We had the sincere pleasure of getting to ask Willow Tree Holistic Health Practitioner and Yoga Instructor Sara Bowman some questions about gratitude and her upcoming yoga workshop. What we received was so much more than just answers to questions…what we received and are now sharing with you is some deep thinking about life, some really great information about her upcoming workshop, and a beautiful look at the soul of this amazing woman! Enjoy…
Willow Tree: What does gratitude mean to you and how do you bring it into your daily life?
Sara: Gratitude is enjoying what is instead of wishing for what isn’t. Gratitude is another way to be in the present moment and therefore more present for my life. And one of my greatest wishes is that I be as present for my life as possible… that I don’t look back in 20 years and wonder what happened. Gratitude is a realization of blessings as they are happening, acknowledging the grace that is inherent in life. Gratitude gave me comfort during the hardest time of my life thus far. When I couldn’t understand why what was happening to me was happening, I could pull apart the experience and find the good parts. I had a tool to refocus on the lessons of the situation and a means to celebrate the positives in the midst of the agony of a very tough year of my life.
I have started my day with a mental gratitude practice for a few years now. I can see that it has helped to shift my outlook on life in general and my life in particular. It becomes more of who I am all the time. It’s internally refocusing regularly on the positive aspects and positive version of the story of my life that I create on a daily basis. We all create the stories all the time, whether we realize it or not. As often as I can remember, I create mine from the viewpoint of gratitude, of ‘this is happening for a reason’, of ‘I can’t wait to see how this plays out’. I think it’s important to realize that this is a choice. I definitely wasn’t born this way or raised this way. I chose this and if I can, anybody can rewire their minds by changing their habits.
If there is a goal to be named here I think it is actually changing the questions with which we are (mostly) subconsciously approaching our lives. Is your mental chatter answering ‘What ‘s wrong here? Should I be doing better? How am I failing? What do I hate about myself?’ OR ‘What’s going well? Can I appreciate something right now? How am I awesome? What do I love about myself?’ It’s a subtle, empowering, do-able, enlightening mental shift.
WT: How is gratitude linked to yoga? Does your practice of one affect practice of the other?
S: To me, gratitude is a practice just like yoga is a practice. It’s something I do in a structured written way occasionally at this point and mentally it’s the first thing I do every morning. Just like yoga, I have decided to structure my life around this principle. So while it is important to get on the mat regularly and important for me to practice structured gratitude regularly, it is imperative and ‘the whole point’ to live it. In my interactions with others, in my decisions, in my work, in my relationships, the words that come out of my mouth and the space that I create around me. I am not perfect, I forget sometimes, just like I am not always present in my body. But in the next breath that can change. These are practices that have unknown depths.
Does one affect the other? Yes, of course. The practice of yoga to me is a celebration of my breath and body, a celebration of prana, of life itself. And gratitude is a way to find joy in the experiences of life. Same thing. But it doesn’t even have to be that deep. I feel better when I practice yoga and so it’s easier to feel thankful around my body and life. Likewise, when I’m feeling good around my body and life it’s easier to do things that are good for me like yoga. Totally supportive of one another. Both are practices in rewiring yourself to be present.
WT: Why is journaling such an important component to being present and connecting the mind with the body?
S: There’s a special something that happens when what forms internally is externally recorded. Giving it that form, being able to see it, especially if on a regular basis, helps to create that shift faster in the brain. And if you’re like me and enjoy getting lost in a cloud of thought and daydream - it helps with focus and defining and refining. We remember it easier too. Just like when we used to take notes in school. And of course it’s so good to be able to look back at work you’ve already internalized or if not yet, as a reminder of where you’re going.
WT: Why do you think so many of us have forgotten how to live with full hearts?
S: I think it requires presence to live with a full heart. Our culture doesn’t value presence or a full heart. We value productivity and love our to-do lists. Our culture often asks us to focus on what’s wrong with ourselves and lives. The type of traditional marketing that most of us are exposed to all the time is asking us to buy something so that we feel better. The underlying premise there is that we don’t feel good because something is wrong. Not a new concept but one that’s easy to forget is happening when immersed in it. So this practice requires going against the grain a bit and shifting our values away from cultural values and then aligning our actions with our values which can be even harder. It is simple to begin to form habits that lead to living with a full heart, but not easy. It requires a commitment to staying aware of our environments, internal and external, and gently, patiently and kindly shifting our focus as often as needed. But the results are so worth it. Again, I don’t claim to live there all the time, but I do know what it feels like on a regular basis and it is damn good :)
WT: What can we expect in your upcoming Gratitude Yoga Workshop?
S: A new outlook, a greater sense of possibility. Some new tools to get back there when you forget. Falling a little bit more in love with yourself and your life. Some clarity on what’s working and greater ease in approaching what’s not. An experience of how the ways you’re using your body is affecting your outlook on life and some ideas of getting into better patterns around that. Some strategies around how to incorporate this shift into your life right now. And some practicing around areas of your life that don’t feel easy to approach with gratitude. An experience that leads increased satisfaction for life and a greater sense of ease in how you live it.
Click here to register for Sara’s Gratitude Yoga Workshop. Sign up early to save $5!