Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm 42 and Full of Gratitude and Appreciation

My wise friend Polly recently informed me that Abraham Hicks makes a distinction between being "grateful" and being "appreciative." "Gratitude" (she paraphrased) implies a comparison with something that is not, but that could be.

I've always had a difficult time with gratitude. That's probably because it's so often used in the context of "things could be worse" AND it usually has a "should" in front of it.  The word "gratitude" makes me remember my Grandma Etta scolding me when I got a birthday gift I didn't like. "You should be grateful..." she would have said, shaking a sharp finger, "some little girls don't even get gifts on their birthday."

(And then they have to walk two miles barefoot in the snow just to go to school, etc. etc.)

As adult as I strive to be, I can still be caught rolling my eyes (inwardly) every time Oprah or some other well meaning person recommends a "Gratitude journal" or some such exercise in giving thanks. But I didn't even realize it until Polly said she'd been practicing appreciation instead. So I tried it too.

Ahh!!! Appreciation! What a way to honor the divine! What a way to get high! What a way to spend a birthday weekend!

Appreciation. It's like smoking the good kind of weed that makes you see the tiniest, most amazing detail in every single thing. Appreciation of the smell of ramen noodles coming from a blue plastic bowl. Appreciation of my daughter's soft voice talking to herself while she plays with clay. Appreciation of my husband for going out to buy bagels for me on my birthday.

Appreciation. It's endless. It's euphoric. And, in my book, it's got gratitude beat by a mile.

After surfing today, I placed my booties on the surf wagon to take a picture. It had been cold enough to wear them, which signaled a definite change of seasons here in "seasonless" LA. True to my blissed-out self, I left them on the roof when I drove away. Two blocks down the street, a car behind me honked  frantically. Then the driver leaned out her window "I think a shoe fell off your roof," she said.

I turned the car around, and there was a man standing in the street, enthusiastically waving my bootie. I pulled up and he handed it to me.  "You are all so BEAUTIFUL!" I beamed and smiled uncontrollably. "Thank you!"

I was so appreciative.  Of everything.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Being Here Now

I've made it a point not to criticize my surfing  and I've grown a lot from giving up the habit of saying "I suck." However, the truth has been that I've watched many a beginner - man, woman and child -  stand up on their board their first time out, when it took me more than a year to do the same. So, even though I gave up saying "I suck," I still couldn't help noticing and then scratching my head in puzzlement.

But, eventually, I was standing - not as much as I'd like, but standing nonetheless - and figuring out what I had been doing wrong that I now was doing right. From the beginning, it was clear that it had to do with my legs and how I placed my weight backwards, instead of forwards. Next it became clear that - due to many years of ballet plies - I wasn't squatting properly.

And then - with the help of a friend who is a seasoned yoga instructor - I got the guidance I'd been seeking. Sonya showed me how to properly distribute my weight and build up the leg muscles that had been long overlooked in my ballet and yoga training. After less than  a week of practicing the exercises she gave me, I can already feel certain muscles strengthening and certain tendons lengthening.

Aside from its potential for altering my stance on a surfboard, this new posture is altering my stance in the world and the very way I relate to the ground beneath my feet. For as long as I can remember, I have rarely felt "connected" to the earth. Instead, I've felt spacey and as if I  might float away. Since I've been focusing on strengthening my adductor muscles and turning my feet straight ahead of me - instead of balletically outwards - I feel  more grounded and HERE.

Again and again, surfing teaches me not to underestimate the degree to which our bodily experiences impact our experience of life in general. Our body is not separate from our mind and not separate from our spirit, so how our bodies feel -  limber, tight, stressed, relaxed, strong, weak, turned inward, turned outward - has a profound affect on how we feel psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Though the connection may not always be as apparent as it's been for me recently, it's always there.

If you pay attention.