Why I Choose Gratitude

The small daily practice that changes everything

Write down five things you are grateful for everyday,” a wise woman told me many years ago. I tried, sort of. I was too busy living to understand the value of it. Or perhaps living isn’t the best way to describe it — I was too mindless to understand.

My family of origin doesn’t talk much of church, God or spirituality. In fact, we don’t discuss anything of the heart. I love my parents; they are great, but I’m not like them at all. I’ve always been a seeker. I’ve always wanted to understand the higher workings of life. I knew from a very young age that I wanted my life to be different. I dragged my brother to Sunday School when we were able to walk alone and dove headfirst into all sorts of spiritual and self-help texts in my teens. I found yoga in my twenties.

Practical spirituality and science of mind are the two disciplines that intrigue me most. Sick of listening to the voices in my head, believing all the horrific things those voices said to and about me, I began to learn to change the narrative. Recognition came first, it always does. We can’t change anything without an awareness that something need to change. Breath practices followed which slowed the thoughts down. I practiced gratitude for discernment and that practice naturally expanded into other areas. Now higher thoughts replace negative ones in greater proportion.

The power of the mind is fascinating. Neuroscientists have proven that we can change our brains no matter our age. Yoga has taught me to pay attention to my thoughts. Without question, I believe we become what we think. Weak or strong, smart or slow-witted, beautiful or unsightly, a large chunk — maybe all — of our lives is lived through our thoughts and beliefs.

When my mom was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, I talked with her about tending to her thoughts as she endured and fought this terrible disease. She’s always been a worrier. We spent a lot of time together that year. I saw clearly the workings of her mind. I saw her fortitude and lack thereof. I heard the negative self-talk firsthand, and objectively regarded her as a person instead of my mother for the first time in my life. She didn’t believe in herself or her power — and I saw all of the unconscious things she’d passed on to me, as mothers inherently and innocently do to their children. I knew I had to take care of myself, carrying a child for the first time. I consciously brought Maddie forth as mom got a clean diagnosis.

The cancer returned in 2014, and not much had changed for her. She certainly didn’t feel prepared to take matters into her own hands. She fought nonetheless and the cancer went into remission until late last year. Mom spent about a month in the hospital this April, and after surgery the doctor delivered news that it had spread to her bones and bowels.

Was I mad? Yes. Did I go through many tumultuous emotions during that time? Yes. Do I still? Yes. But in the end there are many things in life we cannot change. We do what we can and let the rest go. Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting it not to kill us. That alone is a cancer. I do not choose it. I choose gratitude instead. Life sucks sometimes. It’s a reality. But we almost always have choice, and we can choose to be grateful. I believe it’s a game changer on so many levels. I believe gratitude changes everything.

Going through chemo once again. Mom’s getting stronger. She’ll never be cancer-free, and I do what I can to empower her. I’m thankful for the time I have with her and the lessons I continue to learn in this life. I’m grateful she lets me be her teacher in small measure.


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ABOUT & OFFERINGS

Hi! I’m Heather, a writer and yoga educator from SE Ohio. I share daily-ish here as part of my spiritual practice, and am working on my first book, Yoga Prayers. Download the first 25 pages, A Prelude to Yoga Prayers, for a brief introduction into yoga history and philosophy — and let me know what you think!

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