Read the quote above. Take it in. Gets me thinking about gratitude. What about you?
They say that the secret to life and happiness is in the practice of gratitude.
Whether you’re reading Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, Don Miguel Ruiz
or any scripture be it spiritual, enlightenment or religious, all reference gratitude as a practice that will see us more calm, centered and ultimately happy.
It’s funny – saying it like that makes it sound easy; it’s easy to be grateful and therefore we should all be doing it and end up happy. But yet, when it comes to practice, all of us know that being grateful can sometimes feel so difficult.
And maybe that’s why we’re always chasing happiness.
“Yeah, I have a great job, but my boss isn’t.”
“Yeah, I have a great body, but my skin isn’t so great.”
“Yeah everything is going great in my life, but if only I could lose a couple of inches around my waist.”
Notice what’s happening in those sentences. There are a lot of “buts”.
What’s happening with us that we choose to focus our thoughts and emotions on what’s not working rather than what is working? Why is our mind flipping in this direction?
I caught myself doing this just recently.
Let me tell you the story. It’s gonna be a long one so here we go. Grab a drink of something.
I hate to fly. Like HATEHATEHATEHATE. When I was 5 years old, I saw a plane crash.
My father was in the army and we lived in a joined army and air force base. They would have these annual air shows and while watching one from the grounds of our home, we saw a jet go down.
Now seeing that plane crash at five years old surprisingly didn’t really affect me enough to keep me from flying.
In fact, we had a blessed life traveling the world. By the time my sister and I were in our teens, we had already seen all 13 states in our home country of Malaysia, been to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria…
I had no problems with flying back then. But then as I hit my late teens, this fear crept up when I was studying in the UK and would fly back to Malaysia for the holidays.
I always assumed that this was because as I got older I was faced with the real issue of mortality and was finally dealing with the buried memory of the plane crash. In my early 20s a close family friend also died in a plane crash and this added to the fear.
As I advanced in my career, flying became part of the job description. And the fear got worse. I had to make long distance flights; a month away from the trip the anxiety would kick in. I wouldn’t be able to sleep (and if I did I’d dream my plane was crashing), I couldn’t eat, I was grumpy and moody.
It was getting bad.
In my late 20s I got some quick help from an amazing therapist and in that session with her I was cured. Well from a scale of 1 to 10 on fear, I went from a 12 to a 2. To me, that’s cured.
Which was great. It turns out my fears had nothing to do with dealing with mortality or seeing the plane crash at a young age. I won’t go too deep cause that would turn this into a book but basically it all had to do with loss of control and how our brains are so powerful it locks in logic to make us feel better about certain things or deal with certain emotions, so much that we believe everything we think (which we really shouldn’t). Sometimes it laces one fear with another.
In my instance, it was based on something traumatic which I experienced while living in the UK. Instead of dealing with that issue (of which I felt powerless) it was easier to link my loss of control to the fear of flying as that seemed more “rational” to my brain as a “loss of control” situation at that time.
OK, got it. Great. Makes perfect sense.
So I’m doing good after my session, dealt with my emotional issues and I’m flying again. I’m jet-setting and I’m happy to be seeing the world.
And then Malaysia has 3 MAJOR AIRLINE DISASTERS in one year.
We all know the ones I’m talking about. MH370, MH17, and Air Asia’s crash end of 2014. All hit a little too close to home. Back, to back, and back.
All Malaysian flights, both airlines I fly on, one on a route I’ve taken several times.
I’m not only back to square one, I’m on ground zero.
I’m crashing on the inside and fast. All my irrational fears that came up as logic for why my plane could go down (all of which were dismissed by experts as highly impossible) became very real and possible.
I couldn’t fly. So I took a break for a while. After six months off flying, it was time to start traveling again (despite my fear, I also couldn’t sit still for long). Last January, I had 9 flights to take in total from Malaysia to United States to United Kingdom to Netherlands to United Kingdom again then finally back to Malaysia.
I was taking several of these alone.
I was a wreck. I was perpetually on edge for a meltdown. Before I departed Malaysia I shed a few tears. I just had to have a cry. I was about to get trapped in my worst fear for the next 27 hours.
I prayed, “Oh God, Universe. Please. I beg of you. Please, please, please let me have a safe flight. I don’t know why I’m so scared. I will figure it out and deal with these issues, but please give me a chance to face them. I’m not ready to die yet. That I know.”
And so that was it. Time to fly. And I did. But I noticed the most bizarre contrast.
For the first time in my life, I had smooth flights all the way. Not once was there any sort of turbulence. Sometimes there would be an announcement that we were approaching turbulence and the seatbelt sign would go on – my heart would pound in moments like this. But oddly enough, the turbulence never came and the seatbelt sign would go off.
I also had amazing people by my side, trying to communicate with me always, making me laugh, asking me for help for something or another. I was pleasantly entertained throughout and was in so much ease for the smooth cruises. It was as though I had angels all around me.
But then on the ground things were a little different. So many things were going wrong.
Before leaving Malaysia I realised I left some crucial things behind (including my foundation and strapless bra); upon getting to the US I get the full blown-flu (no fun); my flight out of the US to the UK was canceled because of some missed security check email, then I go through hell and back to secure a seat on that flight, only to pay almost double the initial price for the ticket and miss the 24 hour request window for a medical meal for my wheat allergy so I end up eating fruits only for the next 18 hours; I get a “lady” problem in the Netherlands and had to have an embarrassing encounter describing my problem to someone who spoke very little English (bless her for figuring it out!) and then I come home to Malaysia just wanting a hot shower in my own bathroom to have the water-heater switch break apart in my hand. (That’s just a short list of things, there are actually more!)
For some reason, my mind kept saying, “Why can’t I catch a break?!”
Then while I was having a shower in the spare bathroom, it hit me.
I’m so ungrateful.
Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” Anonymous
I remembered my prayer a few weeks back when I was about to start my journey. I asked to stay alive. And I am. But yet, I still had the nerve to complain about the (small) things that were going wrong. I’m pretty sure if my plane was going doing I would take a missing bra, the flu, lady problems, etc. anyday over a doomed outcome.
It also got me thinking about the balance of life and Newton’s Third Law which states: With every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
We want certain things so bad. But maybe there has to be a compromise? A sacrifice to balance it all.
You cannot be an Olympic athlete without sacrificing some of your relationships, without having strict discipline to change your diet and train tirelessly all day. You cannot be successful or a master at anything if the journey wasn’t coupled with some kind of payout for the payoff.
If only we could see how everything that happens around us adjusts itself to a balance, then it would make the journey and the conquest all the more worth it, memorable. The art of feeling that is called gratitude, and then we are happy because we see the bigger picture and how it all ties into each other.
I asked for a smooth flight, and I got that, but I had to sacrifice other things on the ground that would then not go as good. I was having ground turbulence. While it feels like a pain in the ass, it’s still totally worth the price to pay if having a smooth flight was ultimately what I wanted.
It also then got me thinking about how we think as people. Where we choose to focus our thoughts.
Instead of saying, “Yay I had amazing flights! Thank you!” I went, “Argh, that’s great, thank you but why does all this stuff have to happen around it? Why can’t I just have it my way so I can just relax and have fun?”
We’re all doing this. We want something, and when we get it, we shift our focus on something else that’s not working, then we want that to work, and then when it does, we focus on something else that’s not working and the cycle begins again.
We’re constantly focussed on wanting to change things that are not working, instead of focussed on celebrating the things that are working.
So let’s switch our focus.
“If you only say one prayer in a day, make it ‘Thank You’.” Rumi
We can’t change the shit that’s happening around us, but we can open our eyes to the beauty that equally exists within and among it.
Just like the quote in the image above – don’t be hard to please. You’ll just make it more difficult for yourself in your quest for happiness.
Let’s get grateful. There are so many things happening for you today and everyday. Try to remember the time you prayed so hard for something and you actually got it. Or maybe you didn’t think to ask for something and you still got it. How lucky you are. Focus on that and let’s see if things start to look and feel a little different to you. 🙂
“You will not have that for which you ask, nor can you have anything you want. This is because your very request is a statement of lack, and your saying you want a thing only works to produce that precise experience-wanting-in your reality. The correct prayer is therefore never a prayer of supplication but a prayer of gratitude. When you thank God in advance for that which you choose to experience in your reality, you, in effect, acknowledge that it is there… in effect. Thankfulness is thus the most powerful statement to God; an affirmation that even before you ask, I have answered. Therefore, never supplicate. Appreciate.” – Neale Donald Walsch
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