love on top: monthly challenge ii

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This month I started a gratitude practice. I was looking for an activity to complement my previous monthly challenge of daily meditation. I was also looking for a personal growth task that could take the place of what I thought I might find on the couch in my therapists’ office. It wasn’t there: a sense of security and tangible ways to manage seemingly unreasonable feelings. I was leaning too hard on another person; expecting too much and zeroing in on the disappointment when no one else was trying to rock me down out of the panic. By my bill, it was something I was going to have to find for myself.

There are many ways to go about creating a practice of gratitude. I did a little investigation and decided that the best route for me would be journaling. My journal and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship for the better part of the last half-decade, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I love to write, I need to process, I have to get my thoughts out there in order to know that I’ve even been thinking them. This is why I love soulmate friends, and my parents. It dawned on me that free-write journaling about anything and everything on my mind pulled out a TON of negativity. I was unkind to myself and others whom I felt had wronged me in some way. It helped perpetuate my unease and rarely would I arrive at a place of satisfaction. I definitely don’t believe in forgetting about the negative emotions; they have a place and function.  We don’t, however, need help looking back on the negative aspects of our lives; we employ our ego in that role full time. For me, I needed a physical reminder of all that I am surrounded by and of all the things that make for an exciting and fulfilling life.

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I set up my gratitude journal in an old leather-bound blank book I have been carrying around since my Make-A-Wish days. I always though it would hold my first great novel but, alas, it was time to put it to good use. I only ask myself to write one page of things I am grateful for when I sit down to write, which is often daily or every other day. Many times each entry begins with the exact same statement. There are a few concepts I’ve written about on almost every page, and I think that is okay. It helps to establish those things as my foundation, and there’s no harm in being grateful for particular things day in and day out. That shows us where our values truly lie, no? I also challenge myself to be grateful for personal qualities and spirit, like resourcefulness and enthusiasm, as well as universal experiences like high vibrations. There are so many things to notice on a daily basis that it is cool to remember some powerful ones if you take the time to sit down and reflect.

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Since starting this practice, I have felt powerful. I find myself less at the bottom of my own bowl of pity, and more as the cherry on top of the wonderful stack of things that make up my life. I like it in conjunction to meditation because it gives me an opportunity to put any notes of clarity on paper and refer back to them. How many times do we read old journal entries and shake our head in disbelief at what we once thought was the most devastating point of our lives? How awesome it is to look back on gratitude entries and feel even more grateful that we were able to notice the fulfilling moments despite the stressors. Our life might become a collection of stories about our successes and failures, and we also might forget about the little nuances, like how we started a gratitude practice amidst it all.

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