Find the art of being grateful for what you can do
Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]
I volunteered this weekend to teach a couple of free yoga sessions at the inaugural Festival of Faiths in Downtown Indianapolis. Both groups of students were small but mighty. Among them, one practitioner stood out: Susie, a middle-aged woman who attended both sessions (which were largely the same ) with enthusiasm.
Susie hadn’t practiced yoga much before, and — with a car accident and a few falls in her past — practicing was difficult for her. She used a chair to help provide support for her wrists because poses like downward-facing dog and low lunge were painful. For hip-openers, she opted to do the gentler figure-four pose, rather than going full steam into the intense pigeon posture.
But those modications didn’t discourage her in the slightest. She emerged from the first 45-minute class with a huge smile on her face. “That felt great!” she said. When I told her she did a good job of modifying, she informed me that she likes to focus on what she can do, rather than what she can’t do. “That’s a whole different list,” she said with a smile.
After the second session, Susie thanked me for spending my afternoon teaching yoga. She reemphasized everything that was great about the afternoon, including practicing outside in the beautiful weather. And she commented on her progress, noting that she could get her hands closer to the ground after session #2 than she could when she started out the afternoon.
As the day wound down, I couldn’t help but continue thinking of Susie and her amazing positivity. What if all of us could live our lives with such a deep and immense sense of gratitude? What if we could look at a situation and identify the good things about it, rather than focusing — as many of us are inclined to do — on the negative?
It reminded me of an episode of NPR’s “This American Life” a few weeks ago that featured a guy named Emir Kamenica, who had the traditional American Dream story. A Bosnian refugee living in an Atlanta housing project, he was given the opportunity to go to an exclusive private school and from there attended Harvard for undergraduate and doctorate degrees.
During the course of the story, Emir displayed a clear sense of thankfulness for the opportunities he’d been given and attributed his achievements — not to his own merit — but to the goodness that others had shown him.
The reporter on the story, Michael Lewis, summed up Emir’s philosophy well: “Everyone owes at least some of their success — not just to chance — but to other people being nice for no reason at all.”
If we look at the world through this lens of gratitude, just imagine the warmth and kindness we would feel — not only about our own lives, but about others.
So the next time you go to your yoga mat, take the opportunity to view your practice as Susie would — with a sense of thankfulness for every part of the experience — and a focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.
If you can translate this outlook to life off the mat, you will experience joy every day.
I bet Susie does.
Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice and teach yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.