Updated: Oct 8, 2020
By Indira Das-Gupta
Ever thrown yourself a pity party? Who hasn’t? When things aren’t going our way it’s easy to start reeling off a mental list of all the odds stacked against us. If only we had…(insert your own wish list here) then we too could achieve our dreams. But what if we stopped making lists of all the bad stuff and chose instead to focus on all the things we’ve got going for us?This is exactly what I started doing as part of a daily mindfulness practice three years ago and it completely transformed my mindset.
If you tell yourself something often enough, you start to believe it. Unfortunately, for most of my life what I chose to tell myself on a daily basis was not exactly conducive towards personal growth. I had a pretty severe case of “comparison-itis”.
It always seemed like everyone else was more successful, happier, more attractive and in a better relationship than me. During my 20s and 30s when I worked as a journalist I had a succession of relatively short lived jobs, each one ending in less than pleasant circumstances which set me off on a spiral of self-pity. A lot of my classmates from my journalism course had gone on to do amazing things, why hadn’t I achieved that kind of success? It was just all so unfair! Added to this, all my friends seem to be totally loved up whereas I moved from one disastrous relationship to the next.
Then some pretty major changes happened: I got married, had kids and became a Yoga teacher, in that order. I was starting to feel a lot happier but still wasn’t immune to the occasional bout of “poor me”. Then I began to add meditation into my daily routine and a friend of mine told me about a practice called The Lotus of Gratitude. It’s so simple: just sit quietly and think of 10 things in that moment that you are grateful for. That’s it!
The practice is so-called because you start with the fingers of each hand closed and then as you make your mental list you open each finger as if they are the petals of a lotus, eventually bringing your two hands together to create a lotus flower shape. The beauty of this practice really lies in its simplicity, if you are on the bus you can skip the hand gestures and just make the list in your head. You can basically do it anywhere and it takes less than five minutes, although it’s nice to be able to reflect on your list quietly afterwards.
Some days it’s easy to think of 10 things, on a shitty day it might be a bit more of a struggle, but that’s when I really need it because it’s so helpful at these times to remind myself of all the good things I have going for me. I try to make each item on my list as specific and recent as I can, so for example: “I’m really grateful for the cuddle my daughter gave me the morning”, rather than “I am grateful for my family.” This is just a personal preference as I like my list to reflect what’s going on in my life at that moment.
Back in the day before this was part of my daily practice, I honestly felt that I was just unlucky, particularly in certain areas of my life. The thing is when you believe you are unlucky, you almost seem to attract bad luck, or maybe you just notice it more. Either way it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, although I still have lots of friends who are more successful career-wise and are more financially solvent than me, I truly believe that I am incredibly lucky in so many ways and I’m much better at dealing with any crap that comes my way, treating it as a lesson rather than an excuse to wallow in self-pity. In short I am much happier. As Buddha said ”Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have."
This may sound too easy to be true, but don’t knock it until you try it. You need to persevere, try it for a month and see how you feel. If you don’t feel happier, try it for another month. Don’t expect to change your mindset overnight. But, eventually, I’m confident that you too will learn to appreciate this transformative practice and become a lotus of gratitude convert.
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5 steps to bringing the Lotus of Gratitude into your routine:
1. Close your eyes and make gentle fists with each hand.
2. With each thing you are grateful for in the moment, open a finger.
3. When you have opened all fingers and thumbs, bring your hands together, thumbs and little fingers touching, into a lotus flower shape.
4. Bring your hands to your heart and reflect on the things you were grateful for.
5. Keep practicing this each day, and notice the transformation in your mindset.