How to grow an attitude of gratitude

I’ve been blogging for a few years now about Gratitude and it’s capacity to completely change our lives.  For centuries it’s been heralded as a virtue and in my humble opinion, I have come to believe it’s one that is easy to act on – if we are willing to do so. I’ve poked around at the edges of understanding the science behind it’s basic applications and agree with the esteemed Dr Robert Emmons and other researchers who suggest replacing a ‘vice with virtue’ is a healthy way to grow an attitude of gratitude.

My dear friend, colleague and co-creator Janelle Sigley and I co-facilitaed “Gratitude at the Grassroots” workshop mid year at the 13th International Diversity Conference in Darwin Australia . We were amazed at the level of fear and resentment we experienced within many of the academics at the conference. The old adage of “publish or perish” is well known and still in full swing within international academic circles, and sadly quite breathtaking to witness in action.

We spoke to our Australian guiding light and leader in the space of Gratitude in Education,  Dr Kerry Howells who was also at the conference. Dr Howell’s research affirms that gratitude and resentment are polar opposites, and that it is when we feel the least grateful that we most need to be!

Interestingly, many people have no idea how much resentment is informing their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Now let’s face it, owning our resentment isn’t a feel good thing to do! And yet, that’s the only way we can make the shift in our perspective. Being superficially grateful while resentment fuels us is never going to end well.

I wonder what would be different in your life if you gave yourself permission to replace resentment with gratitude and to somehow demonstrate this? And what would happen if you chose to make a 30 day commitment to growing your attitude of gratitude? What would be different in your life? To help kick start some thinking, it could be as simple as starting with writing down 5 things daily you are grateful for over the next 30 days.

ps I would love you join us at Gratitude Growers on Facebook and share you gratitudes there


Grateful for creative corrupt solutions

Bali and some of her beauty

I turned 50 this year, and decided in May to give myself a break – on my own – not taking responsibility for anyone, and deliberately placed my 1st world problems in context and outside of myself. The last time I had travelled in such a way was 30 years ago, and even that was domestically, so I was pretty excited and slightly nervous about this trip. My plan was  to go on a self imposed retreat for a whole week, doing as much hatha yoga as my body could take and BEING present. The added bonus and challenge I imposed, was I planned on doing so in beautiful Bali.

I’ve travelled to Bali more times than I can count now. But never alone. My general routine is to fly in to Denpasar, overnight in Sanur, head up the coast to Amed for 4 or 5 nights, pop over to Ubud for a bit before heading back down to Denpasar to fly home to Darwin. And excluding our first trip, I always seem to be the tour guide – probably because I’ve been so many times.

Well, what this efficient little organiser didn’t factor in were the unintended surprises and tests I was to experience during my self imposed retreat. Ignorantly flying on an ‘expired’ passport – due to expire in Jan 2014, I was technically 3 weeks into my 6 month minimum entry requirement.  I was ever so grateful for the solution focused corrupt Balinese policeman who helped me solve my problem at Visa on Arrival check point, and didn’t deport me. After sitting in an enclosed area away from watching eyes which locals refer to as Chapell’s room, I was asked to sign forms written in Indonesian and spent almost an hour of negotiating a solution. I was ever so relieved to finally get through the final Customs checkpoint to see my prearranged driver holding up a sign with my name on it. Gratitude anchors my life choices and this felt like an ultimate test, setting the tone for the rest of the trip.

Hanging out with anxiety most of my life, I’ve experienced my share of panic attacks and time robbing fear. In fact had this have happened even 12 months before, I probably would have had a melt down. But I didn’t! I entertained a bit of fear, but that was it. I didn’t lose any sleep over this and deliberately put it out of my mind for the whole time there. That was huge for me. I didn’t speak of it to anyone, not even my quick skype call home the next day to say ‘honey I’ve landed – talk to you next week’ touch base.

That week was so powerful for me I couldn’t quantify for a while. Staying in remote Bali in a hotel without any other guests would have once been fearful – it wasn’t. Consistently dining alone, not getting immersed in distractions and staying present allowed me to experience so much more than I could have ever conceived possible.

A local masseuse brought me fresh fruit every day, local fishermen would drop off shells outside the little Bali hut where I would sit and write daily, local kids came and talked and didn’t humbug me. I practiced as much hatha yoga as I could, I nurtured myself and accomplished way more than I expected to.

Beautiful Bali

On reflection my biggest learning opportunities on that brief trip were: (1) observing and not participating in problems, (2)  returning to my commitment to self care and (3) contextualising my first world problems (4) how  grateful I am for the life I now life.

While shocked and a bit shaky on arriving in Bali, by observing myself and the conscious choices I made, on departing that beautiful place I realised I hadn’t panicked once. Instead I felt deeply grateful to have such kind and respectful people around me at all times who were open to negotiate positive solutions.

Note to self: When passport is due for renewal in 2024, do not travel with 1 week less than 6 months validity! 

Gratitude isn't all peachy and picture perfect.

“Fear is a reaction – acceptance is a response.

I choose acceptance.” Bronwyn Clee

Casuarina Beach on full tide

My first deliberate foray into gratitude as a practice was in 2009. In amongst extreme adversity I had enough first hand shitty experiences to fill a soccer field. Rather than remain on a life threatening emotional battlefield, I chose gratitude. Over the last four years, I haven’t always felt grateful for everything and my life is far from picture perfect. In fact, having an attitude of gratitude in amongst adversity is the real test. Kinda like my “so how serious are you about this gratitude stuff now Brony girl?” point of reflection.

In deepening my gratitude practices, I’m learning so much more about myself and the profound impact it has on the world in which I live. It’s taken me 8 years to accept that chronic fatigue syndrome has taken up residence in my body, and that while I can do everything I think I need to to manage CFS, it still has the final say as to how my body functions some days.

Yes there are points in time that I can reflect on emotional pain I chose not to deal with. By the way, thank you for finally publishing your book “Longing to Live, Journey with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia” Marg Lambert. Your words help validate so much for me.

This recent relapse caught me unaware and while it stopped me in my tracks and brought me to my knees it also tested my depth of commitment to myself and my life philosophies to honour gratitude and a yoga lifestyle. Self care ~ self pace ~ self love was my mantra for a long time and I’m quickly getting back to living that. Getting better at taking my own medicine, knowing that when I’m well and with my clients, that which I’m helping them with is what I most need to work on as well, I hear myself repeating this time and time again: “Fear is a reaction – acceptance is a response, and I choose acceptance”. Translating this into action has been profound – rather than fight CFS I have decided to embrace it, honour it and accept it.

Yesterday I walked my beloved Casuarina beach with a beautiful heart centred girlfriend. We both have been feeling less than average this year and were so grateful to each other for the gentle nudge to walk and talk. Sharing a few laughs and tears, knowing that our life choices are ours and we are not alone, always makes our time together so very precious.

This kind, caring, compassionate and deeply intelligent girlfriend knows me beyond words – we share similar values and beliefs and can hold sacred space for each other. I feel truly blessed to know you Sara, and to count you in my intimate circle. Walking this journey of difference is rarely ever easy. Instead, more often than not it’s peppered with prickles and points in time that test us beyond our imagination.

While I continue to respond rather than react, I am able to stand strengthened in my vulnerabilities.

And for this, I am truly grateful.


How much would you pay for enlightenment?

His Holiness 14th Dali Lama

Bronwyn Clee asks His Holiness the big question

Sitting at the feet of His Holiness The 14th Dali Lama a few months back, I felt deeply grateful. To be in his presence was one thing, however creating the space for the privilege of asking the first question post his discourse on “The Four Noble Truths” was a beautiful moment of truth.

My question to the 14th Dali Lama on that most auspicious day was “Your Holiness, if you could influence (more…)