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Category: Notes From The Mat

#Gratitude Update – Week 1

So I’m one week into my #gratitude experiment. I’m not sure how long exactly I’ll extend it out (publicly, at least), but for now, it’s been and interesting exercise and I have a few observations:

  • Only after one day of “working” to think about gratitude in my day, my mind started automatically coming up with things to be grateful for. Little things like being grateful for coffee in my morning, or my warm bed would just float into my conscious and make me realize how great I have it- even if I’m not getting exactly what I want in other areas of life.
  • On the second day of the experiment I was walking downtown #yyj and a seagull decided to shit on me right before I went to a restaurant for dinner. I observed myself actually trying to get angry and forcibly generate self-pity, but then my mind switched to being grateful that I had an office downtown, and that I had access to a private bathroom to clean myself up in. That one surprised me as I actually observed myself trying to take the incident one step further and be cranky about it, only to experience an automatic switch to being grateful for that office.
  • I’ve seen some positive effects of this experiment in my immediate network of friends and family. People are chatting about it, retweeting some stuff, emailing me, etc. — it seems as though gratitude is a bit contagious. In a world where media focuses so much on the negative, it brings me joy to see how one little act to dedicate a very small portion of my day to gratitude has spread into something bigger.
  • In general, I find myself defaulting to smiling more and feeling more gracious to others in otherwise annoying social encounters with the public.

I remember learning about bounded rationality when studying entrepreneurship at UVIC. The theory can credit its origin to economics and human decision-making theory. We learned about it in relation to how bounded rationality creates entrepreneurial opportunity. The theory always stuck with me, though, as a general concept on the finite processing bandwidth of human consciousness due to the biological limitations of the human brain.

Basically, like any computer, our brains can only process so much “software” at any given time. If you load up too many programs, everything slows down and you can’t process efficiently. Further, no one can load up every program in the world at once. You can only successfully operate a couple programs at once through multitasking. We can only focus our conscious mind on a finite few things at once.

This has me thinking about how focusing on #gratitude can actually impact how I perceive the world. By training my conscious mind to focus on gratitude for a period of time, my subconscious mind starts serving up more feelings and observations of gratitude. Through devoting a portion of my bounded rationality to gratitude, the act uses up a certain portion of my brain’s processing power, leaving less to focus on negative or destructive thoughts that do not serve me.

All fascinating stuff for an amateur mindfulness geek!

Anyway, for those who have asked, the number-sign/hash tag I type before the word gratitude is Twitter syntax that signifies a keyword or topic the tweet is about. As I’m posting many of my gratitude observations on Twitter alongside my regular tweets, I wanted to use the hash tag to delineate the gratitude experiment tweets from the regular tweets.





#Gratitude Experiment

“You can’t always get what you want . But if you try sometimes well you might find, You get what you need.” – M. Jagger / K. Richards

Life can be challenging. This summer has been no exception around the Storry house. With two business startups humming along, a house & yard to maintain, and the discovery of a little one on the way,  there have been no shortage of urgent things to do and critical decisions to make. To put it mildly, there have been plenty of events that have occurred that I could dwell on in negative frustration. I think three-years-ago-me probably would have buckled over the stress, or at least not managed it well, if at all. I attribute the positive shift to my yoga & meditation practise. I’ve taken my practise more seriously over the last year by creating a regular routine around it.

Whether it’s the physical yoga, the mental mediation, or the studying of philosophy, I’ve found I can roll all these activities up into a more general concept of mindfulness practise. My meta-goal in all this is to simply be more mindful in my thought and action without necessarily identifying with any one specific discipline. A common suggestion across these disciplines is the cultivation of gratitude. Whenever I find a recurring theme across diverse sources, I figure there’s probably something to it! I recently read a Yoga Journal article on gratitude and a particular passage struck a cord:

“On the surface, gratitude appears to arise from a sense that you’re indebted to another for taking care of you in some way, but looking deeper, you’ll see that the feeling is actually a heightened awareness of your connection to everything else. Gratitude flows when you break out of the small, self-centered point of view —with its ferocious expectations and demands —and appreciate that through the labors and intentions and even the simple existence of an inconceivably large number of people, weather patterns, chemical reactions, and the like, you have been given the miracle of your life, with all the goodness in it today.

…When you awaken to the truth of this incredible interconnectedness, you are spontaneously filled with joy and appreciation. It is for this reason that one of the most transformative practices you can engage in is the cultivation of gratitude.”

It’s easy to focus on the things that go wrong. We humans seem to be wired to care far more about negative impacts and loss over positive benefit and gain. This principle of loss aversion has been well documented in the realm of marketing and finance psychology as a completely irrational human trait. Marketers have taken advantage of this irrational psychology for a long time in how they present offers to consumers, or the language they use to frame certain products over others.

So, when confronted with some challenge, it could be easy to dwell on the stress and let negativity feed. How do I ensure I don’t succumb to my own irrational psychology, and instead, develop a practise shifting focus to a more positive mindset? Perhaps the answers lay within the cultivation of gratitude. Let’s experiment.

For the next week I’m going to actively seek out and focus on being grateful for the many positive things in my life. I’m going to tweet them out as I take the time to notice and appreciate them, with the hashtag #gratitude. My goal is to see if this concentrated effort on gratitude does indeed awaken me to a state of more joy and appreciation.

Instead of focusing on not getting exactly what I want, I’m going to focus on what I am getting in my life and how I’m being supported by those around me and by the universe. As challenging as the summer has been in some ways, I reflect on the weeks gone by, and I can safely say that I am getting what I need. I’m actually maintaining a pretty positive mindset through it all, but why not throw a little more joy into the mix?

I’ll report back in a week or so.



Blogging to myself.

In these last few years I’ve been practising mindfulness as a regular part of my week. It started when I began dabbling with yoga after moving to the island for university. As I’ve come to learn, yoga is a fascinating art with deep roots. In fact, there are 8 limbs to yoga and the physical asana practise that many in the western world equate with yoga is but one of them.

Over the years it always fascinates and captivates me anew when a friend who starts innocently enough with asana practise suddenly finds them self opening to a whole new world of self-awareness, balance, and desire to explore deeper this mysterious and ancient art. Asana practise certainly serves as a deftly efficient hook, bringing initiates to more arcane aspects of yoga, even though they needn’t one.

I digress. My growing mindfulness has allowed me to cope and work through many challenges my adult life has thrown at me. And for that, I am grateful. Further, developing an awareness of connection between my mind and body, body and community, community and ecosystem has allowed me to better attune to nuances of energy. Suddenly the personal energy I feel inside is not a foreign wisp, completely out of my control and dictated by errant biorhythms.  It’s something I’m responsible to cultivate and serves as a barometer of how harmoniously my lifestyle matches up with what my body and mind need to thrive.  This very personal energy can also be influenced by external sources, such as the change of a season or mood of coworkers & friends.

By being more consistently mindful throughout the year, I’ve noticed that my yoga practise definitely changes with the seasons in a bit of a predictable pattern. Curious to see if this happened to other yogis, I Googled and found that, not only did other yogis experience this, but that there was a whole science on how to structure practise to facilitate seasonal variations on energy and how it impacts the student.

Predictably, spring is a time for coolness, wet, rebirth and awakening. Summer is a time full of energy, heat, and growth. Fall is a time for harvest, crispness, sharing and preparation. Winter is a time for “death”, cold, contemplation, and introspection. Bringing expectations for my personal energy into alignment with the type of energy provided by each of the seasons has helped me battle seasonal depression and has allowed me to be the right kind of productive, depending on the time of year.

So, what does all this have to do with blogging to myself?

  1. I’ve realized that my propensity to blog, like my yoga practise,  changes with the seasons. There’s an ebb and a flow to the frequency of my updates, and I am now emerging from a dry spell. A bit of a blog drought, if you will. Rather than make apologies or write a post on how this time will be different, I’ve realized that this is just an organic part of my relationship with this web site. I currently feel energized to contribute more to the blog and we’ll see for how long this lasts.
  2. This post his heavy on the “humanities” lens, talking more about yoga than technology or entrepreneurship. In posts past, I’ve really tended to focus a lot more heavily on entrepreneurship and technology. While I have a lot to say on those two topics, I’m going to try and illustrate points or provide perspective from the work I’ve been doing educating myself more in the humanities.
  3. I’ll be blogging to myself. That doesn’t mean I’m busy typing out a bunch of private posts. What it means is that I’ll be creating content for myself, not for some imagined audience. In blogs past, I’ve been concerned about writing to an audience and producing content I think the audience would want to read. I think this focus has stifled my desire to continually blog, and intimidated me into not posting or saying exactly what I wanted to say. A recent post by Mitch Joel titled “Brands Need To Think Like Artists“, resonated with me and I saw my relationship with my blog in it. Rather than treat my blog like an obscure personal brand ideal, I’m simply going to be real and approach my blog as Grant-the-artist would. If I’m successful an audience may find me, though that isn’t the goal.

Mitch links to a video by Vi Hart titled: “They Became What They Beheld: Medium, Message, Youtubery“. If you are at all flirting with content creation, brand management, or marketing, I suggest you give it a quick watch. It’s only 5 minutes long, I’ll even embed it right here so you don’t even need to go anywhere!

So, self, don’t forget: “reaching a wider audience is not worth sacrificing my content.”

Also, this is a particularly poignent passage that resonated:

The trouble with knowing what to say, and saying it clearly & fully is that clear speaking is often obsolete thinking. Clear statement is like an art object: it is the afterlife of the process that called it into being. The process itself is the significant step and, especially at the beginning, is often incomplete and uncertain.

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