Here is a gift to you and me from my guest blogger, Robyn Hussa. She's a gifted teacher, yogi and powerful force in eating disorder education, prevention and treatment. I feel more grounded, kind and grateful from reading her writing below. I hope you will feel the same and more as she gives us this gift for a kind and mellow Thanksgiving.
Below is a detailed practice to help you embrace a new kind of *gratitude, one that is deeply respectful, and based on self-acceptance-based. gratitude. This kind of gratitude cultivates loving-kindness and mindfulness toward yourself. It requires us to lean into our truth in order to notice a moment and learn from what is really going on inside of our heart.
When you are entering a moment that is stressful, try incorporating a breathing or pranayama technique (pranayama – translates to mean “life force”). Your breath is your life force and it is with you no matter where you go, no matter who you are with. Your breath is a part of you and you can always rely on it to re-center you and to carry you through moments of difficulty.
A pranayama technique that is simple to practice anywhere is called Samavriti or “Equal-Part Breath”:
1. Begin by sitting in a chair or standing still, in either position make sure that both feet are placed evenly on the ground so you feel your entire foot pressing into the earth beneath you. Try to bring your awareness to the tip of your nose, just for one moment, to center and focus.
2. As you start to take a slow breath in through your nose, see if you can match the amount of time or space it takes to breathe in, to the amount of time or space it takes to breathe out. You can do this by counting to 4 or 5 during the inhalation and again during the exhalation.
3. See if you can practice three rounds of Samavriti breathing (one inhalation and exhalation is one “round” of a breath cycle), then return to your regular breathing style.
Our breath itself unites our body, mind and spirit. When you are in a moment of stress or discomfort it is natural to feel disconnected, jumpy, unnerved or ungrounded. Your breath will literally re-connect your entire Being and help center you.
Try to find one thing (even a very, very small thing) that you can be truly grateful for in that uncomfortable moment. Allow that gratitude to inform you and carry you. If nothing else, practicing gratitude brings you into the present moment, which keeps you centered and focused.
Pema Chodron offers that “for practitioners or spiritual warriors -- people who have a certain hunger to know what is true -- feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back.” When a moment is uncomfortable, we should be “leaning in” when we feel we'd rather back away. “This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are.”
Remember to set realistic goals. You don’t have to act out on anything this holiday. You can simply observe yourself from a new perspective and take notes (literally, keep your journal close by!).
If we use moments of difficulty to explore a deeper truth about who we are, a new kind of gratitude evolves and our energy shifts. “I am grateful that this holiday season. I can use the moments I feel frustrated, angry or uncomfortable to learn a little more about myself, my boundaries and my truths.”
*Please note, the kind of gratitude we are cultivating is a gratitude steeped in self-love and kindness. Lean toward the gratitude that helps you embrace your entire Being and evolve a deeper sense of Self, such as these seven affirmations.
1. Gratitude for learning opportunities with family or loved ones (to see clearly, to tolerate feelings, to accept myself, to appreciate my body and its strengths, to find unexpected kindness and patience in myself, to evolve resilience and strength)
2. Gratitude to myself for having the strength … to try, to journey toward truth, to journey toward wellness, to embrace peace, to experience feelings fully, to live in the present moment
3. Gratitude for the opportunity to see the path not taken in someone else’s tragedy and appreciate the good in my life
4. Gratitude for my ability to improve at anything that I practice mindfully
5. Gratitude for my therapy team, for the tools I now have, for my self-care plan
6. Gratitude for having another chance to try, another chance to practice mindfulness, another chance to speak my voice from a place of truth and self-love.
7. Gratitude for my ability to recognize abusive situations and individuals; and gratitude for my ability to draw limits and care for myself with wise and strong loving kindness.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” --Melody Beattie
 Chodron, P. 1997. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (p. 16) Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Robyn Hussa, MFA, is a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance and has taught movement, voice, yoga and theatre techniques for more than twenty years in an array of settings; including inpatient and partial programs in eating disorder treatment hospitals. She is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP), Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) as well as all professional acting unions (AEA, SAG, AFTRA). Ms. Hussa is also Founder and CEO of the NORMAL nonprofit which educates about eating disorders, body image and self-esteem using arts and mindfulness programs. Their latest film, ED 101, is a free resource for schools and universities and features Broadway and American Idol singers sharing powerful excerpts from NORMAL --the rock musical about a family's struggle with anorexia.