Thursday, June 14, 2018

What might have been

It has now been almost six months since I first began this gratitude journey. During this time I have opened myself to feeling and expressing gratitude for cherished loved ones, everyday blessings, and special life experiences. I have spent numerous hours writing over 50 posts outlining and describing these things, and aspects of gratitude itself. 

While out for a walk with a close friend I mentioned my gratitude practice, and we talked about the potential benefits of showing gratitude in our daily lives. Reflecting on that conversation, I am also reminded of my first post this year and the feelings I described therein. 

Although I would never have said I was miserable, the longing for the past and dread for the future that characterized my attitude and personal outlook were not great. From all my time studying and walking the Buddhist path, I knew that the present is the only place we can truly reside. But with the initial turmoil of early motherhood I had somehow lost the ability to stay in the here and now, sometimes even willfully resisting it. 

I now know that resistance was due to the anxiety I first felt when learning to care for a precious little one- my mind sometimes needed a break, and I had to let go enough to realize that was okay. Although I still believe the saying, "Present moment, wonderful moment" by the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh holds true, I have found that using the present moment to disengage from ongoing challenges can also be healthy and beneficial.  

But, as is often the case when we discover something new about ourselves and our place in this world, there was a gap in my wisdom. For me, this was how I sometimes disconnected from the present moment in a way that led to my seeing my life in disillusioned (i.e. mostly negative) ways. From this temporary disillusionment I would snap back and sharply reprimand myself for having the audacity to feel this way. However many cycles of frustration, buildup, mini-meltdowns, and guilt transpired I do not know, but it was certainly more than necessary (or than I would like to admit). 

It was on that very cold, silent winter day I realized that this is no way to feel -or live- and it can only lead to a downward spiral of sadness and regret. At the time I didn't know what the antidote would be, but I knew I had to do something. After several days of contemplation and soul-searching, it occurred to me that practicing gratitude might offer a welcome reprieve.

And so it has. In most contexts, the title of this post implies feelings of wistfulness and regret for 'what might have been'. However, in contrast to my previous complacency to emotional upheaval, I now regard the past six months as essential in shaping an attitude that supports renewed hope, anticipation, and confidence towards the future. Regret is the last thing on my mind, and for that I am grateful.

This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
May all beings be happy!

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