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I love yoga.  And I’m someone who likes to get to Yoga class early so I can pick my favorite spot.  A while ago I started to notice that I was feeling stressed in my yoga class.  I’m not talking about the difficulty of the poses or pace of the class.  The problems it seems started when I felt a bit squeezed or uncomfortable if my neighbors didn’t stagger their mat so that we would avoid hitting each other when we spread out our arms.  I’d observe the “social” yogi’s who spoke loudly and didn’t seem to notice that other’s use the studio as a sanctuary of silence to meditate or go inward.  Other times, I’d watch Yogi’s walk in late and have difficulty trying to find a spot to put their mat.  And I would spend time stressing about this stuff.

But something about the fact that I felt stressed out in my Yoga class just didn’t seem right.  I mean we go to Yoga to de-stress, right?  And finally I made a decision; I wasn’t going to allow stress to follow me onto my mat anymore. I had to figure out another way to be.   The answer came to me when I asked for some help to find another way to see it.  I often ask for to help to see things differently when I’m struggling with something.  And then get quiet to listen for an answer.

Fortunately, I did get my answer during class.  What came to me was pure, unadulterated, PRESENT MOMENT GRATITUDE.  I couldn’t feel stressed when I came into the present moment and realized how grateful I was to be in such a beautiful yoga studio and to be able to practice yoga.  And that thought softened me.  It’s as if nothing else really mattered.  The people around me could be who they were and do what they do and it was all okay.  If I needed more space I could just move my mat up or back- nothing to stress out about.  I was no longer bothered by anyone’s loud voices.  I no longer felt stress over someone else finding a spot.  It was all good.

And then I realized I could use this technique for pretty much anything that stressed me out.  Have a problem with fellow drivers? Come into the present moment and feel gratitude.  Feeling stressed about a relationship issue? Yep, present moment gratitude.  Even under the strain of a physical illness, we can find something to be grateful for, even if it’s our next breath.  Maybe even being grateful for whatever higher purpose is meant for the challenging situations we find ourselves in.  There is always something in this moment that we can be grateful for.   “The practice of gratitude bestows many benefits,” writes Angeles Arrien, author of Living in Gratitude. “Anger, arrogance, and jealousy melt in its embrace. Fear and defensiveness dissolve. Gratitude diminishes barriers to love and evokes happiness, keeping alive what has meaning for us.”

In the end, it’s all about our minds, isn’t it?  Just as the Buddha said.  In truth, every experience we have is actually neutral.  Not good or bad.  It’s only the meaning we give it that makes it a problem…or not. We can grasp at or feel aversion to a situation but all of that is influenced by what goes on in our minds, colored by our individual past experiences and the culture we live in.  Because how we perceive is so personal, the interpretation we make about a situation will be different from everyone else’s. Coming into the present moment allows us to finally free ourselves of all preconceived notions to see what’s real.  It takes us out of our thoughts and past history so all we have is the here and now.  “Look lovingly upon the present for it holds the only things that are forever true.  All healing lies within it.”, reads A Course In Miracles.

Gratitude and present moment awareness together are a whammy of instant blessings.  “It is through gratitude of the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up”, says Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth.

If we pay attention to the stories in our minds, we can change them.  The problems can disappear in an instant.  Do you notice the stories that go on your mind?  Would you consider present moment gratitude to pull yourself out of it?  It’s available to us at all times.  I’d love to know your thoughts.