About 10 years ago I sat down with my teacher Hugo Cory and he changed everything with one request: no more complaining. In that moment I remember wincing, nervously smirking and then insecurely, impetuously countering, "I don't complain, I'm a yoga teacher."
Ten years later, after observing thousands of my complaints [as my thoughts, my words, the merest movements of my eyes], I've seen how complaining completely drains my energy. My practice is remembering to make a choice before the thoughts, gestures, or words issue forth. We've only one moment -literally one breath- in which we can choose another way.
The self-control we discover in this practice of no complaining is certainly helpful in other realms of our lives. Far more healing than self-control, however, is the inevitable evolution of those complaints once we've painstakingly put our attention on each one, day in, day out, for a few months. When we've seen enough, the complaints evolve slowly but surely into gratitude.
I'm not suggesting adding anything to do; this is an editing process. We are already "done." I'm not suggesting that we add gratitude. I'm suggesting that we make the choice to unravel a quality of gratitude whenever it's needed, from deep within the reserves we already possess.
Experiment: next time you're about to launch into a complaint, playfully shift over to the exact opposite possibility and try to find gratitude for the situation that almost became a gripe.
Just like we practice various fitness regimens to become more flexible and adaptable [lately I've been adding SoulCycle to my yoga], we can actually practice becoming more flexible with our states of mind. When we experiment with other states -especially those in direct opposition to our habitual states- we discover that we possess range. A range of capacities, states, and much higher possibilities we've not yet mined.
Useful example: do you know anyone whose mood has a tendency to impact yours? Someone who might be close to you at work, or in your family, whose potential mood you consider, sometimes with dread, prior to seeing them? If we allow it, others' moods alter our moods. My willingness to let someone else's state affect mine is my own laziness. When I notice that, I try to remember my state prior to that person's "contribution."
I am fairly certain this is what our teacher Dr. Douglas Brooks means when he talks about participating in the processes of Consciousness, describing Consciousness as a "moving target that evolves and invites our evolution with it." The shifts in my consciousness are so swift that oftentimes I cannot see clearly; I lose focus, can't sleep, am an impatient mama, you get the picture. And when I manage to see the impending gripe and shift into gratitude instead, I'm co-creating with consciousness, and I'm more slow, soft, caring, conscious. This choice to co-create is the process, and according to Dr. Brooks, it won't confer a moment of transcendence when some preordained conclusion is reached. No indeed; it's up to us to appreciate and dance with the multiple pulsating states possible in every interaction of every day. We are able to cultivate various levels of transcendence all the time.
Gratitude seems the most effective, healing state I've found in 10 years of studious seeking. If we cultivate a state of gratitude, even for one moment in a situation wherein we usually find ourselves complaining, the healing reaches into our hearts, right through us, and into everyone nearby. Step back from the intensity a few times and check it out.
There's science behind this which suggests that complaining and cultivating negative states can be deleterious for our well-being, and states such as gratitude actually boost our immunity.