An excerpt from Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life! by Deborah Jane Wells (Hay House/Balboa Press 2013)
I first became acquainted with the idea of a gratitude practice in 1995 through Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance. The book’s core concept was to begin and end each day by naming at least five things for which I was grateful. Some days the list overflowed with twenty-five or more items, evidence of my consciousness of the generosity of the Universe. Other days, when I perceived things as going poorly, I struggled to identify even five things for which I was thankful.
I followed the gratitude practice off and on through the years but abandoned it entirely at the very time when I could have most benefited from it. When I got insanely, stressfully busy in the final years of my consulting career, I left the gratitude practice by the side of the road, having erroneously concluded that I was too busy to be intentionally grateful.
Fast forward to 2010, when I had left consulting, lost eighty pounds, escaped depression, and began pursuing my calling as an empowerment coach and Reiki master, teaching others about the transformative power of falling in love with themselves. Though love, respect, curiosity, and compassion were serving me well in manifesting unconditional self-love, sometimes when my life became especially complex, the judging voice could still take over with its fear-based constricting messages of doom and gloom.
One day, during written meditation, I remembered the power of my former gratitude practice and wondered if it might be the missing link. As I went beyond just a morning and evening event to making it a way of life I call radical gratitude, here is what I discovered.
Love and gratitude serve as the bookends of constructive core energy. Between them, they encompass and support all the other aspects of love: respect, curiosity, and compassion. Love initiates the flow of core energy; gratitude expands it. Love is the originator. Gratitude is the catalyst. Through the eyes of gratitude, we see that everything is an opportunity, a grace-filled gift of Universal love characterized by loving-kindness, elegant beauty, copious generosity, and infinite mercy.
Radical gratitude fosters a life of generous, effortless, gracious flow filled with faith, hope, prosperity, peace, and joy. What might this look like in real life? Let’s start with the example of cleaning the litter boxes for my three beloved cats, SiddhaLee, Mortimer, and Maisy Jane—my constant companions, playmates, comforters, teachers, and assistants.
The rule of thumb for litter boxes is to have at least one more box than the number of cats. With experimentation, I discovered that, ever the overachievers, my three cats require six boxes that are scooped free of any refuse morning and night. In addition, once a month, those six boxes must be washed, dried, and refilled with a fresh batch of litter. We’re talking 70 pounds of litter a month.
As the number of litter boxes escalated, at first I was resentful. Why couldn’t they stop being so territorial and use fewer boxes? I perceived the money and time I was investing as excessive and onerous. Until, a year after he came to live with me, Mortimer became ill and nearly died. When we pulled him back from the brink of death and he began to grow stronger, it finally hit me: cleaning litter boxes isn’t a burden, it’s an act of love. It is a privilege and honor to be able to return a fraction of the love and companionship he and his mates shower on me daily, by handling this hygiene task for them. A funny thing happened; when I chose to shift my energy from resentment to gratitude, litter patrol was no longer an obligation. Now I sing and chatter happily to the cats while I move from room to room, ever their faithful, itinerant scooper.
So many things to be grateful for: clean water; hot showers; healthcare; education; heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer; healthy food; smiles, hugs, and kisses; and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abilities.
On-the-spot, real-time gratitude is the most powerful antidote I know to fear and any of its ugly cousins—frustration, judging, resistance, jealousy, worry, scarcity, depression, despair, and the like. When I stay centered in gratitude for all of life’s simple blessings, I find it easier to stay anchored there in the more painful times. The friend who dumps me. The spouse who becomes ill. The hurricane that devastates the beloved South Jersey Shore of my childhood. The movie theater mass shooting in my hometown of Aurora, Colorado. Being present in New York City on September 11, 2001, where I spent the night accounting for my missing consulting colleagues. When viewed through the lens of gratitude, even those painful experiences are opportunities for deeper insight, greater compassion, dramatic personal growth, and increased appreciation for the gift of life. In the words of the great sage Kahlil Gibran, “Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”
And, if, on your darkest days, despite your best efforts, you still can find nothing to appreciate, try doing a simple kindness for someone in need. If you are like many, you just may find the hope and gratitude you awaken in another will rekindle the flame of hope and gratitude in your own troubled heart.
Before wrapping up this exploration of gratitude, I want to consider an additional essential aspect of genuine gratitude that truly fosters flow: the principle of circulation. While many people are extremely comfortable with giving to others, far fewer are equally comfortable with receiving from others. Raised with such precepts as, “It is better to give than receive” and “God loveth a cheerful giver,” many have mistakenly concluded that life is all about giving. But giving without a similar commitment to receiving blocks rather than fosters flow.
Flow requires free circulation, both inflow and outflow, with neither condition being desired, admired, or sought after more than the other. Giving with abandon accompanied by resistance to receiving is not what love looks like and it won’t encourage flow. Such duality indicates that fear has crept in and tainted what could, if fueled differently, be an act of love. The roots of this sort of circulation imbalance are planted firmly in misunderstanding the nature of power and assuming power is the same thing as force.
This misperception is based in the belief that giving will put me in the “up” position, leaving me superior and powerful. Once I succeed in giving to you, I can expect you to return the favor on demand in the future in whatever form I desire consistent with my unilateral terms and conditions.
With this definition of giving in place, it follows that I might perceive receiving would put me in the “down” position, leaving me inferior and powerless. Once I succumb to receiving from you, I will be obligated and vulnerable to acting for your benefit in the future—on demand and against my will—in ways that may conflict with my personal values and abilities.
The simple recalibration to these misperceptions is to realize that sort of exchange is not what love looks like. Remembering love’s essential attributes of respect, curiosity, and compassion will increase your clarity in that regard. As the giver, when you choose unconditional love as your core fuel, whatever the expectations of the receiver, you never give from a desire to control or manipulate others. And as the receiver, when you choose unconditional love as your core fuel, whatever the expectations of the giver, you are never obligated to respond from fear. Only you decide what is right for your life. What you give and receive, from and to whom, when, why, how, and how much are always yours to choose. In each moment, you have the opportunity to choose love over fear and behave in alignment with your choice.
Here’s an additional insight to help you move more comfortably into balance, harmony, and understanding concerning the roles of giving and receiving in fostering flow. The practice of “over-giving” is just another variation on the arrogance-based disrespectful interference I explore in my writings on respect. When we over-give, we rob the recipient of the opportunity to develop the healthy independence essential to personal growth and freedom. How do you know when this is the case? As always, look underneath your potential actions and be unflinchingly honest with yourself about whether your core fuel is love or fear. Once you recognize your fuel, you’ll have the opportunity to respect yourself and the other by making a conscious constructive choice.
People sometimes respond to this perspective on giving and receiving by saying, “But Deborah, it just feels so good to give!” Yes, it does feel good. And when you refuse to receive with gratitude and grace, you rob another of experiencing that joy of giving. Much as you may not like to admit it, such behavior demonstrates greediness: hoarding all of that good feeling for yourself. When you give but don’t embrace receiving, you imprison yourself with fear and your gifts become tainted.
Remember to consider the big picture when assessing how well circulation is working in your life. Don’t expect direct reciprocity in relation to what you give. Adopt a “pay it forward” mindset and the big picture God’s-eye view, knowing that the circulation you set in motion when you give to a friend or stranger, may return to you in ways you never dreamed of through people you don’t even know at a time well into the future. When you celebrate giving and receiving with a sense of joy and freedom, you exhibit genuine gratitude and foster for yourself and others lives of generous, effortless, gracious flow filled with faith, hope, prosperity, peace, and joy.
The only person controlling your life is you. Turn unexplored possibilities into fulfilling realities by harnessing the transformative power of love—and gratitude—to step into your greatness. Choose your energy and change your life!
If you enjoyed this post and would appreciate other valuable tools and insights to support your personal Journey to Wholeness, click here to sign up for FREE download access to additional articles based on my book, Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life (Hay House/Balboa Press 2013):
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: My Journey to Wholeness
- Suffering From Burnout? Love Is The Cure!
- What’s Love Got To Do With Business?
- My Five-Part Mindset For Living In Flow
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Found Out What It Means To Me
- Changes in Gratitude: Changes in Attitude
- Tools For Fostering Flow