I am frequently – if not constantly – guilty of getting lost in my phone. It all starts very innocently, I will unlock my screen to check the day’s weather or my calendar or any of the other brilliant, wonderful ways that iPhones consolidate my life each day, and one thing will lead to another until I come to 20 minutes later watching the Instagram story of a person I met once three years ago, while the world continues on in the background without me.
There is a level of immediacy to life these days that is hard to rise above without supreme willpower and presence of mind. Everything at work is “urgent”, everyone you meet is “busy”, and while most of us are surely accompanied each day by the general sense of what we are working toward, rarely do we rear back for a moment to look at the big picture. How could you, possibly, when your inbox is flooded and your message notifications are constantly sounding and you’re just looking for a place to squeeze in cooking dinner for your family? What level of yogi would I have to be before I could exist on those two planes at once; performing to my highest standards at work, narrating my daughters bedtime story in funny voices, but also finding time to sit with myself, check in?
One of my goals for the year 2018 was the tired-but-still-true cliche to “become more present”. I know for many this means putting your phone down for a minute and being a part of the surrounding world, but for me, it means something additional. I have found that the times when I am most caught up in my life, not taking a break to tweak, listen, and recognize, are the times where I am unwittingly supporting the emotional state of Survival Mode. In Survival Mode, I make quick decisions based on what I perceive to be limited resources and a general sense of panic, and the end result is a constant state of insecurity in my existence.
I am not financially rich, but I am rich in resources and support. I am very privileged compared to many people getting by every day in this world, and so this winter I came to the conclusion that the route to escape a panicked mindset is via Gratitude. And here, I am sharing the three parts of my practice.
Every morning and evening, I carve out a few minutes to identify and recognize the resources and support that I am given every day, and gratitude naturally accompanies the exercise. This is a personal conversation with the universe around me, where I am able to identify and appreciate blessings and let the world know that I acknowledge the importance of those blessings, and am grateful for them.
By acknowledging these blessings, I identify my Self in a way that I can not when my face is pressed to the glass of life. I learn about the relationships I’ve forged, what I have let slide that requires more support. I learn what energy I am sending into the universe, and I give myself the chance to tweak or tune those things. When I look at the Big Picture and take the time for recognition, I realize and recognize my identity, and can make decisions and actions from a place closer to my heart. You can’t live your truth if you don’t know what that truth is.
The next part of this gratitude is to recognize the people in my life for their small and grand gestures that have supported me. This is as official as hand-writing a thank you note (a practice I hope never dies), or as casual as sending an unprompted text message to tell someone I love and appreciate them. One other small tweak I have made this year, which I cannot recommend highly enough, is expressing clear gratitude to people who may play smaller roles in your life but still help you get along in the world. Rather than simply saying “Thank you”, I now take the opportunity (when appropriate) to say “I appreciate you.” There is something beautiful about this very true and very direct form of appreciation, and this truth genuinely expresses gratitude.
And the last, and hardest thing for me, is to recognize the very real challenges that I have experienced in my life (including the ones I am currently grappling with), and thank them for their lessons. The times I have made the greatest leaps forward in personal development are unfailingly the times that I would look back to consider the hardest in my life, and sometimes expressing gratitude for the absolute sh*ttiest experiences is bitter and difficult. But if you, too, rode the wave of 2015’s Kon Mari trend, you know that before you get rid of even the most horrible of your possessions – the ones that represent a person you cannot even fathom you once were, your ex boyfriend’s band t shirt or the at home perm kit or the boxed set of the worst TV show on earth that emotionally got you through getting fired from your job – you thank it for its service.