THE BLOG
11/23/2016 01:47 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2017

Gratitude: The Antidote To Darkness

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good."
-Maya Angelou

The holidays are a time of celebration and community, but for many of us, they can also herald a period of loneliness, stress and worry.

This is a good time to revisit the Three C's, a concept that I have written about previously but that is always worth looking at more closely. The Three C's are toxic, and they are tempting.

They are: complaining, criticizing and comparing.

Have you ever been sucked into the rabbit hole of the Three C's? Most of us have. Some of us even live there every day, perhaps (or mostly) unconsciously. And it usually doesn't end well.

Let me revise that sentence: it never ends well.

Fortunately, there is an antidote: gratitude. Holding on to a sense of gratitude throughout the year is important, but during the holidays we're called culturally to experience the impact that gratitude can have on us as individuals and as a collective community.

The first step is awareness.

Notice When You Sink into the Three C's

I just started reading a book called Thank and Grow Rich, one of Pam Grout's newest works. The book is a 30-day experiment in "shameless gratitude and unabashed joy," intended to re-align the reader with positive feelings on a daily basis.

It's a very good book. As I read, I find myself becoming more and more aware of how often the Three C's creep into my mind - frequently without even noticing it.

Through this work, I have the choice to redirect my thoughts back into a grateful direction. It's about choosing gratitude versus sinking into a victim mentality.

Noticing how sly the Three C's can be, how easily they can begin to shape your state of mind, is an important aspect to living a more joyful, abundant and love-filled life.

As you begin to notice where you're complaining, criticizing or comparing, it's time to make a different choice: choosing to reframe the thought or the situation.

Reframe the Issue

In my spiritual psychology studies at the University of Santa Monica I learned how to reframe situations that may seem like hopeless.

Now, I use this technique frequently with myself and my clients because it is so powerful. Here's how to do it...

Look at an issue you have in your life. Choose perhaps the most challenging problem that you're currently facing.

Go ahead, think of something. What comes to mind?

Notice the feelings that come up when you consider the issue. Perhaps you feel hopeless, powerless, concerned, afraid, angry, or something equally intense. Perhaps you may also have a correlating body sensation that matches the emotion; your heart rate may speed up, you may feel a pit in your stomach or the beginning of a headache.

Acknowledge those feelings, but instead of dwelling in them, ask yourself a new question: what is the life lesson in this situation?

How can I benefit from this lesson?

Can I accept the lesson?

And finally, can I appreciate what's happening right now?

Yes - it's not easy! It is sometimes very, very difficult to see the lesson in things that seem decidedly unpleasant, uncomfortable or even painful. But when you can identify, acknowledge, accept and finally appreciate the lesson by reframing it into a "blessing", you're taking full responsibility for the circumstances of your life.

We are all 100% Responsible

Nothing "happens to us." Each one of us is completely and totally responsible for everything we experience in our lives. We are the co-creators of our reality.

This concept can feel like a tough pill to swallow when we're dealing with difficult circumstances. But when you take on this idea fully, it is actually incredibly freeing.

Every experience, even the most uncomfortable one, is part of our learning. They are part of our "spiritual curriculum" here on this planet, as my teachers Ron and Mary Hulnick would like to say.

What experiences are you creating for yourself? What lessons are you facilitating for yourself, so you can grow?

This concept is called Radical Responsibility because it is such an extreme view of taking ownership of our lives... and sometimes it is very hard to do that, thanks to our human ego. Our minds are conditioned from a young age to seek excuses, to find reasons to not take 100% responsibility.

This will cause us to feel defensive. But that's giving ourselves a free pass instead of finding the nugget of divine wisdom that is hidden in even the most innocuous-seeming moments of life.

What I'm offering is that you acknowledge the things that aren't working or that feel difficult.
Say, "Okay, I see that this isn't working the way I want it to work. But what can I take away from this situation? For what can I be grateful for? What actions can I take to avoid this from happening again in the future?"

These sorts of thoughts will empower you. These thoughts are the opposite of choosing to be a victim.

This is the beginning of our role as a creator, filled with gratitude, trust and love.

Step into a World of Gratitude

This holiday season, whatever your life looks like at the moment, I invite you to step into a world of gratitude. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Notice when the Three C's (complaining, criticizing and comparing) arise and threaten to take over, and make a different choice.

You have the power in each moment to choose whether you sink into "negative" thoughts and feelings or to stay connected to your true essence, who you really are.

Your true essence is one of infinite possibility, expansion and love.

I invite you to bring forward your true essence this holiday season and stay present in the knowing that everything you experience - the "good" and the "bad" - is a unique experience, creation and expression of yourself.

I honor your true essence...

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

What are you grateful for, today?