Cambio Senior Teacher (and all the other things extraordinaire) Kristen Mack returns to Yoga Living Project to bring home this month's theme of Gratitude. With a fresh perspective for the urban yogi and accessible advice on how to approach this substantial practice in the modern age, Kristen explores the powerful concept of turning obstacles into gifts to help you along the way. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, as well as future ideas for the blog, so email Austin at
Finding Gratitude in Daily Obstacles
Poet David Whyte writes,
“Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.”
Gratitude is a hefty concept - one that I have struggled with, given our daily bombardment with media and outside sources telling us how we don’t have the right home, car, job, clothing, body, (the list can & does go on and on - you get the picture) and then proceed to tell us all about just the thing that will fix all of our problems and make us happy.
If you’re like me at all - and I suspect that you are since we likely share this thing called yoga - you’re probably pretty proficient at spotting the thing that doesn’t work. Doesn’t fit. The thing that falls short of our expectations. Finding frustration or defeat. That’s the thing about expectations… they often lead us to disappointment and frustration when it doesn’t work out the way we envisioned in our mind. What I’ve noticed in myself and witnessed in others is that when we encounter those obstacles, we get frustrated or angry at the thing. The alarm clock failed, and now you’re late to work or an important meeting. We shift our focus (and blame) to the thing that didn’t work, that caused the problem we are currently experiencing. It’s the alarm clock’s fault!
Yoga teaches us the art of the pause. Honing in on our breath, so we can soothe our nervous system and change reaction to response. When we are able to do this over time, it becomes (somewhat) easier to shift your mindset quicker each time you are bombarded with the obstacle. The alarm clock failed and now my day is ruined! Yes, while that may be true, can you shift your focus ever so slightly? I’m fortunate and privileged to live in an age where I have access to technology (that failed)... was there something I did or didn’t do to cause this failure? Is there something I can do differently next time? Is there something I’m learning through this that I wouldn’t learn had I made it to my destination? I’m grateful for the extra 20 minutes of rest that I would not have gotten had I set the alarm properly. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to have a job, meeting, etc.
I often find myself frustrated with not having enough time. Feeling overwhelmed with too many plates spinning and feeling tired, unprepared, and behind. Yet, how privileged am I to have these things to fill my time? Having too many dishes to wash means my family has full bellies. My family having full bellies means I have the means to feed them. And having too many dishes to wash means I have a place to wash them and have running water and soap with which to wash them… see where I’m going?
Our lives are so very richly blessed. Yes, there are awful things that we endure, be it sickness, loss of loved ones, loss of livelihood and on, and I’m by no means saying that we have to cultivate gratitude for those things as they are happening. Rather, cultivating gratitude for the things we find mundane and things that we take for granted, can help us in navigating those bigger obstacles. When we are better at cultivating gratitude for the small things, we can better connect with those around us - realizing and understanding that although our stories are not identical, they are interwoven. And not only in a spiritual sense. Think about all the things in your life that you are grateful for. The ability to read this article, for example. Whether you are reading on a computer, a phone, or some other device, you are able to do so due to countless others working to make it happen. Workers that keep the electricity running into your home to power the device, workers that keep the internet running, those that worked to build the device, your employer that pays you to do a job so you can afford to purchase said device… again, this is one example, but it illustrates how dependent and interconnected we truly are. When you can understand this, you can see that maybe the person that just cut you off in traffic has a really important meeting to get to or a sick relative to tend to and their alarm failed. Just as yours has countless times.
Try this on… for one week, at the beginning and end of your day, mentally make a list of 5 things you are grateful for. Repeat them over and over until you have developed a general sense of gratitude. Ideally, this can take about 5 minutes each time and you are seated and undistracted, but truly you can do this anytime, anywhere. Your list doesn’t have to be complicated. Notice what you have. What was given to you today? What did you give or share today?
Another way to cultivate gratitude and see the gifts they offer, is to reframe your words & thoughts from “I have to write this blog by Monday” to “I get to offer my thoughts on this topic that I truly believe in.”
I’ll leave you with my gratitude for the day.
I am fortunate to have family and a warm home.
I get to go to work today (Sunday) and teach students how to teach yoga.
I have dear friends that are family.
I have access to resources today that I did not always have access to. I have known scarcity and abundance, and know that scarcity is always possible, so I choose to acknowledge all that I have access to in this moment.
I love that my “job” is to share these teachings and get to know and learn from so many other amazing humans through it.