Gratitude: Free Happiness!

In the spirit of the season of giving thanks, the topic-of-the-month (totally a made-up thing) is gratitude.

Let’s talk about the importance of gratitude in our lives. And it is important. Most people run around worrying about what they don’t have, when it’s so easy to be happy with what we do have.

Yep, it’s that good.

What makes gratitude special? Look at it this way: if we can be happy and fulfilled with what we have, that eliminates 99% of all our worries.

Try it! Pick 3 things in your vicinity right now that you could be grateful for. Maybe the chair you’re sitting on or your mug of coffee. And feel a sense of gratitude for that object.

Gratitude is actively accepting what already is (after all, how could it be any other way?). Different from the neurotic, who is always going from one thing to the next in pursuit of happiness. You see this a lot in business and finance: people wanting MORE without giving thanks for what they’ve got.

My favorite way to practice gratitude comes from Tony Robbins on a podcast he did with Tim Ferriss. He runs the audience through an exercise of gratitude.

Here’s how it goes:
–   Eyes closed, pump your arms up and down synchronized with your breathing to energize your body.

  • Put your hands over your heart. Feel it beating. Feel its strength, its power. Breathe into your heart.
  • Choose something in your life that you could be so grateful for, from earlier today to 10 years ago, doesn’t matter. Feel into your heart. Feel how you felt back in that moment, then feel gratitude for that moment.
  • Choose a second moment or person or coincidence that you could feel grateful for. Feel into your heart.
  • Choose a third. Feel and breathe into your heart. Notice how good gratitude feels.
  • Pause with that feeling for as long as you want.
  • Breathe into your heart 3 times and open your eyes.

Here’s the link to the exercise:

I love doing this if I’m feeling a bit down. Another way to practice if you’re pressed for time is just journaling: 5 things I can be grateful for right now. Boom. I like to include something simple near me in the list.

So what some of you are probably saying is “But I have nothing to be grateful for! My girlfriend left me, I’m broke, and my dog just died!”

You have a body, don’t you?

Start by being grateful for that. You have a body that functions, that allows you to inhabit this Earth and experience this wonderful blue ball we call home.

Be grateful for being born in a time when so much is available to us: all of human knowledge at our fingertips, opportunities to explore and experience the world in ways that would’ve blown our ancestor’s minds!

Be grateful for modern medicine: most people in history died from a little flu. Now we can numb and operate on your eye.

Think of all the comforts we now have. It’s literally freezing outside and my house is warm enough that I can wear shorts.

Another way to feel an immense feeling of gratitude: nature. Go into a forest or a desert and get a huge sense of awe and stupendousness at the beauty and intelligence of a whole living system.

Still you’re broke you say? Have you eaten today? There you go.

Most people don’t give gratitude enough credit. Not only is it an easy ticket to happiness, but it also is a form of practicing abundance. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, that sets you up well for giving. Shifts your perspective from getting to giving.

Don’t practice gratitude to get anything out of it. Do it to for its own sake. Gratitude is your natural state, neurotic chasing the next thing is not.

Hopefully this motivates you around that Thanksgiving table (if you celebrate Thanksgiving) to be grateful for and love all that you have.


Osho: The Book of Understanding

I’ve heard many great things about Osho. This is the first book I’ve read by him, and I found it full of surprises.

You could qualify this book as spiritual. I certainly looked at it from that point of view, because Eastern spirituality has become a great interest of mine. But you certainly don’t have to look at it through the lens of spirituality. I think what Osho has to say is pertinent to anyone in the personal development community.

There was one main thing that I wasn’t expecting. In this book, Osho talks a lot about the union of the East and the West, of consciousness and technology, of science and religion (he calls it “Zorba the Buddha”). Which I think is exactly what this world needs. The surprising part was the very extensive rant on religions as we know them: Christianity, Islam…

I wasn’t expecting such firm and critical views on religion from and Enlightened person. Probably my own projection, but I must say it took a while to get used to.

For that reason, it felt like this book was meant for deeply religious people. And I’m sure they could get a lot out of it. But, just for fun, I tried to replace the rant on religion for science, which is far overblown in our society. Osho talks about the difference between knowledge and beliefs. He has this great quote, “Doubt until the very end, until you know and feel and experience.” This goes for science as well as religion: don’t rely on beliefs: go with what is true for you. “If you think you know, you will never know,” because belief hinders investigation.

One concept that I absolutely loved from this book was trying to be ordinary.

Yes, that’s right. Try to be ordinary.

Doesn’t that feel good? Like a great burden has been lifted from your shoulders?

Don’t try to be extraordinary, that’s what everyone is doing. The ego likes to think it’s special, and because of this it creates suffering in your life. “Become ordinary and you will become extraordinary.” You will feel so complete, humble, simple, and free. Yet another piece of great counter-intuitive advice.

Another part I liked was the chapter on “response-ability” as opposed to reactions. Responsibility, if you break up the word, means the ability to respond in the moment, and is derived from present experience, as opposed to reactions, which are based on past experiences.

Like all spiritual teachers, Osho is big on living in the moment. Live as awareness, act like a mirror to the world, to your mind. You’ll see that the grass starts to grow on its own: the doer stops, but the doing continues. That is authentic living.

And now for the most exciting part of the book: sex. Yes, he talks about sex, and actually has some pretty interesting things to say about it. Sexual energy to him is the basis for all divine energy, and apparently you can achieve a meditative state which having an orgasm, and that will translate to growth (which I have yet to try). I don’t think he’s the first to propose this idea. His advice is to accept sex as a natural part of life, and to move with it, only with more consciousness.

Osho also talks about relationships. This part was kind of a big comfort to me while reading it, because that’s an area of life I’m far from mastering. He says that we have been conditioned to be afraid of the opposite sex, but there is nothing to be afraid of. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense: men are taught to fear rejection, women are taught to be wary of men.

But he comes back with this, which I’ll copy straight from the book: “they are just like you, just as much in need of love as you are, hankering just as much to join hands with you as you.”

It was very comforting to read that. 🙂

The last idea I liked from the book was his breaking down of the word “understanding.” It really is genius: when you meditate, everything “stands under” your awareness. Understanding happens on a different plane than the problem, than the intellect.

Which brings me to the core of Osho’s advice: meditation.

He says that meditation simply makes you aware that you are not your mind. Watch your thoughts, watch your mind, and that will make you realize that you aren’t them.

Keep in mind while meditating to:

  • drop repressions of any kind
  • don’t focus on a “God”
  • don’t think of it as something you do for 20 minutes a day, do it as a part of your being: make it natural, something you do as part of your waking life. Of course, make it a habit, do a set practice every day, but don’t think of it as such

I know that everyone will take something different from Osho, and that different people read him, from spiritual gurus to pick-up artists. It just depends on where you’re at. It probably makes more sense if you’re familiar with concepts like Enlightenment, but he has some very practical and easy mindsets to adopt that will work for anyone.

The Verdict:

Definitely good ideas in the book, which can be interpreted in different ways. Very interested to read more from Osho.

Favorite quote:

“If you express your being in your truest form, you will be rewarded immediately – not tomorrow but today, here and now.”

Feel more, think less

It’s become a cultural preference to downplay the importance of feelings in our lives. Nonetheless they are essential on the path of growth.

This is especially true for men. We have been conditioned to think that men have to be stoic and not show any emotion at all. This is complete bull.

Men, even though they might be less emotional than women, are still human beings, and still feel emotions.

Here’s the truth: emotions play a much bigger role in our lives than we like to think we do. Emotions are real, you can sense them, whereas thoughts are just images and sounds in the head.

Feeling = Living

Tattoo that on the inside of your eyelids.

We are EMOTIONAL beings. We aren’t meant to rationalize life, we’re meant to experience it. And that means to FEEL it.

There are lots of benefits to being more emotive that very few people in the classic self-help world talk about.

First of all, feeling more emotions will automatically require a higher level of mindfulness, which is ultimately always a good thing.

Feeling more of our emotions will also put us in touch with our authentic selves. Knowing what you feel in a given circumstance is such a comfort, trust me.

And you will discover that there is a plethora of possible emotions to experience! That’s what makes life worth living.

Also, by default, you will learn how to handle negative emotions: mindfulness. Mindfulness is a big buzz word nowadays, so I’ll just clarify what I mean when I say it; I define mindfulness as experiencing reality as it is.

So just by becoming aware of a negative emotion, you can make it dissipate. It’s pretty neat, actually. What most people do is try to suppress emotions (and thoughts), while forgetting the very true rule: “What you resist persists.” Instead of resisting the emotions, pause and feel into it.

Suppressing emotions is just driving them deeper into the subconscious. We can either deal with them now, or deal with them in a more painful manner down the line.

Finally, by becoming more sensitive, we also more sensitive to other people AND to how our egoic actions hurt ourselves. For example, if you steal from someone, you will feel guilt. By being more aware of that emotion, you will see how that action hurt you and automatically stop doing it. This also works for things like overeating: try overeating very mindfully, then just be aware of the negative emotions that come up after it: guilt, frustration, rage.

That’s how you develop and ultimately transcend your ego and bad habits: by becoming aware of them and their negative effects.

All right, so these benefits, sound great, but how do you actually go about putting this into practice? What if I can’t feel any emotions to begin with?

The first thing to realize is that emotions are a PHYSICAL phenomenon. We feel them in our bodies. So when we suppress emotions, we often tense up a certain part of our bodies. What I recommend is just becoming more mindful of where you are tense throughout the day, and also breathing more deeply.

This ties in with bioenergetic work: releasing trapped emotions through the body. Yes, there are specialists who do this. For more info, check out my review of The Language of the Body by Alexander Lowen here.

One way to become more AWARE of emotions is by developing a mindfulness meditation habit. There are many videos online about how to do this, so I won’t get into it here.

And finally and exercise you can do: for a whole week, set a timer for every three hours of the day from when you get up to when you go to sleep. When that timer rings, just check in with yourself, check what your emotions are doing. If they’re negative try to dissipate them. If not, enjoy them!

Hopefully this opened your eyes to the wonderful world of emotions.