This past weekend I did what I ask our students to do all the time, I did something WAY outside my comfort zone that required a lot of courage. No, I didn’t do a cool new pole trick, I went to a Yoga retreat in Door County. Anyone who truly knows me knows I don’t enjoy yoga. I’ve tried many times to get a yoga practice going and have always failed. I love Aerial Yoga and Yin Yoga! But a Sun Salutation (that what it’s called right? all that up and down crap with a push-up in the middle) is torture to me; it doesn’t feel good in my body and I frankly just don’t get it. So as I approach my 40th birthday and am having a whole lot of emotional turmoil about it I decided I needed to do something different. I needed to remind myself I can still grow.
The retreat was great actually. I met some neat new people. I adored the instructor. I did all the yoga and even liked a bunch of it (Yin, Relaxation, Sound Healing are all excellent things!) I only felt truly tortured for like five minutes of the weekend. I mediated. I walked in the woods in the rain a bunch. I listened to the universe. I had my cards read. And then I went for a “gratitude walk” on a stone labyrinth. I am big on the gratitude practice; a few years ago when I was rebuilding myself and my life after having my heart shredded I learned the importance of gratitude. I now practice gratitude daily, actively. I write a page of what I’m grateful for many mornings. When I don’t want to make the time for it, I start each day listing 5 things I’m grateful for before getting out of bed. When I am in a dark mood during the day, I take a quick walk outside (ideally with my shoes off in the grass) and think of things I’m grateful for. So I am no stranger to gratitude walks! And at the retreat I was able to do it in the woods following a beautiful stone circle path. The instructions were: for each stone think of something you’re grateful for. Easy! I can do that all day now!
So I took each step and listed the million things (ok, it was probably like 150) that I was grateful for. Overall it was easy because I have been practicing gratitude for years now. I remember when I first started I couldn’t come up with 10 things but now I can summon an unending number at any time.
Gratitude is a practice that you truly get better at by doing.
But that isn’t the point of this blog. That was the easy bit for me. The second part, the thing that BLEW MY MIND: The instructions were, on the way out of the circle, retracing each stone, say/think of a way you have brought value to the world. Say what you’ve done that other people would be grateful for.
The brilliant retreat leader, Matthew Kimmeth with Wild Abundant Life, said this is the second part of a gratitude practice that is often forgotten. I had never heard of this practice. It never crossed my mind to validate myself. It never occured to me that I could acknowledge myself. If I’m honest and vulnerable here, I often feel taken for granted by the people around me. I try to be a good friend, boss, daughter, good at all the roles and I feel rarely appreciated for them. If people thank me, I don’t hear it. When they do thank me, it makes me squirm. But more often than not, I am the Oz behind the curtain. I make shit happen and when it goes well most people don’t even realize I’m behind it. I struggle often with feeling unappreciated. It has been worse the last 18 months when I did so so much beyond the normal that no one will ever know about but yet part of me wants to be recognized. That somehow I need some validation that I haven’t been getting to feel good about myself.
So here I am standing in the middle of the woods, standing in the center of a rock circle and feeling so grateful for my amazing life. Then having a panic attack because I can’t get out of the circle because I can’t think of how people appreciate me. I stood there a good 5 minutes before I took my first step back into the circle. Then I started with the easy stuff; I’m assuming my staff are happy they get paid; Aerial Dance students are happy I keep them safe; My parents are happy I settled here to help them as they age. But the easy stuff did not get me out of the circle. There were a LOT of stones to retrace. A LOT. And just like when I started my gratitude practice I had a really hard time coming up with stuff. So I took some grace and walked SLOWLY and allowed myself to say things for every few rocks. But, if I take the time to practice:
I can be grateful for myself and all the things I do.
This is my take away. If in time I actually do the second part of the gratitude practice and acknowledge the things I do for others then I will see more of what I do. More of what I do will be acknowledged because I am acknowledging me. I am validating me. I won’t feel resentful or unappreciated because I won’t be looking for the external validation from those around me to tell me I did something good. I will tell myself. I will value myself.
Boom. This could be a huge game changer.