Learning Gratitude

Welcome to the Living Revolution 🙂

First, I want to say “Thank You”. Many of you have been reading my words and interacting with me for a few years now, and our on-again off-again relationship continues to give me reason to think hard about how I live my life. You hold me accountable, you provide a sounding board for my thoughts and rants, you give me feedback about how you live life, and through all that, we establish and maintain community. Many of you I see in real life, and we further strengthen our bonds with face-to-face interaction. For all of this, I am exceedingly grateful. So, again, “Thank You” :).

Which brings me to my point today. I don’t see enough gratitude in the world, and I am here to say we need more. I am here to say we need to think more grateful thoughts, we need to speak more grateful words,  we need to start living more grateful lives and acting out gratitude on a person-to-person level. This is not rocket science, and everyone reading these words has the ability to change the world in a positive way by fostering gratitude, and living more grateful lives. Here’s why I think this is important…

In a quick search on the interwebs for definitions of “gratitude”, I also found an extensive list of antonyms of gratitude. For those who may not remember from middle school English class, antonym means “opposite”. A brief list of antonyms of gratitude include the following words: boorishness, callousness, censure, condemnation, disloyalty, ingratitude, rudeness, thanklessness, thoughtlessness. Each of these words, in turn, has a list of synonyms (words with similar meaning), but I am sure you get the point. If  you don’t know what these words mean, I encourage you to look them up, read the definition, and then feel how you react to those definitions.

A common theme between all these words is the idea of separation or dis-integration. When you condemn someone you pass judgment on them, and place yourself above them in a hierarchy, separating yourself from them. When you are disloyal to someone, you betray their trust, you break the bond of faith, and separate yourself from them. When your behavior is callous, rude, or thankless you show people you are insensitive, unsympathetic, lack manners, and you separate yourself from them.

I know I have experienced something like these negative feelings in my life, and I assume, many of you have as well. I know that I treated people unpleasantly as a result of my own selfishness and narcissism. I know I missed opportunities for genuine connection with other people because, I made the choice to react callously or thoughtlessly. I know I experienced a less-fulfilling life in those moments when I am not paying attention to how truly blessed I am.

This is unacceptable.  In those moments, I haven’t set a good example for others to follow. In those moments, I’ve missed an opportunity to make another human being feel good. In those moments, I allowed my ego to cloud my thoughts, to disrupt my flow, to set me at odds against the rest of humanity. When I selfishly put myself in my little box that is all my own, when I choose to withhold gratitude, I separate myself from potential connection, from relationship, from community.  I FAIL.

Human beings are social creatures, by nature. Even the most introverted soul requires some measure of positive, real-life, face-to-face interaction with other human beings to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. When we consciously choose not to express gratitude, we suppress that urge for connection. When we choose to not be thankful, we numb ourselves against the vulnerability and openness that giving thanks requires. When we choose to be grateful for this thing over here, but not that thing over there, we allow those minuscule fissures of separation to take hold, and it only gets worse from there. So, let’s not do that, okay?

I need to be clear here, and be very specific about how we are all going to start practicing gratitude. I need to be specific because some people may take my words and put them in tiny, separate boxes, and may decide they only want to express gratitude “when it seems appropriate”, or “when it makes sense”. But, that simply won’t work. We need to start being grateful for EVERYTHING.

Start with the easy parts. Be grateful for your home, food, income, family and friends. If you don’t have these, or if you have reasons you aren’t grateful for these things, you may have a larger issue that needs to be addressed!! Next, extend your circle of gratitude beyond “survival-mode”. Be grateful for your smartphone, the internet, the beautiful sunrise, and your favorite pants. These things are all helpful and useful, and it doesn’t take too much effort to be grateful for them. From here on, things start to get difficult…

Extend your gratitude outward to the annoying acquaintance who won’t stop talking to you while you are in line at the coffee shop. Extend your gratitude toward the telemarketer who calls to sell you life insurance, just as you sit down to dinner. Be grateful to the cyclist who brazenly chooses to ride in the middle of the lane instead of merging to the side so you can pass. Now, you are on the right track, but there is more still…

 Choose two or three small challenges or problems in your life, and consciously express gratitude for lessons the Universe is teaching about yourself  as you navigate these challenges.This part may take some practice and a little time to get used to. You will need to be more mindful of how you interact with other people. You will need to practice holding your tongue, and filtering your thoughts, and formulating conscious response to situations and people, instead of simply reacting to situations and people. You know, THINK. Use the fore-brain that supposedly put us at the top of the evolutionary ladder, and take charge of how you perceive the world around you, and how you interact with the other agents of the Universe who exist here with you.

Finally, you need to bring your awareness to the people and situations that are actively bringing “negativity” to your life. I use quotation marks, because defining something as negative is simply a matter of perspective, and you can always change your perspective. Did someone you love just die? Be grateful. Did the ceiling of your bedroom fill with rainwater, then burst and disintegrate above you in the middle of the night? Be grateful. Did a fake African prince hack your bank account and steal thousands of your hard-earned dollars? Be grateful.

This will not be easy. This will expose nerves you never knew you had. But this work is necessary. This work is worth it.

However, most of us will never get to that last part. Because it’s hard. It requires effort. It requires practice. It is a pattern of thought that goes against the “me, me, me” selfishness and insecurity so common in modern society. I can’t say much to convince you of this truth. But I can say this: if you never make the decision to express gratitude to the negative stimuli in your life, you never open yourself up to potential gifts, graciousness and healing that result from coming out the other side of those challenges. Missing out on all that potential awesomeness is truly a tragedy.

Wow. Okay. That rant turned in to a novel. I hope you all get my point. I’d love to hear your tales of gratitude, and maybe even some lessons you learned from choosing to make yourself vulnerable, and choosing to invest the time and effort  to say “Thank You”.  As always, thank you for reading my words, and for actively choosing to participate in The Living Revolution. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

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3 thoughts on “Learning Gratitude

  1. Hi Tobias–

    Thank you for coaching me for the last 2+ years at the gym. I appreciate many things about the way that you structured the classes, and how you are always present.

    In addition, you are a smart motherfucker. I hope that all of the work and creative opportunities that you have come your way in the present/future take you to the places that you want to go, because you are a natural leader, and will further inspire people to do great things.

    –Aaron

    p.s. Also, thanks for playing West Coast Hip-Hop 🙂

    • Hi Aaron,

      Thank you for your comment and for participating in the Living Revolution! I appreciate your support and your words in this time of transition, and I am grateful for all the good times and excellent training we shared on the black mats of Crossfit Woodstock. I will miss the community we created there, but I know great things will continue to happen and the gym will flourish in this new era. I wish you all the best as you continue to train at Crossfit Woodstock :). Until next time… Peace.Tobias.

  2. Hey Tobias, I guess I’m out of the loop or something. Today I started idly wondering why I hadn’t seen you around the gym and googled to find this site. Here’s my input: One of my distinctive early impressions of Crossfit is hearing you call out my name in the bleary midst of an uncomfortable workout. That really got me back on track. And while other people can pronounce the syllables of my name during a workout, it doesn’t push me quite as far, for some reason. 🙂 So, thanks!

    I have no wisdom to guide anyone through life changes, so I hesitate to go on. But I will say that one of the appealing things about Crossfit is that progress is so clear-cut.. 1RM’s go up, times go down. It’s really obvious good changes are happening.

    In the rest of life it’s not so obvious, but that doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. It’s happening, and it’s more important than a 1RM or a jiu jitsu belt. (Well, usually.)

    Cheers! Martin

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