G – GRACE & GRATITUDE
Acceptance of God’s Love ~ Watching for gifts ~ Reading spiritual memoirs and biographies ~ Awareness of synchronicities ~ Gift of tears ~ Lighting candles
Grace, to me, is so much about living with what you got rather than envy what you do not. We are all given the gifts of body and mind. How you choose to receive and use those gifts are up to you. Grace is conducting your body and mind in a manner of gratitude and growth. Not only being grateful for your today and what you have and looking forward to new gifts and how to share them. We also grow by learning about those whom we look up to. Not only in a spiritual sense, but personality, career, political, etc. All of these lend to our sense of self and spirituality, or connection with others.
Gratitude journals ~ Naikan ~ Blessings ~ Greeting the dawn ~ Mealtime grace ~ Offerings
I have written about gratitude before. It is one of the aspects of “Happy” people. When we are grateful, for everyday things, we are focusing on our blessings and not shortcomings. It can be easy, especially in our culture, to get caught up in what we don’t have. This creates angst, resentment, greed, etc. Keeping a gratitude journal helps us remember that everyday we have things to be grateful for. The journal is simply writing down good things that happened that day and events, people or things you are grateful for.
Naikan is a the Japanese word for “introspection” It is a practice of self reflection, which includes gratitude. It can be a simple and easy way to include gratitude daily. It can also be a reflection of those who given to you throughout your life.
Naikan reflection is based on three questions:
- What have I received from __________?
- What have I given, what have I done for ___________?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused __________?
F – Faith & Forgiveness
Talking to God ~ God box ~ Prostration and Surrender ~ Trust Exercises ~ Personal creeds ~ Examen of consciousness ~ Participation in a Religious Community ~ Sacraments ~ Sharing Sacred Stories
Faith is about your sharing your soul/self/consciousness with a larger entity. That larger entity could be a God, nature, unseen forces or the collective peoples of the world. However you choose to nurture your spirituality aides in your sense of connectedness to the world around you. People come together with like values, morals and believes in faith. There many ways to believe and worship. Those many options listed above are about the connection, feeling comradery and support while allowing others and your entity to take on some of your strife. If you are not religious or feel a sense of spirituality, you could find a place or activity that gives you peace and sense of safety.
Letting go ~ confession of sins ~ repentance ~ reconciliation ~ Passing the Peace
Forgiveness is very powerful! It is also quite difficult for some people. Forgiveness includes other people who may have wronged you, grief for unmet needs and your personal transgressions. Yes! We need to forgive ourselves as much as others.
We usually relate forgiveness to “forgive and forget” when you have been hurt be others. This does not help you or them. If you have been wronged, you need to examine that instance, take responsibility for your portion, adjust your expectations and boundaries and let the anger and sadness about it go. It does not have to even involve the other person. Forgiveness of others is about YOU. You need to make peace with a wrong doing and release the power it has over you. This can be simple or complex. Letting go may need outside help in complex cases like abuse. When others ask for forgiveness, they are asking you to make them feel better about what they did. You are NOT condoning behavior or words with forgiveness. You are freeing yourself of the negative impact on you. I have written on this in more detail here.
Identifying unmet needs is tricky and can harbor some really negative feelings. People let us down. It is usually no fault of their own. Just our expectations. We can harbor some pretty negative feelings about those unmet needs. For example, if your mother suffered from severe depression and was not capable of being affectionate or even emotionally available when you were a child, you may have some anger about that as an adult. Forgiving her will allow you to let go of those painful feelings. This would entail understanding her situation from an adult perspective and accepting her limitations. Writing a letter to people you have negative feelings about (even if you never send it) can help you sort and understand those unmet needs.
Forgiveness of yourself is allowing you to see your mistakes, sins, bad choices, wrong turns, etc and letting them go. You can’t just dismiss those things from your life. All those choices are part of you and who are you today. Your personal forgiveness is about looking at those choices, what have learned from them, what might you do differently and how you can grow from that experience. Once you really understand them, you can let them go. You can allow yourself the freedom to not feel the guilt and remorse of your sins. Saying “I’m sorry”means you understand what you have done and will not do it again.
I have written quite a bit about gratitude. It is one of the main characteristics of happy people! What is so important about being grateful and thankful?
Sometimes, we think of things we don’t have rather than the blessings and gifts we do have. That can cause us to feel insecure, sad, anxious, discontented, jealous, and lacking. Our society advertises to the part of us that is insecure. We need a certain car, make-up, shoe, vitamin, exercise machine, etc to be who we should be, ought to be, to be more. Well, that kind of scrutiny should come from within. Those people who want to sell us some stuff, even magazines about how to be better at… everything, don’t know you. They just know people and how to hit insecurity buttons.
You know you, what you need, want and “should” be. Gratitude is about recognizing what you are starting with, what your power and tools are to move forward. I work with many people who feel worthless and hopeless with no future. They have tremendous difficulty seeing what they are blessed with, even the small things. One of the tricks with gratitude is to not belittle or demean the blessings. No, “yeah, but,” “so what,” “who cares,” “not really” or any other follow up comment that may totally erase the good thing. It’s still there!
A grateful heart will open you up to new wonderful feelings, ways of seeing the world and relationships. How do you get a grateful heart? How do you find the silver lining? Start with saying Thank You, for anything, and really meaning it.
Gratitude journal: Get a notebook. Everyday, yes, every single one, write down 3 things you are grateful for. They should be different things that you have to think about. Write down why you are grateful for those things. Do this for at least one month. You can continue as long as you would like or just when you need a pick-me-up.
Thank you notes: Write a heart felt thank you note to one person in your life. I would suggest one a day, everyday for 2 weeks or once a week for a year! You can email it, mail it, message it, put it in their lunch box. Make sure they get it, even if it’s on their gravestone.
Practice Gratitude and being Thankful.
I, like many others who work in the therapeutic world, liken life to a journey. The “experience” of life can teach you many things and take you many places. You have opportunities to make major decisions which would change your path. One particular analogy I work with is what happens while strolling on your particular path in life.
Often while we walk, in the life analogy and in reality, we encounter obstacles, small and large. Many are small pebbles, daily decisions, which can be easily tread past. Sometimes the life decisions are larger, likes stones or even boulders. When we encounter a stone, we must decide how we will navigate it. Do we toss it aside or behind us, try to work around or over it, which many require some effort. The stones require some mental effort. Generally if you ignore such a stone and skirt it, you may find yourself facing the same stone later in life. So, stones, boulders, and rocks of various size will fall into your path. You will be required to ponder them and how to manage them in your way.
Many people do not know how to manage such stones, especially younger in life, and just pick them up to move on with life. These stones stay with you. You put them in a kind of “back pack,” I call it. It represents the things that you choose not to see in your past. If you just keep putting stones in there, it gets heavy, really heavy, the longer you carry it around. At some time you will have to take off the pack and go through those stones. Some might go right back in there (Nope, can’t face that now). Others, like resentment about a childhood wrong, an angry parent, bad breakup in high school, divorce, rape, abuse… They need to be addressed. Those stones get heavier with time, especially when you are trying to pretend they are not there. They impact you, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Write a time line. This is a list of events in your life starting from birth. They should be anything big that has happened to you, good or bad. Moving, birth of sibling, parent divorce/death, new school, abuse by neighbor, graduate, married, first full time job, house fire. Get it? Write it all down, as close to chronological order as you can. Now, go back and read it, maybe the next day after you had some time to reflect.
Did you miss anything? Are you intentionally leaving events out? What things cause an emotional response (anger, sadness, irritation)? Maybe some of those things are your rocks. Now, what do you do with that stone?
Here’s are some other posts that would relate to the reflection of your stone collection: Self talk can be a key to your belief about yourself, past trauma and how it impacts you, and the basic of only knowing what you know.
People are effected in all kinds of ways with the change of the seasons. Today is blustery, windy, cool, dark with the promise of rain, lots of rain. It’s fall. That means there will be less sunlight in the day, more cold weather, more darkness. I don’t mind the fall. I love Halloween, the change of colors, the cooler temperatures.
Some people dread the fall. It means the beginning of a season of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), now called Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern in the DSM 5, is the onset of depression at the beginning of a specific season, like fall or winter, which disappears at the onset of a specific season, like spring or summer. Yes, it could happen the other way around, though rare. If you start to feel more sad, irritable, sleepy or anxious and your desire to do your usual activities wanes in the shorter days. You might have SAD.
Like “regular” depression, the brain chemicals that regulate mood, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine, seem to dip during the shorter days. The theory is the decrease in sunlight impacts circadiam rhythms, causing sleepiness, disruptions in sleep and drop in serotonin. Therefore, theoretically, using a UV light should help! Light therapy has been demonstrated to work well for people with seasonal patterns of depression. I have seen it work with clients who used it properly. Getting an at home UV light can be tricky. Not all light therapy boxes are created equal. Be sure to get one with full spectrum UV/UB lights. One that won’t burn you like the sun, but will give you the advantages of the light.
Depending on the severity of one’s depression, light therapy and being active socially and physically, can make all the difference. Some others may need medication to alleviate the seasonal sadness. Some people just head south and spend the winter in warmer climates.
Here is some information from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) on SAD.
I read a beautiful, troubling excerpt from a fiction book about what trauma does to a person. I thought “Only someone who has been traumatized would understand this.”We call them survivors, but once the [bad guys] get you, the person you were dies, like any traumatized part of you never leaves that room, that car, that moment, and you walk forward a ghost of your former self. You rebuild yourself over the years, but the person you were isn’t the person you become. The great bad thing happens, and you become a ghost in your own life, and then you become flesh and blood and remake your life, but the ghosts of what happened don’t go away completely. They wait for you in low moments and then they wail at you, shaking their chains in your face and trying to strangle you with them. ~Laurell K.Hamilton, Affliction
The trauma after effects, of any degree, can impact you at any time, with any reminder of the moment, people, places, smells, times of day. Those “shaking of chains” are those sneaky fears, troubles, anxiety, depression, panic. Those inexplicable moments of irrational thought. Trauma can impact your sleep, your appetite, your belief about yourself, relationships and your life. It can hit you big or small. Do not under estimate the impact of trauma. Like the excerpt stated, you can rebuild your life and yourself, but those ghosts hang about.