Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beyond Disaster: Opening to Gratitude

As I mentioned before, lawyers live in a world of disaster. Either our clients come to us in the middle of their disasters asking us to save them, or we spend our time imagining disasters and finding ways to avert them before they occur. Living in this state cannot be good for the psyche. In fact, research is beginning to show that it is actually very bad for the psyche, but we will leave the doom and gloom for another day.

Living in this place of disaster is another word for living in a place of fear, living in a world where we expect something, perhaps everything, to go wrong. Luckily, there is a simple antidote – gratitude. We have explored gratitude before on this blog – unsurprisingly the week of Thanksgiving, but I think it deserves more attention, perhaps a lot more attention.

On the Is Yoga Legal facebook page, there is a weekly intention, and this week’s intention is gratitude. There were more than the usual number of comments, and I realized that people want a reason to think about gratitude. For just a moment it pulls us out of our disaster-prone lives and allows us to focus on the good that surrounds us.

There are many studies highlighting the advantages of being grateful, including being happier, less stressed, more satisfied with life, less likely to turn to substance abuse, and better able to sleep. (May I just say that I love that this is a blog and I can cite to Wikipedia? To be honest, I have read these studies elsewhere, but Wikipedia has done a wonderful job of putting them all in one place, so I am using it.) What these studies and findings tell us is that gratitude helps lift us from our downward spirals.

I can hear some of you now saying, “it is really hard to find aspects of my life for which I am grateful.” That is understandable. We have not been taught to find gratitude. We have been taught to find disaster. Even if you are not a lawyer, we live in a world where we are constantly barraged with images of how to make our lives better – cuter clothes, sexier cars, bigger houses, and hi-definition televisions that will show us these images of our terrible lives in better quality. Media and advertisement agencies want us to be ungrateful; we spend more money because we are depressed and think that buying something new will cure that depression.

How about taking another approach? How about intentionally choosing to be grateful? Yoga teaches us that we can be intentional about any aspect of our lives. There is a difference between savasana and just lying on your back. One has the intent to truly relax and to rise up a new person, the other is just lying on your back. As with savasana, so with gratitude. We can say thank you, or we can intend gratitude.

A great book on this subject (ironically written by a lawyer) is called 365 Thank Yous, and no, I do not know the author, but he has become an inspiration to me. The author chose to write one thank-you card per day, and the book details his life transformation as a result.

Have no fear. I am not suggesting you write a thank-you card per day as wonderful as it would be. Instead, if intentionally being grateful is new to you, start small. Start your day by sharing one thing for which you are grateful. Share it with yourself, with facebook, with your dog, or find a friend to share your gratitude together. It can be anything, from waking up healthy to having a roof over your head. Then, before bed each night share again one thing from your day about which you are grateful.

I will start, and let us see if we can start the gratitude train moving.

I wrote this post at night, so I am going to share one thing from my day about which I am grateful. I have been struggling with what to do next on my thesis, and I knew I needed some information about statutes in the United States regarding lawyers who represent children. I was reading an article by a dear friend and past professor in which all those statutes were listed. Not only will this make my work much easier, but it gave me back the motivation and excitement for my project.

What about you? Let us get beyond disaster and move into a world where we find thanks instead of fear. I would love to hear about your gratitude for anything in the comments.

© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved


  1. Very inspirational to me, as I am a lawyer and instantly got what you were saying. I intend to follow your suggestions re mindful gratefulness. Probably good for anyone who watches the network news or reads a paper, etc as the news now seems to create a disaster world for everyone!!!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. I saw it when you posted it but could not respond because Blogger was down. Luckily, the comment was recovered . . . but not until today. Thank you, and I agree - the world of news definitely tries to keep us in disaster mode!