Falling in Love With Life

Doing the Grounded Alignment client work, we implement several kinds of writing but the most important, in my view, is the gratitude list. This practice absolutely allowed me to connect with all the things I felt were “on my side” in my life. Once I started practicing gratitude consistently, the world opened up and showed me more things to be grateful for. I conjured micro-gratitudes, mega-gratitudes, jumping-for-joy gratitudes, mellow smile gratitudes – it was all a process of deliciously unveiling what was already there in front of me and then hungrily looking for more. I was celebrating the wrapped and unwrapped gifts that have been present in my life every day, even when I wasn’t noticing or acknowledging them. When I set my mind to work with looking for things to feel grateful for, it spent less time looking for problems. So the autonomic nervous system (fight-or-flight mojo) eased its grip on the steering wheel and the scenery got a whole lot cooler.

The key to a fulfilling life is to be in love with yourself and the world around you. This is not easy to hear when you’re mired in depression, but it’s been the truth for me and many of my clients. How do you fall in love with life when you feel like you already want a divorce? Just like in any relationship, gratitude and appreciation are very important. Life responds with a contented purr when you show appreciation for what it has given you. And, not unlike the auntie who receives a heartfelt message of thanks from a grateful nephew for a gift, it’s more inclined to send you more good stuff also.

Some aspects of life are easier to fall in love with than others. Some people find it easier to start with the “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to expressing gratitude. Rainbows, babies, chocolate, the morning dew, great sex. Easy. But what about the things you walk past everyday and barely notice? Do you have indoor plumbing? Congratulations. An estimated 1.3 million people in the US don’t. Or over 4.2 billion worldwide. Once you get started with the things we take for granted, (clothes, somewhere to live, a friend or two, breathing) you can write a fresh gratitude list every day and never run out of things to write about. One of my favorite realizations was feeling grateful that I had the physical ability to walk a shopping cart back across the parking lot to the rack when I was done with it. It felt like such a privilege to be able to do that – I have made a point of it ever since unless really pressed for time.

The opposite of love is often said to be fear, but it’s also apathy. Active gratitude brings engagement and awareness. It is part of a mindfulness practice that brings the world closer. Being grateful for every breath or a cool breeze on a hot day not only mindfully acknowledges those things but also embraces them.

The deepest level of gratitude is for the challenges that feel so unwelcome; so unhelpful; so painful. From a mundane inconvenience like a flat tire to a big fat challenge like cancer, it takes a whole ‘nother level of gratitude to look such things in the face and ask for the gift – the lesson – that they are bringing to your attention. After all, we’re conditioned to see these things as bad. Disasters, even. But they just are what they are, like a rainy day is not worse than a sunny day. It’s just another day. If we can feel gratitude for a gift that comes with the challenge of a serious illness, we can lean into it and feel what it is giving us that enriches our lives. It may be a slow and painful process to recover from a serious setback but with a grateful disposition, and a mindful presence there is grace in every step.

I believe that the world is a beautiful place and that it deserves our love. We are part of the world too – part of the greater consciousness and the highest wisdom. Connection with this feeling is true abundance. We deserve all the love in the world just for being here.

Elizabeth Sloan