The Three Blankets
One of the great things about winter is that when we go to bed we get to snuggle up under one or more seriously wonderful blankets. I used to love my heavy Hudson Bay blanket with its distinctive stripes and faint wool smell. But any blanket worth the name is soothing and nurturing. They bring back the feelings of being in an enveloping womb, cared for and loved. Even now that I live in Hawaii I still use blankets, although they are much lighter. In fact, the one I use the most is really classified as just a lap rug, a light blanket meant to keep the legs and lap warm while reading. Just the same, blankets not only keep us warm, they protect us in a way. They make us feel safer. Hiding under the blankets is what kids have at hand to protect themselves from boogiemen and the terrors under the bed. They are the quintessential warm and fuzzy comforter.
But there are three blankets that I want to speak about in particular here, useful blankets of intentional thought. These blankets are: Blanket Forgiveness, Blanket Gratitude, and Blanket Appreciation.
Blanket Forgiveness is the act of forgiving everybody for everything, including ourselves. It means that we let go of all the things of the past that have a negative emotional charge to them. The past is over. We don't owe yesterday anything.
We may choose to remember certain things that we don't want to do again. But any form of residual anger will only cause us harm. It doesn't serve us in any fashion. So why not just forgive all those people who have done us wrong. Most of them probably didn't even know that we chose not to like what they did. All the "wrongs" that people have done us by not living up to our expectations are silly anyway. They were our expectations and we're the ones responsible for creating them. And nobody is here on Earth to live up to our expectations.
Forgiving ourselves for what we have done may be tougher if we feel we were supposed to be other than we were. But being mad at ourselves for not being someone else is like the elephant being mad that he wasn't a hawk. We are who we are and forgiving ourselves for whatever we may have done is acknowledging that we are human beings and this is how human beings learn.
By taking a few moments to open up the blanket of forgiveness, to spread it out over our whole past, and to snuggle up to the wonderful feeling of forgiveness is to give ourselves one of the greatest gifts possible.
Once we have laid down a nice blanket of forgiveness, we're ready for Blanket Gratitude. It's tough to be grateful for things if we still hold some resentment or anger. But once the forgiveness is laid on, gratitude is especially welcome. Blanket gratitude is the expansive act of being thankful for everything! For some it may seem odd to be grateful for all the nasty things in this world. There's so much that we can shrink away from and totally dislike. But by being grateful for it all, we are expressing our gratitude for life and all the experiences that make up a lifetime. Each and every experience we have contributes to the fabric of who we are. If we were to only choose the ones we like, it would be like weaving with just the warp and no weft, only the vertical threads and not the horizontal ones. The tapestry of our being is made up of all the thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences that occur each moment, both the ones we call "good" and the ones we call "bad." When we can say "thank you" for it all, we open ourselves to even greater events. Not saying "thank you" is closing ourselves off to parts of life, a very sad thing to do. Blanket Gratitude envelops it all and makes this moment an unqualifiedly majestic time!
Appreciation is a little different than gratitude. Appreciation is about finding the beauty in something, seeing the "good" in all things, and enjoying the experience. It is about feeling good about what we are focusing on. It is a way of acknowledging how marvelous things really are. But, it isn't about just looking at the "good" things and ignoring the "bad" things. It is an internal attitude that sees from a place of self-love. It is not only feeling good, but especially feeling good about ourselves that creates the vision of appreciation.
When we appreciate something, we are allowing the mirror of life to show us something about ourselves. We see what is going on within. When we see things we don't like and we criticize them, then we are expressing a dissatisfaction about ourselves. Usually it's much easier to see the fault outside of us, but the true object of our complaint is not so hard to find inside when we honestly look.
Appreciation is the expression of our own self-love. When we then use blanket appreciation, we can look out over the world and appreciate everything we see. However, what we are really doing is saying that because we love ourselves, we can see the beauty everywhere. Blanket Appreciation helps us remember that loving ourselves is the key to any kind of happiness and joy.
So, as you go to bed tonight and you pull the blankets up to your chin, remember to lay on these other three blankets. And if you do, I know you'll have a really good night's sleep!
Stewart Blackburn is the author of The Skills of Pleasure: Crafting the Life You Want. His website is: www.stewartblackburn.com; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.