When was the last time you remember having a completely conflict-free day? When everything felt easy and devoid of stress? When you got along with everyone who crossed your path?
Conflict is part of our everyday. It can dominate our mental, emotional, and physical landscape. Just getting out of bed can sometimes feel like a stressful event.
More often than not, we are dealing with several conflicts at one time. When our difficulties pile up, it’s hard to see a clear path forward. It can feel impossible to experience joy. Because our problems are at the forefront of our minds, we may have a hard time allowing ourselves to relax.
Weighted down in stress and conflict, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But we can’t let ourselves remain weighed down by conflict. We’ll always have problems. We’ll always be learning tough lessons through hardship. There will always be unanticipated change.
But there will also always be unanticipated blessings. The earth is a beautiful and amazing place to live. We can cope and move through the tough times in life by remembering and taking time to remember that life is a gift.
But listen to me
For one moment quit
dropping their blossoms
We can count our miseries easily, but can we count our blessings? Why is it so hard to remember our good fortune? To remember that we are safe, comfortable, and loved?
The answer lies in the practice, in the understanding of gratitude. Gratitude is no simple concept. It goes beyond saying “thank you.” Gratitude is a way of life, an acknowledgment that we are receiving blessings and gifts at each and every moment. That life itself is a blessing and a gift.
Gratitude doesn’t necessarily come naturally; we humans tend to focus on what is wrong, what is unfair, and what is hard. Gratitude is a heart-opening practice. That which lack has closed and hardened, gratitude holds the power to open and soften. It shows us the way to a more connective, love-filled life. Gratitude diminishes fear, and builds strength through love and positivity.
It’s no small feat to live in a constant state of gratitude. So we need to practice, and practice, and practice. The more we practice gratitude, the more it becomes intrinsic to our lives, our attitudes, and our actions. The more easily we can throw off feelings of lack, of hurt, of isolation, of victimhood.
Incorporate gratitude into your daily life with these simple, but truly profound exercises:
Every morning, supplement your meditation practice or use gratitude as its own meditation by writing down three things for which you feel grateful. These could be anything! Get creative. Clean water, a nice space, a loving family. The sounds of birds, a steaming hot cup of coffee, the approach of the spring.
This same gratitude exercise can also be completed at night, as you are winding down and preparing for sleep. Write down three things from your day that you feel grateful for. These could be people, events, qualities within yourself that you appreciate. Anything.
The key is to really allow yourself to take your time and savor these notes of gratitude. Allow the true value of each of these gifts which you are acknowledging to fully enter your heart space. And then see if you can feel a subtle shift. See if your heart opens, just a little bit wider.
It’s easy to blame others for our problems. And it’s difficult to take responsibility for our role in interpersonal conflicts. But it’s important that we try. Otherwise, we are handing all of our agency over to someone else. We are saying to them: “My happiness is dependent on you, so don’t mess it up.” We are giving them that much power!
Not only are we leaving our happiness in the hands of others, we are already expecting them to fail, based on our past experiences of being disappointed by others. We are expecting them to hurt and wrong us, and we are ready to lay on the blame. So we are set ourselves up for unhappiness.
But the truth is, that’s too much responsibility for other people, who are busy enough looking out for themselves. We are bound to get hurt, angry, and disappointed when others do not fulfill our unreasonable expectations, when we are not looking out for our own happiness.
So try taking responsibility for your own happiness, and take back agency over your life. Recite the mantra, “I am responsible for my own happiness.” Speak this mantra out loud or to yourself as many times as you need to feel centered and empowered.
And after that, try expressing gratitude for the difficult people in your life. If you have anyone in your life with whom you feel conflict, take a moment to think about and write down one to two things about this person for which you feel grateful. Try thanking them for giving you an opportunity to see more deeply your own habits and patterns.
Then, write down one to two things about yourself that you feel grateful for. Acknowledge your strengths and good qualities. Often when we blame others, we are really just covering up our own insecurities and self-doubt.
Gratitude can give us perspective from interpersonal conflicts, allow us to see the humanity in others, and even work to heal broken relationships.
Perhaps you have heard the mantra, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” This is one popular (and powerful) version of the Hawaiian teaching of Ho’oponopono, or “making right more right.”
When we say, “I’m sorry,” we take responsibility.
When we say, “Please forgive me,” we reach out to the other, to connect and make things right.
When we say, “Thank you,” we offer gratitude and open our hearts to being forgiven. We clean the slate.
When we say, “I love you,” we wrap everything in love, allow our hearts to connect to the world around us. We embrace openness and trust.
Try this mantra out during your next meditation. These seemingly simple four phrases can prove transformative. You can direct them towards yourself for a self-forgiveness exercise, or towards someone specific, whom you feel you may have wronged or have a conflict with. You can also direct them towards the earth, towards a higher power, or any other idea or being with whom you want to connect.
You’ll notice a sense of expansiveness, a lightness, as you repeat these phrases out loud or to yourself. You may observe a release of tension and conflict. You may feel a letting go.
It’s ok to let go.
It’s ok to feel accepted.
Hawaiian spiritual teacher Aunty Mahealani says that the ancient concept of Ho’oponopono is truly grounded in acceptance: Everything lives in love and divinity, we just need to feel it and accept it.
By releasing and letting go, we allow ourselves to bask in the greatest power there is: love.