Tag Archive | Gratitude

Natural Pauses

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Appreciate natural pauses.”

What are natural pauses?

Pausing is an essential (and subtle) life skill. By pausing, you’re creating space for awareness and connecting with yourself, for love and play and gratitude and beauty, for reflection and accessing your resources. You can think of it as a micro-meditation.

Think of an impulse, for instance. Much of the time, they are invisible. An impulse arises and we immediately act on it. Sometimes it works for us, other times against us. Pausing after the impulse arises creates a space between stimulus and response to ask yourself:

Do I want to act on this impulse?

Every impulse is an opportunity to practice the skill of pausing.

Natural pauses are pauses that arise naturally when engaged in an activity or when transitioning between activities.

Let’s say you’re browsing the Internet and a page takes too long to load. By default, we tend to think of it as an annoyance. Instead, learn to see and appreciate the opportunity, and make the most of it.

Breathe, connect with yourself, smile, and, for a moment, contemplate all the gifts and miracles that you’re taking for granted: technological wonders like the Internet and your computer and language, the biological wonders that are your BodyMind and all life forms, the beautiful interconnectedness of the world, the cosmic ocean and the universe of the very small, etc. Take a moment to find your way back to wonder.

By creating pauses and taking advantage of natural pauses, you’re creating space to take in the beauty of the world.

The Art of Perception 11

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I beautify any activity?”

“Look at it through a filter of Meaning. 

How is this a Gift?

One way to answer it is by saying to yourself two mantras:

I can/am able to do this.

What (visible and invisible) systems enable you to do it, and how are they interconnected?

I get to do this.

How is it an opportunity?
What values/virtues does it allow you to practice?
What does it teach you about yourself?”

The Gift of Attention

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Attention is one of our most important resources. It creates our reality.

Attention is a Gift – your Gift to the world (Gift-Giving), and the world’s Gift to you (Gift-Receiving).”

What if you expressed Gratitude every time someone offered you the Gift of their Attention?

“Thank you for your Attention.”

“My pleasure, dear.”

Contemplative Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is contemplative meditation?”

Meditation that has as a point of focus an item you take for granted. Unlike regular meditation, it has a reflexive component. 

Let’s take this pencil you’re writing with for example.

What is it?”

“It’s a tool that allows me to write down my thoughts and build upon them. I use it as a thinking tool.”

“We can think of technology as an extension of our capacities. The pencil is an extension of your mind.

In essence, reflection is a process of directing attention.

You can direct attention to simply having it. Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have it.”

“I wouldn’t be able to play with ideas the way I love to. I find that imagining the opposite really helps me appreciate it.”

“This is a contrasting [<link; short read] effect. 

You can direct attention to being able to use it. Think of your beautiful BodyMind. Think of the immense complexity of the operations mobilized at a cellular level in the simple act of writing.”

“It’s mind-boggling. This realization always makes me think of a miracle.”

“Miracle is the perfect word for describing it.

Expanding upon it, you can direct attention to interconnectedness. Remember the ‘I, Pencil’ video [<link]?”

“Yes. Thought-provoking.”

“As you contemplate the pencil, think of the vast network of people involved in it reaching your hands. Another miracle.

Think that, if you zoom in [<link; medium read] far enough, the pencil is made of the same basic building blocks you – and everything else – are. Yet another miracle.

Interestingly, most miracles are invisible [<link; very short read] to the eye. You can only see them with the mind’s eye: Imagination.”

“So the purpose of the meditation is revealing the miracles that are hiding in plain sight?”

“You could say that.”

The Gift

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by the Gift?”

“It’s a tool for practicing Gratitude.

The Gratitude practice has two components:

Memory Remembering to practice.
Perception – Mental tools for directing the attention, metaphoric lenses [<link; medium read] which influence what and how you see. Another metaphor for them is filters.

It is these lenses of meaning that allow you to see what is otherwise invisible.

The most powerful lens I know so far is the Lens of the Gift. It does two things:
– it allows you to see the things around you as gifts,
– it directs your attention to all the gifts around you.

Combined – stacked [<link; short read] – with other lenses, it reveals specific things and categories of things you can be grateful for:

  • Gift of Beauty
  • Gift of Love (Love as Gift Giving and Gift Receiving)
  • Gift of Play (Inner Child, Playful Essence)
  • Gift of Experiences (Past [<link; short read] and Present)
  • Gift of People
    • Gift of Family
    • Gift of Teachers (All those you’ve learned something from)

Taken together, I call all these lenses the Gratitude Map.”

Impromptu Gratitude

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is impromptu gratitude?”

“It’s an unplanned micro-practice you can do anywhere at any time, improv style.

I like to initiate it with a mantra:

Thank you for my Gifts.

“Why not simply ‘Thank you?'”

“I’m working with representations [<link; medium read]. By thinking of something as a gift, you’re priming yourself to see and feel it as a gift.

After I say the mantra, I start mentally naming things and expressing heartfelt gratitude for them. I don’t try to control the process. It’s always the first thing that comes to mind, or whatever draws my eye in the environment around me.”

“How many things do you express gratitude for?”

“I don’t have a set number. Each builds upon the other, producing an emotional flooding [<link; short read] effect.”

“A micro-moment of positivity [<link; medium read]?”

“Indeed.”

Values as Deliberate Practice

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I deliberately practice my Values?”

“Let’s take Gratitude as an example.

Every time you express Gratitude for something, you’re practicing it. We might call this, one ‘Gratitude-rep[etition]’.

How many Gratitude-reps do you do during a day?

I call this, practice-density.

You might do it once at the end of the day. Certainly better than nothing. However the more reps you do during a day, the better. All these little reps add up.

How you do the reps is also important.

How many quality Gratitude-reps do you do during a day?

A low-quality rep is just going through the motions in order to get it done.

A quality rep is doing it slowly and reverently, like a ritual. You might even have a physical gesture, like the bowing in martial arts, or a stance.
A quality rep is fully experiencing the feeling of Gratitude in your body – a quality rep is embodied.

In a sense, every quality rep is a Meditation.

It’s also important to gain clarity on – design – the details of the practice. 

What specifically do you want to do?
What specifically do you want to think? Where do you want to direct your attention?

For instance, I think of everything I express Gratitude for as a Gift.

You might even have a theme that captures the essence of the practice.”

“What is the theme for your Gratitude practice?”

Take NOTHING for granted.

Gratitude Practice 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the highest end of the Gratitude practice?”

Taking NOTHING for granted.

This is a practice in itself.

By default, we tend to take everything for granted. To counter this tendency, it takes deliberate directing of the attention, by constantly asking yourself:

What am I taking for granted?

As they come into your Awareness, savor their simple Beauty, and express Loving Gratitude for all these Gifts.”

Creative Limitations

Restrictions breed creativity. (Mark Rosewater)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you think about the practice of expressing Gratitude for three things?”

“Our brain is not good at open-ended choices. Whenever it’s faced with such a choice, it retreats to known pathways.

If you set as the goal to think of three things you’re grateful for, it’s likely that you’ll always think of the same handful of things.

By adding constraints, you force your brain to explore new pathways. This is a fundamental principle of creativity. I call it the creative limitations principle.

In practical terms, that means making each of the three things you want to express Gratitude for thematic. Something like:
– ‘people who care about me’
– ‘resources’
– ‘experiences’

The theme can vary from more general to more specific. I like to think of it as the specificity spectrum. The more general the theme, so the lower the specificity, the wider the possibility-space.

If you do your Gratitude practice in writing, you can play with exploring different themes every session.”

On Celebration and Stacking

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“A beautiful idea I got from BJ Fogg’s book Tiny Habits is that the most important factor in habit creation is Celebration. By celebrating immediately after the desired habitual behavior, you make it more likely to engage in it next time.

You may have heard the idea that it takes 40 days to install a new habit. Actually, the more intense the celebration, the less time it takes to install a habit.

“How can you increase the intensity of the celebration?”

“One way to do it is by stacking several practices on top of it, thus amplifying the emotional effect.”

“A kind of emotional flooding [<link; short length]?”

“Yes.

The way I do it is as follows:

That’s like me! (Practice: Celebration)

I love you Dani. (Practice: Self-Love, Connecting with my Inner Child)

I love you Dani-who-I-will-be. (Practice: Self-Love, Connecting with my Future-Self, Recommitment)

I love you [the name of one person whose life touched mine]. (Practice: Active Love)

Thank you [for one thing, or to one person]. (Practice: Gratitude)

I say it like a little mantra.

I’m not only amplifying the celebration, but also practicing several things at once. This is what I call a high-density practice.”

“Do you do this every time you celebrate?”

“No. I say it strategically, when I need it most.”