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Book Recommendation: "Attitudes of Gratitude" by M. J. Ryan

Originally posted on Nov. 27, 2014

Transform Expectations into

No Matter Whats

It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily,

reject the good that God offers us because,

at the moment, we expected some other good.

– C.S. Lewis

The most ungrateful person I know is an older woman who can't see the beauty of her life because she's so bitter that it didn't turn out the way she thought it should. She has a lovely home and garden, healthy, bright, successful children, a 50-year-old marriage, and the means and health to travel. No one in her family has died or been seriously ill; she’s never known poverty or lack; she is, from all external measures, highly privileged, with much to be grateful for. And yet all of what she has is completely invisible to her because it somehow doesn’t match the picture of what she expected. Her kids don’t live close enough to visit often enough; she wishes there was even more money; her marriage isn’t as loving as she desires. Gratitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy, for the more she complains, the more lonely and isolated she finds herself as friends and family grow weary of her moaning.

To me, this acquaintance is an important teacher in the practice of gratitude – a vivid example of how expectations can create blinders so that we can't even see the true blessings of our lives. Expectations are the killers of gratitude and joy: If you expect to live in the Taj Mahal, your cozy little cottage will feel pretty awful; if you expect your son to become a doctor, you can’t appreciate him for the find bodyworker that he is; if you focus on how you are going to be miserable without a BMW, your trusty, rusty Toyota that reliably gets you around it will only bring you misery.

Having hopes dreams and visions for the future is one thing; it's important to have goals and schemes pulling us into the future. But we need to be careful that such envisioning doesn't get in the way of appreciating the things we have in the here and now. Let’s not miss the beauty of our actual lives while we are lusting after a mythical perfect life.

If we expect someone or something outside ourselves to make us happy, we lose our power. The truth is we can't count on anything except our ability to choose how to respond to what happens to us. One way to counteract the tendency to look outside ourselves for happiness is to practice No Matter What. Before you go into a situation, ask yourself, “What is it that I can learn, accomplish, or experience here, no matter what happens?” Let’s say you have to give a speech and are nervous about how it will be received. Your No Matter What might be, “No matter what, I want to experience a sense of peace while talking. As I look out into the audience, I’ll remember to breathe and noticed that at my core there’s peace.” Afterward, no matter what else happens – that people appear bored, or no one came up to thank you – you can still appreciate yourself for having kept your commitment to experience peacefulness.

When we practice No Matter What, we are no longer hooked by expectations to externals – other people, other events – but are free to choose what we will focus on to make us happy.

Self-Discovery Tools

Working with Gratitude

Ryan presents material that allows us to continue to work on our path to Self Discovery. Most of us would probably like to be in the scene of enjoying gratitude for what we have. But we may actually find ourselves in the same position as this older woman, perhaps not to the same degree, but nonetheless where we focus on what we don't have and we concentrate and build scenes within the mind of how we would like things to be different.

Ryan points out the difference between our "dreams and visions for the future" and "appreciating the things we have in the here and the now." All thoughts, even our goals, and dreams, are scripts that play out within our minds and either path can be manifested. One path requires the world to change at one's request, using more energy while the probability of materializing at this earthly level becomes minimal; the other path is that of least resistance, of acceptance of the gifts given by others, and of faith and trust in the way Spirit manifests God's bidding. This is the path of gratitude.

Steps for Self-Discovery

Ryan's statement, "We can't count on anything except our ability to choose how to respond to what happens to us," is very real and metaphysically accurate. That is, we have a say in who we are! Most of the time, we're just not aware of it.

Practice Ryan's wonderful suggested internal conversations. In addition, I offer these steps for deepening the practice of Self Discovery.

  • Look within and determine in which camp you find yourself: Gratitude or ingratitude?

  • Accept and acknowledge if you realize you are missing all the presents that life presents to you.

  • Acknowledge Who You Are in that moment, even if part of you is not in agreement. Feel and experience the emotions and thoughts that envelop you. Perhaps they are feelings of unworthiness, of sadness, and thoughts of "Why can't I have this?" or "I'm unhappy and I want that instead of this." The script should be indifferent to how everybody else is acting. Keep the door open to whatever thoughts you experience and be not afraid to allow a thought you may not like to enter. The idea is to observe yourself without judgment and really get to feel and experience the thoughts and emotions.

  • At this point, start to become conscious of your breath and do a few diaphragm breaths. Really get into feeling this emotion completely with every cell in your body, until you are in acceptance and not in denial or rejecting that emotion. Feel it so exclusively that you are almost intimate with this emotion -- you can taste it, digest it, see it, etc. At this point, it helps to say, "I know I am not my thoughts or my emotions; yet I know at the same time I am part of them and they are part of me." Continue with observing yourself void of judgment.

  • Now go into your mind, and here is where the decision is made. You really have to look at yourself and make a true, honest decision: Do I want to continue being on this particular path of thought, and continue to feed these particular heavy emotions and feelings, or do I want to change the course of the meal so that I can feed myself different (higher vibrating) emotions and feelings? Do not be surprised if a part of you answers "No, I do not want to," or "I'm not ready." If this is the case, gently nudge and try to persuade this voice otherwise. It might not happen right away; give it time, as this is the Lower Mind, which is still in the stage of a young child. Treat it with love, care, and patience. In this manner, you also start to build self-love in all the parts of Who You Are.

  • If you decide to change the path, continue with the diaphragm breath. Become conscious of breath, and then make a conscious choice to transform this feeling that you have into a higher vibrating emotion and feeling. You do this through reason. The Higher Mind speaks to the Lower Mind and says, "Now I will start to focus on the things that I have, and I'm going to be grateful no matter what." You can even start this transformation by feeling the sadness or ungratefulness because you now understand that experiencing emotions is a gift and an opportunity from life.

  • Perhaps your next move is to go to the kitchen and pick up a pot, look at the water in your faucet, and be grateful for the pot you have and the water that flows through your faucet. Be grateful for the electricity, heat, or air conditioning. As we all know, there are times when our electricity can go or water can be cut off or we do not have pots to cook with for whatever reason. Start being grateful for the simplest, smallest of things that surround you, and then decide to search within your moments of breath for the feeling of joy and the gratefulness. Feel joy that these items are in your life. (Do not worry if you don't feel the joy or gratefulness right away, but know that at some point you will. I can assure you. Why? Because if you can experience ungratefulness, then by metaphysical law, you can experience the opposite pole, gratefulness).

I just got back from Bogotá, Colombia, South America, last month. I was able to spend much time with my mentor and teacher, the living Bodhisattva Dr. Artudo Estrada. His saying comes to mind at this time, which goes with what we are speaking of here. He teaches that whenever you find yourself responding in an overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious manner to events and circumstances -- to active the Higher Mind by it saying to the Lower Mind: "No big deal" and "I release the importance." No Big Deal and I Release the Importance because I have done all that I could, and now I can release and place myself in God's hands. Says this with conscious breath, when one exhales, one joyfully and fully in mind and spirit puts oneself in God's hands -- This is the secret, this is the key. May you continue your breaths in solitude and in awareness of Who You Are.

I encourage you to get a hold of "Attitudes of Gratitude" by M. J. Ryan, which contains other wonderful aphorisms that you can contemplate and continue to use for your internal work.

My love and joy

Medicine Woman Lizette


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