I woke up on Christmas Eve morning full of joy. I got ready for my day in a way that I usually don’t, trading in my leggings for a sweater dress and bare face for some makeup. Today I was going to see my family! I headed to SFO early and treated myself to a breakfast of chicken and waffles while calling friends to do one of my new favorite exercises, the gratitude countdown. (I’ll tell you all about it later.) On the top of my list was “I’m grateful to squeeze my niece and nephew today.” I was only six short hours away from sharing dinner with the ones I loved while picking out one special present to open on Christmas Eve, likely with my 90 pound golden retriever, Piper, laying in my lap. My flight was on a small delay of 20 minutes but that wasn’t going to dampen the joy that I was feeling in my heart. I had two hours to make my connecting flight in Salt Lake City, so it was no biggie. Not until that 20 minute delay turned into an hour and 20 minute delay and I found myself touching down in Salt Lake City as my flight to Oklahoma City was leaving.
I followed the rules, I talked to the agents, but all they could promise me was a flight to Oklahoma City that left at 6 PM the next day with no hotel voucher, no food, and a guarantee that I would miss virtually all of Christmas with my family. My joy had run thin and at this point I was pissed. I was about 10 minutes into verbally berating the airline at the cost of Faith on the other end of the line, when it dawned on me that there was nothing I could do or that she could do to remedy the situation. To remember that this wasn’t her fault, to remember that this wasn’t my fault. To trust and understand whatever reason the Universe had in store for me not making it home on Christmas. To have empathy that Faith was spending her Christmas working. To understand that the present moment was the only moment that actually existed. This little change prompted a huge realization in humility, patience, and gratitude. I offered Faith an apology and my understanding which was met with her negotiating a full refund with her supervisor for the cost of my flight. I tried the same tactics with the airline that I had purchased my return flight on, and they rebooked me on another flight home free of charge. I rebooked my trip and I’m going home to see my family on January 1st. Everything is well after all.
This frustrating, exhausting, unexpected day allowed me the opportunity to look within and realize what patience & gratitude can do for our lives. Mindfulness, enlightenment, and an inner-practice is not about being happy all the time. It’s not about never having a bad day or hard times. It’s stopping to re-center yourself in the present moment and trying to find the bright side in any situation. It’s about training your brain to view the things that happen to you as an opportunity to learn. How much farther can we get in life when we stop to breathe in patience? How much happier will we be if we practice empathy and gratitude for all that we have in our lives instead of focusing on the negative? I can go back to that day and think of so many things I have to be grateful for. Here is my list:
The close of this list brings me to the game that I told you about earlier. A practice of gratitude can allow us to lead more empathetic lives, raises our dopamine levels, and shifts our focus from a mindset of lack to a mindset of abundance by giving thanks for all that we have in our lives. You can start small in your practice. Think of basic things that you have in this life that you’re thankful for. Some examples might be a roof over your head, food, clothes, or fresh air to breathe. But as you grow in your practice, try to think of more specific things. Some ways that I like to practice gratitude are by making lists and writing them down. I also pause at moments throughout my day if I see a situation that hits me in the heart and thank God for taking care in my life. The gratitude countdown is my newest method for practicing gratitude and I learned it from Tamara Levitt, who is the creator of the mindfulness app Calm. A gratitude countdown is the game that you play typically with someone else. You call a friend or sit with a friend and say “OK gratitude countdown”, that friend then takes his or her turn listing off 10 things that they are grateful for in that moment off the top of their head, and then you go. You can do this exercise as many times as you want in a day with as many friends as you choose. Ideally, you should do it once a day, but in my life it happens about once a week. And that’s okay. If you’ve never had a gratitude practice, this is a really good way to start because it holds you accountable by having a partner and adds value to the lives of others by bringing your loved ones into a practice of gratitude themselves. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
I hope the close of this holiday season and the close of this year gives you a moment to reflect on everything that you have accomplished and that you have to be grateful for. I hope that you can take time to be thankful for the lessons that you learned and for the new beginnings that you’re about to experience. I hope you practice patience with other people today as they’re running around trying to prepare for the celebration. I hope you practice patience with yourself today as you undoubtedly focus on the hardships and the things that you did not accomplish this year. I hope that you resolve to be a better you in 2019 and not to put specificities on what that looks like from a physical aspect but that you turn inward today and focus on growing from the inside out. Above all else I wish you a safe, exciting, exuberant NYE surrounded by loved ones. I pray that you enter 2019 with peace of mind, on the road to abundance, and with joy in your heart. Happy New Year, friends.
Love, light, and lion vibes,
Hey, again. It's Shonna.
I'm one part dance diva, one part sunbeam, and one part lioness. This blog is a highlight reel of my favorite moments, my travels, my dance classes, and my spiritual journey. It is a place for me to express, share, and heal. Through my journey, I hope to inspire, create, and spread happiness. I truly enjoy making others feel good - about themselves, about their circumstances, about life in general. With any dash of hope, maybe you can feel that way too.