This post will be purposely short and to the point. It originates from a bit of journaling this morning. I like to start my day with a grateful practice, but my thoughts often turn to other questions about the meaning of our existence on this planet. Enough said, here is the journal from this morning:
I am grateful for being alive today, and having the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life.
The question you must ask yourself is what is the purpose of all this? What do you mean by living a more fulfilling life?
Why am I here? Is it to fulfill a destiny, serve others, or to master my own philosophy?
Maybe it is all or none of the above. Maybe it’s as the Buddha taught to end suffering.
Whose suffering? Your own and all sentient beings.
How? For me it must be by writing and actions.
It’s not much of a reach to say we all have more than one purpose for living and these can be noble or selfish, or even some combination of the two. As humans we are fairly complex, possessing desires, dreams, and sometimes selfless motives for what we do.
There are many noble reasons to exist including:
Service to your community
Taking care of your family
Showing compassion for others
Being more mindful and spiritual
Becoming a better human being through philosophy
On the other side of the coin exists our selfish or negative motives:
The accumulation of wealth and material things
Sensory desires like sex, drugs, drinking, etc.
The desire to punish, belittle, and criticize those that are different from us
Wrong thought such as anger, hate, or envy
A preponderance of ego; thinking you are better than everyone else
The selfless or noble motives for your life result in happiness and the selfish in destruction. The choice is always yours alone.
For some time now I have been keeping a grateful journal, maybe a couple years or so. In this journal I write down 4 or 5 things I am grateful for and then I read them again to myself. While I figured I was heading the in the right direction, this journaling didn’t seem to make me more grateful. In fact I was still the same pain in the ass that I was two years prior to adopting this practice, but then one day it happened. I actually started to feel grateful; I mean a full on sense of gratitude for everything in my life.
The funny thing is I don’t know exactly why, but what was different is I was feeling it, not rationally thinking about stuff I should be grateful for, but instead deeply feeling grateful. It was all about the feeling not some method of convincing myself that I need to be grateful. Maybe my previous attempts at writing down what I was grateful for were too mechanical and laden with some kind of expectation that I should be grateful. Once I started feeling grateful the journaling on gratitude become more specific and insightful. The previous journaling would be things like:
I’m grateful for my family
This was like trying to brainwash myself, repeating the same old worn out shit day after day, and it didn’t work. Real felt gratitude results in deeper insights into what you are grateful for and seems to be self perpetuating, where as making up super high level stuff like I was results in nothing. You can’t brain wash yourself into being grateful, but it seems you need to feel grateful or the journaling becomes a waste of time.
So where does this leave us when it comes to journaling? These are a few insights I’ve had over the past couple of days:
When you do feel grateful by all means write something in your journal and be specific.
You don’t have to feel grateful for everything, so if you only have one or two things that you feel truly grateful for then write them down, but don’t feel compelled to write down 4 or 5. It seems like you kill the magic feeling when the whole thing becomes some kind of stupid writing exercise.
Don’t time box yourself, if you get up in the morning to write in your grateful journal, take a few minutes to think about it and feel it. Forcing yourself to write something down doesn’t move the ball forward. It’s not about using up paper and filling a page. It is about discovering and feeling real gratitude.
Accept that there may be days where you write nothing at all. Maybe you just don’t feel all that grateful today; that’s alright your not a gratitude machine.
I would love to hear about your gratitude journaling experiences and what works for you.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for this blog. I’m not sure why, but it is what it is as they say. I have written about being grateful and actually writing it down in the past, although my own adherence to this advice was somewhat intermittent at best, until about 6 months ago. I broke down and bought a journal partly because I had always read that hand writing things down has more of an impact than typing them. For me that seemed to ring true. So everyday or almost everyday I get up early and at about 5:00 a.m. I start writing in my journal what I am grateful for and then I add a little thing called Decree to the Universe.
The Decree to the Universe is to a large degree a realization that your grateful practice is providing you. It may take the form of an affirmation or at least a way of being, even if it only lasts for the day ahead of you.
Sometimes I write very conventional statements of being grateful for things like my family or my home, and sometimes very simple things like this cup of coffee is pretty damn good. At other times I write what I think I am becoming. All of this journaling takes about 10 minutes of your time. Write down what you are grateful for and then some Decree to the Universe; read it back to yourself slowly so that you really feel it.
One of the things I noticed is that all the benefits I list below, did not happen for me overnight. It seems like it took months to attain the full effect that a grateful practice can provide. Maybe I’m a bit slow, but in any case it appears that perseverance matters.
So why go to all this bother? Well there are a few good reasons:
It’s hard to start your day as an asshole if you just listed a number of things you are grateful for.
It begins to distance you from the woe is me and isn’t this world unfair way of thinking.
You start appreciating even the little things more intensely and you really start appreciating the people around you.
It makes you more focused on who you really are or who you should be than the pain ass that you can be even to people very close to you.
You eventually become more mindful, which ultimately results in you becoming a happier person.
Just a note here, there is really no need to buy some special grateful journal any decent journal with lines on it will do the trick.
Here is an example from my journal this morning. I may post more in the future.