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Experiencing Gratitude


Ever since January, I have been spending time reflecting on a different topic each week.


I have been making art, meditating, facilitating, and reading about a different theme one week at a time.


For example, one week I reflected on the idea of the “The Blank Page” and the following week it was the idea of “Surrendering to My Wellbeing.” I have been doing this as part of the weekly Open Reflective Studio I am hosting.

 

This intentional dedication to one topic has been really nourishing (and at times a bit challenging to stay focused on) but something really clicked for me a few weeks ago.


I was so inspired by it I decided to try and capture some of my thoughts here for you, but then I also filmed a short creative exercise so you could play along and do your own reflection on this.

 

Here is how it unfolded for me….

 

The week that I spent exploring this idea of “the blank page” underscored for me how stepping into an empty space (like a white page, or a new project, a new relationship, or empty/ undedicated free time) is one of the easiest places to really notice what you are ‘showing up’ with.

 

It’s like being photographed in a white empty room and all of the sudden the colours of your clothes are that much more vivid, the contrast of your body and shape is clearer, and somehow you show up a little more ‘you’ without all the distractions!

 

I am sure you can relate to this, when I face down an empty space, I immediately want to fill it!  I often equate blank with empty, and my impulse is to fill it as fast as possible. Staying with the emptiness is hard. It feels so much more comfortable to just start filling it and doing something, anything, with the empty space.

 

It is much more comfortable for me to head straight for my mind. To take control, start planning, lead the process with my hand rather, than let the process lead me. So, it was a refreshing experience to really challenge myself to notice how the process was moving, not just my business flitting around.

 

And this was also a great warm up for me to make my big insight the following week!

 

The next week I spent swimming in the idea of what it means to ‘Surrender to my wellbeing.’ The premise of this week was to honour the idea that wellbeing is always present and available at any moment in time. A big part of this is knowing that we are worthy of it, we don’t need to do anything, make anything happen, or work for it in any way- wellbeing is a faithful companion always there just waiting to be experienced in any moment.

 

But my habit of resisting this abundance runs deep (maybe for you too.) I can think about what’s good in my life, except it seems to always come with a qualifier of “but” or “except” as a way of preventing myself from truly being with the abundance.  

 

For example, I might think “I am healthy right now” and then immediately offer the qualifier “but I should really lose weight” or might be thankful for someone I love and then add “except I don’t deserve them.” It can be hard to stay with that first instinct of wellbeing.

 

When I spent the week trying to surrender to my own wellbeing, I discovered the lengths I will go to keep wellbeing at bay, always just a little out of reach…

 

I discovered some deep habits of seeking distraction as a way of taking me out of any kind of depth of feeling.

 

I saw myself focusing on the future and how I want things to change which helps to keep me safely from actually feeling wellbeing for any length of time. Because there is always something that needs to be better in my mind it seems.

 

And then click. Wow Rachel why is experiencing wellbeing so hard!

 

When I asked myself this question, I discovered that experiencing well-being means that I must step out of the safe framework of my mind and step into the wild and uncertain world of experience. Boom. That was it.

 

Let me give you an example. Gratitude has been a fruitful practice for me for many years. It helps me pay attention to what is good and working in my life, but if I am honest really in its essence it often stays a worthy and rich mental activity for me. A chance to think my way through what’s good. And for me safety is thinking. My old companion. A place where I am in control and can decide how things will go.

 

I noticed that when I practice gratitude, I can actually feel a buffer that keeps me safely at a distance. It lets me check the box of noticing what is good but not really being in a state of feeling of good. It’s almost like standing outside a garden and appreciating the beauty of it, (which is a lovely spot to be) but it isn’t the same as being beyond those gates knee deep in the wilds of growth.

 

Experiencing well-being, actually being in the felt space of my senses and my awareness, makes wellbeing immediate. It’s an immersive state of abundance. This is the courageous act of walking into the garden, smelling the flowers, feeling the warmth of the sun, touching the warm wet soil.

 

This all felt like a wakeup call of sorts, an observable pattern in my life asking for care.

 

My desire to rush in the empty blank spaces and fill it with something anything, rather than experience the unknown…

 

My comfort with thinking rather than experiencing, preferring this controlled space of the mind rather than being in thick of emotions, sensations, and feelings.

 

The two are deeply connected and when I pull back and look at what this all means I can see that it is an invitation to continue to develop my skills of surrender, of feeling, experiencing, allowing the mind to rest more. And not just in challenging situations but in joy and wellbeing too.

 

Perhaps the pathway to finding more joy and happiness in my days is to practice leaning into the experience of each moment, become comfortable with being rather than always doing. 

 

And of course, our creativity is a place to notice and practice this! If you want to play around with the ideas I have brought forward here more, I have put together a guided art activity for you!

 

It’s called “Experiencing Gratitude” and in it I walk you through the creation of a simple mandala where each mark symbolizes something you have gratitude for, and along the way we pause to actually experience the abundance of each. You can find the video below.

 

I hope you will enjoy and jump into taking the abundance of life out of the mind, and into the land of sensory abundance.

 

Thanks for being here with me and witnessing my personal insights.

 

Rachel




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