you may need it most. And perhaps at a time when our country needs it most! Kristi Nelson, Executive Director at Gratefulness.org, talks about this in her reflection on election day results in her piece, “Heroic Hearts: Love in the Face of Anguish.”

You can choose to go forward in this moment with integrity, connection and compassion, with your values leading the way. You can choose honesty in your interactions with others. You can honor and bring compassion to yourself and others if the election results are overwhelming. You can honor others who are feeling discomfort by the uncertainty that lay ahead, and bring compassion for upcoming changes.

Bringing gratitude, you can begin anew, accepting what is and looking for silver-linings in the present of what can be gained from this experience. You can choose to take action, based on your values and reflections in a healthy way and ask, “What does my well-being call for now? What does the well-being of our nation call for now?” And then engage your gratitude and listen for the answer.

Day 10: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: *Appreciating Another Being*

As we enter day 10 of the mindful Gratitude Challenge, we are encouraged to reach out and bring gratitude for another being, one that has perhaps touched our lives in a meaningful way, influencing it for the better. The Science of Happiness says that gratitude strengthens social connections—as it energizes, heals and transforms our world. Expressing gratitude for someone else acknowledges the value we see in them; the effort that was made on our behalf, the gift that was given (time and resources) and the fact that it probably cost the giver something to give. When we acknowledge another being, we are strengthening not only in our relationship with that being, but also our relationship with humanity as well.

So today, recall someone who has impacted your life, with a kindness, support or whatever it is that made a difference. Bring to mind this person in as much detail as you can. Once you have him or her in mind, notice what is going on inside your own being. What do you sense in your body? An openness or vastness? A blooming? Notice what emotion is present. Whatever it is, breathe it in and tell yourself, “This is gratitude for social connection,” or perhaps, “this is love and compassion,” if that is what you are feeling. Take a few more breathes to link the emotions, sensations and thoughts you are experiencing around this event and person. Then write him or her a gratitude letter expressing your gratitude. Be sure to write about how this being impacted you, calling out how it made you feel, and perhaps acknowledging what it cost the being in time/resources. Mail or email the letter (writing it is more heart-felt), or call the person over the phone and read it to him or her. You can go one step further and deliver the letter, in a gratitude visit. Researchers have found this practice to have a great return on investment—strengthening the relationship even more, as well as your faith in humanity along with it!

Check out this video from soul pancake that looks at this practice from a few different perspectives.

Day 11: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: *Appreciating Another Being- Someone You Don’t Know*

As with day 10 of the mindful Gratitude Challenge, for day 11 we are encouraged to reach out and bring gratitude for another being. But instead of focusing on a person that has influenced our lives intentionally whom we know personally, today focus on someone you don’t know that influences your life by providing gifts indirectly, from which you benefit.

On this Veteran’s Day in the United States, there are many unknown persons for which I can cultivate gratitude: The Veterans of our country. I do know a few personally, and I know there are a lot more behind the scenes that give or have given service to make our country sharp and strong. Men and women who serve or served in the Armed Forces to ensure our freedoms, and defend our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other countries, this day coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, marking the end of World War I. When we are in a state of war, we may feel grateful for the strategic defense and offense of those protecting us. When we are not at war, we may feel grateful for the maintained peace that allows us to live outside of the pressure of what war brings.

Other beings for which you can be grateful, that you may not know directly but from whom you’ve benefited, are those that have invented things or discovered concepts that we use daily like electricity, utilities, or even the Internet. Related to health, you can give thanks to those in the medical field who have eradicated certain diseases. Alternatively regarding transportation, we can be grateful to those that keep our skyways safe delivering people, or those on the ground delivering resources we use every day. When we are eating a meal, we can bring gratitude toward those involved in cultivating crops at farms that end up at our favorite stores, and those involved in preparing and serving the meal (even if the preparer and server are ourselves).

On one more level, you can bring gratitude towards people that have influenced the life of your relatives, whom you don’t know, for the blessings they bring our loved ones (like teachers, or bosses, or organizations). There are so many people we can chose from for this challenge, that we could break it up for a month at least, but let’s just focus on the unknowns for today.

In doing this practice, we can see there are unseen others that have “paved” the way for us to live the way we do today. Emphasizing this, and not taking it for granted is one way we can give back to those whom have already given. Recognizing this can bring us some humility and perhaps the knowledge that we are all connected somehow. We are not alone in this human experience. It can also allow us to think about how our own actions make other lives better as well; for those we cannot see—but who benefit from our efforts.

And like yesterday, when you recall this person, think about what they may have had to do to provide the gift for which you are grateful. What sacrifices did he or she have to make to do what he or she did? You can do this practice mentally, or write it down. And as you do this practice, notice what you are feeling inside and breathe it in, telling yourself, “This is gratitude for giving to unknown others,” or perhaps, “this is love and compassion,” if that is what you are feeling. Take a few more breathes to link the emotions, sensations and thoughts you are experiencing around this challenge.

Then, as you go through your day, and as you notice any “ease” with which you do things, bring gratitude around those involved in making this so. Not knowing the benefactors, but recognizing the gifts that are provided in your life, helps us realize the efforts of the past, present and future. And brings us all together in this space we call humanity.

Day 12: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE* Appreciating a Person with Whom We Have Difficulty*

Continuing the theme of appreciating others, today’s challenge (which may be a BIG challenge for some) is to appreciate someone with whom we are having difficulties. Someone who is challenging us in one way or another. Perhaps it’s a co-worker or boss, or a loved one such as a spouse, parent, sibling, or offspring. Perhaps it’s a neighbor or friend, or it can even be a part of ourselves with which we are having difficulty.

Whomever you choose for this exercise, know that this person wishes to be free from suffering as do all living beings. Know that inside this person is a quality that you may admire and appreciate. Perhaps this person is stubborn. That may not be a quality to admire, but perhaps there is another way to view it. Looking from another perspective, you may bring gratitude for the fact that this person is strong in his or her convictions. Being strong to stand for something is a quality that many admire.

Communication may also bring difficulty to a relationship. Many people cannot get in touch with their emotions—hence they may be quieter, even absent in a conversation. Or perhaps they are living in their own head, attending to their incessant thoughts that they don’t notice the world around them. Other people may over identify with emotions and let them run the show—hence they may be “out there” letting you know exactly what they think. Sometimes the difficulty is not about you, but something about them. Perhaps you both recognize something in one another that triggers a past memory. So, if this person is difficult to communicate with, you may bring gratitude for potential introspection that this person does—if a quieter communicator. Or if a volatile communicator, perhaps bringing gratitude to the fact that he or she is passionate about the topic of conversation, feels strongly, etc…

If this person is difficult in other ways, try to see the flip side of this difficulty and how this tendency may be beneficial in a different situation. If you cannot see the flip side, try finding at least one aspect of this person that- if found in another person- you would admire. Everyone has at least one quality that can be appreciated. This exercise is not meant to defend the difficult person, but to allow you to see that within the negative, you can find one positive. And for that ability, we can be grateful. It also can help you grow compassion within yourself.

What studies have shown about gratitude is that it is a positive emotion and when practiced repeatedly, can increase our happiness and life satisfaction, our immune functions, and decrease negative emotional states. When gratitude is practiced repeatedly, it becomes easier and easier to do- finding the goodness in life and others, which also brings more benefits. So, what are you waiting for– find that difficult person now and start cultivating gratitude and well-being in this moment.

Day 13: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE* Appreciating a Person- your own being *

As we come to the last day of appreciating a person, we cannot forget ourselves in this equation. After all, a wise teacher once said, If your circle of compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete (Jack Kornfield).

Now, being grateful for yourself may be hard to do, especially since so many of us tend to be our own worst critics. We are known for offering compassion to others, especially when they are going through rough times. Yet, we tend to judge ourselves and may beat ourselves up in similar situations, when instead a dose of compassion may be just what we need.

So, today offer yourself compassion, and perhaps bring gratitude for the qualities you possess that are strong within you. Think about a time when you were faced with a challenge; an obstacle in your life, or a problem that needed to be resolved. What did you do to get through? What qualities within yourself came forth to help you overcome and persevere? What ever these were, now is the time to be grateful for having these strengths inside of you.

If you cannot identify any strong qualities within yourself (again, thanks to our inner critics) you might want to partake in an online survey, assessing your strengths. Go to the Values In Action website, and take the FREE survey. It can take only 20-minutes to complete the assessment, and at the end a report will be sent to you, highlighting your strengths from the strongest to the weaker. The site also suggests ways to use these more in life, and grow them as well.

This strengths finding experience can be a reminder, allowing you to see the good qualities within yourself. Perhaps bring gratitude to your top 3 strengths. And then make a note to self: remembering these aspects as you go through your days and life. Apply a strength when you are faced with a new difficulty. Notice how much more efficient resolving this issue can be, when approached with an inner resource.

Being grateful for your strengths can build your resilience and ability to bounce back, and allow you to see strengths in others at a time when you and the world need it!

Day 14: mindful GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: *Appreciating Cycles”

As we end Week 2 and begin Week 3 of the mindful Gratitude Challenge, perhaps we can bring some gratitude to the significance of cycles: that have a beginning, middle and end, only to begin again. We have many issues happening in our society and world right now, causing negative emotional energies. From the results of the Presidential Election in the US to the constant tensions in the eastern hemisphere, to really anywhere you drop a ping– negative emotions are popping up everywhere. What can we do to acknowledge these happenings, acknowledge emotions, and not let them hi-jack our way of being and living healthy? How can we reduce our reactivity, and bring a conscientious response to what is happening? Perhaps by recognizing and bringing gratitude to all cycles- of emotions, thoughts, sensations, and phases. And above all, processes.

All events have a beginning, middle, and end. Even our breath is a cycle with a beginning, middle and end of each in-breath, and a beginning, middle and end of each out-breath. In mindfulness meditation, we learn how to observe this cycle. Every thought and emotion also has these phases. It’s when we cling, hold on to, or deny them that they bring stress.

If we let them be, ride the wave without getting pulled under (or sucked into rumination), and see them to the end for what they really are, we can then ask that natural next question: so what do I need right now?

Applying this to coping with the aftermath of the election, we may ask, “What would make me feel better about this? Perhaps it is now time for contemplation about possible actions. Brain storm a list of things you can DO to bring inner and outter peace. After all, peace starts with the self. Finding inner peace, even for a moment allows for reduced reactivity.

So for THIS moment, what do you notice, and what do you need? Be aware of how this emotion is showing up in your body, and address that first. Take care of tension, aches, etc… first, and then ask the question again, of what you need.
Perhaps the emotional energy is motivating you to take action. If so, connecting with like-minded others to collectively respond is an idea. Or starting with yourself, what can you do to bring peace to your inner and outer world? How can you be the change?
Know that the emotional energy stirred will have an end, and so will the process of being with the election results. In fact that is how this government is set up– there is a beginning, middle and end to a political office. That is always something to keep in mind.
Besides the election aftermath, people are also dealing with the full moon effect, which can also have a play on our emotions. It is at this time of heightened energy that acknowledgment, acceptance and being with whatever is present, can ultimately help us let go and begin a new.
So with the full moon tonight, may you release any negative emotions that you may be holding right now, allowing them to flow. Let them go, not holding on to them to continue the way you feel. Acknowledge they are here and release them knowing that they served a purpose. And then ask yourself what was the purpose? And what do you need right now? And then begin a new… mindfully and with gratitude- for you are breaking the cycle of autopilot, just by noticing the cycle itself!

Week 1 mindful Gratitude Challenge

Week 3 Mindful Gratitude Challenge