I slowly hiked up Schweitzer Mountain last weekend and saw a bee pollinating the flowers on my way up.
I looked at her for a moment and noticed how gratitude for her dedicated work to pollinate our natural environment and food emerged in my experience. It was a beautiful moment as I wasn’t trying to practice gratitude or think about it. It just naturally came up in a very felt sense.
In general, I am not a big fan of many of the common gratitude practices as they often invite us to look at what the individual has rather than what life and the individual is, and through that perhaps strengthening the sense of “me,” ownership, and adding an unnecessary conditional relationship between gratitude and having. If we want to experience gratitude, we better act with kindness than fill a paper with a list of items we have. Gratitude, like anything, has nothing to do with previously owned items or experiences— gratefulness, like anything, isn’t bound to time but a result of the quality of engagement with preset, with what is. Referring to past items or experiences is an unnecessary mental effort.
A moment later, I recognized how some years back, I could have looked at the bee for a long time without feeling grateful, especially without it showing itself up so freely. I may have shared words of gratitude with the bee back then, but I saw how disconnected it would have been without first having the felt sense of it. Why would I speak words, beautiful as they would be, if they are not aligned with my experience?
And that gave me a whole look into how we precisely teach our kids to speak out of alignment with their experience. I remember many moments like that as a child, and it’s almost daily that I will hear an adult figure say to, almost command, a child, “Say thank you. Say sorry. Say you are welcome.” And other beautiful phenomena as such.
And what are we teaching them at that moment if not to speak words that aren’t in alignment with their experience? I understand the good intent, obviously, but if we would want them to say “thank you” from a place of thankfulness, not as an obligation, wouldn’t it be much more vital if we first help them experience it?!
Misalignment between experience and speaking creates incoherence. Incoherence leads to many detrimental symptoms, from emotional, physical, and mental disorders to social conflicts. Even if we only ever focus on complete alignment between what we experience to what and how we speak, we would solve some of the most acute personal and social issues. And I say that with a whole heart, without a pinch of exaggeration.
I suggest you experiment with it yourself.
So please, let’s not invite, and definitely not command, ourselves or others to speak words not in alignment with experience.
Instead, let’s provide the opportunity and spaciousness for one another to recognize and express our experience in the most coherent way, whatever the experience is.