Adopting Simplicity and the Gratitude Attitude

Posted on July 15, 2013

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When this year began, I wrote 2 posts on New Year’s Resolutions (NYRs). One of them was on how to keep NYRs. I am super proud to say that I kept my NYR of being vegetarian. This is the 6th time I have tried to become a vegetarian! But this is also the longest I have been a vegetarian…over 6 months. So it’s safe to say I am well on the road to being an actual vegetarian! I have to say, I used my own advice (as seen in the posts linked above) and made it thus far.

But as the NYR became easier, I became more ambitious. I felt like I needed newer goals to self-improvement. And that’s when I went on a week-long service trip to El Salvador. This trip impacted me in ways that I did not think was possible. Of course I had expected to see poverty. But I hadn’t expected to be moved by it. Why? Because having grown up in India, poverty was so much a part of my daily life. We Indians probably have seen it all – beggar children sniffing glue so that they don’t feel hungry to children dying of something like diarrhea! I also feel that constant exposure to poverty have also made many of us apathetic. Thankfully, being a social worker I was not apathetic. I was very conscientious about how I led my life and was pretty proud of how simple I was.

But after having moved to the U.S., I was somewhat insulated from that level of poverty. Without realizing, I got sucked into consumerism – the behavior of buying, and buying a lot. We don’t wear the same clothes we wore last summer. Why? Because it’s not in fashion! We don’t need just 4 pairs of shoes, we need 14. And I was beginning to buy a new pair of shoes when I was down, or a new top because I walked to the library and H&M is down the road, or because the sale was unmissable! Please note: I am not saying that it is wrong to buy stuff. I am saying I felt it was wrong for me. I was never like that. And I found that I had become like that. Visiting El Salvador reminded me that there is a completely different world out there! And thus came my first mid-year resolution. To not buy anything for myself for the next 6 months. No clothes, no shoes, no bags, no make up. I will only buy the shampoo and conditioner I need for my hair. Let me tell you it’s been a month, and I am already finding it really hard. I just discovered I didn’t have a white pair of sandals. I bit my lip and wore my green chappals with a white and blue outfit. It was hard to do that. Especially since I could have got a decent pair of white sandals for $20 that could have matched with everything! But it felt good to not buy. I guess, I feel a new kind of good now…a good that comes over me when I don’t buy! I have slipped once and bought a pair of pants in Sausalito last week. I had packed to go to a heat wave area and Sausalito had low 50 (F) temperatures. I had to buy a pair of pants to save myself from falling sick. And this time I felt defeated rather than elated when I spent that small amount. So may be there’s hope for me.

The second resolution was to make “gratitude my attitude”. My trip to El Salvador was with the Willow Creek Community Church. And our 8-member team “said grace” at every meal. I pray regularly and I can say that I am a fairly grateful person, but I had never “said grace” at any meal, even after I met my Christian husband, because he isn’t in the habit of “saying grace” either. During the 8-day trip, I really enjoyed “hearing/saying grace” at every meal, and I felt that it made me more humble and grounded. I decided that I would “say grace” at every meal, no matter where I was! And let me tell you it’s been really hard. I forget!! But I have decided not to give up. I “say grace” whenever I remember. For e.g. sometimes I remember after I have started eating, and at other times I remember long after I have eaten. I don’t beat myself up. I say the prayer of gratitude at that point and tell myself that one day soon I will be remembering it before I sit down to eat. And I do manage it. Slowly I find that I am remembering to “say grace” before meals more and more often. I find inspiration in all my Christian friends to whom “saying grace” comes as natural as breathing. Hopefully one day soon, I will be able to be as natural as them!

One of my closest friends asked me recently, “Shouldn’t saying grace come naturally? Why are you forcing it.” I was pretty surprised at my own answer, I said: “Well, it’s a habit, and good habits are hard to cultivate. Like exercising! It’s good for us, but we really have to force ourselves to make it a habit.” It was like an epiphany even to myself! I know that “saying grace” is largely a Christian practice. But if yoga has passed the secular test, why can’t “saying grace” be the same. One can simply do it within their own religious/spiritual beliefs!

The reason I want to cultivate this habit of being simple and “saying grace” is pretty straightforward. A. I want to help reduce global warming and B. I want to make my happiness come from within. 2013 has been a very difficult season for me. I have felt worthless and down-the-dumps. But doing my bit to save the planet and growing spiritually helps me to raise myself in my own eyes. And I am already feeling a lot better. So fingers crossed!

Are you ready for your mid-year NYR reflection?

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Posted in: attitude