The very final class I took at Omega’s Being Yoga conference last weekend was with Elena Brower. I planned my to have my last class with her on purpose. Her words and teachings always touch my heart, and I knew if I saved her class for the end, I’d walk away from the weekend with a deep feeling of gratitude. As it turned out, Elena focused on that very topic – gratitude – the whole class, and I left Omega with a fresh desire to share her wisdom with all of you.
Elena opened the class by saying that gratitude is a gift of recognition. When we’re grateful for something or someone, we’re truly acknowledging and recognizing them. In order to truly be seen, Elena said, we must see and acknowledge others. This becomes a constant flow of recognizing the beauty and truth in others, and having the beauty and truth in us recognized as well. Sounds pretty sweet, right? At our core, we all want to have our truth acknowledged. Knowing this, we can give that gift of recognition to others by cultivating gratitude for them. So, then, who can we express our gratitude towards? During our yoga practice, Elena had us pause to write a gratitude list. I felt seriously overwhelmed with gratitude just for the fact that I was at Omega at that moment, in the deep woods of the Hudson Valley, surrounded by yogis and being taught by someone I admire.
I started adding people to my gratitude list. My friends, my family, people I love and people who have helped me, people who have made my life easier in some way. It’s not so hard to add people to our gratitude list who bring us joy and comfort, right? Easy breezy. But I wasn’t done there. Elena encouraged us to cultivate gratitude for the people and situations in our lives that have caused us pain and difficulty, and forced us to grow. Yikes – that gratitude is a little more difficult to muster up. I almost didn’t do it, didn’t want to go there. Reluctantly, though, I ended up adding people to my list that have caused me to break down, learn lessons, feel things I didn’t want to feel, and forced me to have no choice but to go out onto a path of finding my own inner strength. The people who have flung me out onto that crazy, painful, vulnerable, multi-colored rollercoaster.
This is when gratitude stops feeling like just a fluffy, sparkly thing (i.e. Jessica’s Daily Affirmation), and starts to become a deep acceptance for ALL of life, even the not-so-obvious gifts. This is where the healing happens.
In this Huffington Post article, Elena says:
“If we cultivate a state of gratitude, even for one moment, in a situation wherein we usually find ourselves complaining, the healing reaches into our hearts, right through us, and into everyone nearby. Step back from the intensity a few times and check it out.”
For more from Elena, check out her site and her upcoming book, Art of Attention. I got to take a peek at the book at Omega, and it’s incredibly gorgeous!
Thank you for your brilliance, Elena.