Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year of Gratitude and Giving

I started a new twist on resolutions a couple years ago.  I was feeling "stuck" and wanted to be more expressive and adventurous.  My resolution that year was to "Express Myself Radically." I wrote an album-worth of songs and attended a four-day long yoga/music festival in VT alone - to name a couple acts of expression.  It was sort of a year to be selfish but I like to think of it as having been a self-restore kind of journey.

The next year I was feeling a little more settled.  I wanted to connect with more people and was also feeling creative.  My theme was to "Connect, Collaborate, Create."  I moved back home to central MA, attended tons of social networking events,
recorded my album with incredibly talented musicians and put together a wedding singing video, and had a few pow-wows with some inspirational friends where we talked about our aspirations and goals for the future.  

By the end of 2013, however, a new feeling started to stir.  I know 2014 will still be a creative and collaborative year. I think I might even express myself some more with some new writing - but something is missing.  These last two years were "inward" years for healing that needed to take place.  This year will be in the shape of a heart - and giving will come first.   

"Gratitude feels so good because it is the state of mind closest to your natural state in which you were born to live."

I start to see a pattern build near the end of each year that tells me what my next year's theme or goal will be.  I started to feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude - for friends I had spent the past decade with in the Seacoast, for old friends who I fell right back into a groove with in Massachusetts, for mentors, colleagues, family.  Then all of a sudden at work a colleague came around with a bag of "gratitude messages" where each tiny folded envelope had a quote of gratitude inside.  I taped it above my computer and read it every day.  I liked the idea so much and couldn't believe that what just happened to me was exactly what I had been thinking for my theme of 2014, that I went online to research right away where this idea came from.  Beth Gross-Santos is a store owner and an acquaintance of mine in the Seacoast of NH and I immediately sent her a note of thanks for spreading her great idea and putting it into action.  She, in turn, was grateful to hear from me and this is where the chain of gratitude begins!

I also recently received a Facebook invitation for 
"Pay it Forward weekend", which will take place the weekend of January 17 - 19, 2014. The idea is to perform small acts of kindness to people who you think need it or to a perfect stranger - just because. As I read recently in one of my yoga teacher-training writings, in so many words: "When you give more, you will receive more and when you receive more, your heart will open to give more."

These acts can be as small as saying something polite, holding the door open for someone, or stopping your car for someone to cross the street.  Maybe you do these things already.  But sometimes we look behind us and say, "Oh, someone else will get that for her," or "he's already half-way through the door so he looks like he's got it."  Going out of your way to just share your intent on helping might warm that person's day who may have otherwise got started out on "the wrong side of the bed" (which I don't believe in, by the way! You can always turn it back to the "right side!).

The act can be a little more than that too if you're feeling especially generous.  You can go through the "cash only" toll and pay for someone behind you.  You can pay for someone's coffee - or throw some money in meters on the side of a busy parking street.  Leave money in a random place in a grocery or book store and make someone's day! 

If you're short on cash but not on time, maybe you volunteer in order to give.  Maybe you write a letter to someone you haven't seen in a while or bake something or make a meal and offer it to a neighbor, friend, or stranger. 

The possibilities of giving are endless. 

And why just limit them to that one weekend?  Too often we see thoughtful people near the holidays and near resolution-time but then it quickly fades into the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced society and egoistic daily lives.  Just stopping and recognizing this is step one. 

As a writer from MindBodyGreen suggests: 

"Give more hugs.  Physical affection is amazing for your health, your happiness, and even your waistline! It lowers blood pressure, stress, and cortisol levels. It prevents illness by supporting your immune system and prevents depression and anxiety. It boosts your oxytocin and serotonin levels, making you feel happier, calmer, and more secure. Basically, hugs are like free therapy. So get your hugging on! Shoot for at least 4 hugs a day, and make them count."
In 2014 I hope you realize that you are affluent.  You are rich in so many ways, non-monetarily speaking, which I hope you will come to see or I hope you know already.  These are things you can be proud of and happy with and which you can already use to give to others.  Doing good deeds is like skipping a stone across a pond - you make the first contact but this ripples out and creates hundreds of little waves all the way out to the edges of the pond and beyond that initial act. 

This is what I had in mind when I wrote some of the lyrics to my song,
Short Little Lines: "The smile on your face - is sent in a million tiny waves - like the sun giving power through it's rays - to everyone."
When you give, let it feel like the sun's rays upon your face - knowing everyone around you can feel it too. 

Let me know what you are grateful for and what you intend to give - today, tomorrow, sometime soon. 

1. I am grateful for
Today I give

2. I am grateful for
Today I give

I'd love to hear your thoughts about random acts of kindness that you've done, that you've seen others do, or that you hope to do this year!

Happy 2014!
Om namah

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