Here are the instructions for the milagrows practice, a powerful practice for self-acceptance that I have been practicing sometimes daily, and sometimes as needed, for the last three years. . . I find this practice to be of particular help when going through bumpy patches in life such as break-ups or in making big decisions or transitions. I often share this practice with clients and I look forward to hearing how this goes for you.
I want to share with you a daily practice that has helped me to accept myself and the quirkyness of my life. Slowly. Gradually.
This is a deceptively simple practice. It’s not an overnight quick fix. It’s something that can become part of the fabric of your life and help you to become intimate with yourself and accept yourself, every last nook and cranny of you.
I invite you to try taking ten to fifteen minutes to do this practice every day as a foundational practice of self-acceptance.
If this practice works for you, it’s something you may want to do for a long, long time. You’ll try it out yourself and see how it works for you.
This practice comes from Melodie Beattie’s book Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have into What You Want.
Melodie Beattie calls it the Miracles Project. I call it Milagrows. A friend of mine stumbled on doing something similar and she called it writing her list of blessings in brown shit wrappers.
Resistance occupies our energy so we don’t have time or attention for much else. Resistance locks us into battle with reality, but mostly it keeps us engaged in battle with ourselves. The worst thing about resistance is that it destroys our power.”–Melodie Beattie, Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have into What You Want
Here it is. Very simple.
Every day, you write a list of all the things you are grateful for. What’s special: in this list you are first encouraged to put your attention on the things you are NOT grateful for most of all and plaster them with gratitude.
In your list you can naturally also write about things you are genuinely grateful. But the point is not to try to cheer yourself up, the point is to become an intimate witness of yourself and your life and to welcome everything in. Melodie suggests taking ten minutes to write the list first thing in the morning. That may work best for you, or another time, or inconsistent times. Whatever would help you get in a rhythm.
When I share this exercise with people, often they do not understand. They ask, How can you say you are grateful for something that you are not grateful for? Isn’t that lying or denial? Why don’t you just say that you “acknowledge” these things you are not grateful for?
Why say you are grateful for things that you are not grateful for? There is a weird power in welcoming everything and saying you are grateful even when you don’t feel you are. An alchemy takes place when you start to welcome everything in. Saying you are grateful for these things that you hate or do not want to acknowledge helps you to stop resisting those feelings and when you stop resisting you soften. You accept yourself. Everything.
Let me make this very real for you. When you write your list, you write the date at the top and then let loose. You want to let it be as messy as you want (not perfect) and as you go day after day, week after week, you will reach down into deeper and more true places within yourself that you have never quite articulated–to yourself even.
My first lists were very simple. Now I have been doing this for almost two years. The lists are always evolving. As I write my lists, day after day, I find myself returning to certain themes. One is my ambivalence about becoming a mother. Here are just a few items from my list from today:
I’m grateful for my jealousy of A and A and they seem like the couple to me who have figured it all out and are so cute and kind and intentional and went through all the difficult shit and how I make them into superhuman beings
I’m grateful for how I feel jealous when I look at the pictures of them and their baby on Facebook
I’m grateful for how I get jealous of them and their baby even though every time I try to write baby as a desire on one of these lists it feels a bit false to me and how hard it is for me to accept that I actually probably don’t want enough to be a mother
I’m grateful there is more of a curiosity than a desire in me to be a mother
The aim is to be very real. I also write about plain old shit:
I’m grateful that mosquito buzzed in my ear last night all night and I could sleep only an hour.
I write that I’m for grateful for things that I’m really grateful for like:
I’m grateful for the surprise of dancing with that guy who had just started tango and how good he was and how nice it was to tell him he had talent and really mean it
Writing this list daily is a way to get in touch with everything in your life.
Why is this so powerful? Writing this list is a way to get in touch with all of you. Often we are so encouraged to focus on the positive that we resist what is real or difficult or shameful. And when we resist what is real it grows even larger and more difficult to deal with. This simple act of acknowledgment and welcoming all of it in in your life is a way to embrace the whole quirky bandwidth that is you and your life.
At the end of your grateful list, you can add on a list of “Wants” — things you want in your life.
Then you can write a list of “Needs”–What do you need right now? Take the pulse.
Then if you wish, you can add your “Magic Wands,” things that you would like to have happen just by waving a magic wand. Let loose with your imagination. Writing your desires daily helps you to get in touch with your desires, the muscles of wanting.
Sometimes my magic wands are being with my partner by my birthday and we are on vacation in Bali, or I ask for a gluten-free personal chef, or $50,000 comes in three months. I’m an advocate for being wild in your magic wands. And this is a great starting place for you to start flexing your muscles of desire and imagination.
One way that you can make this exercise even more powerful is to do it with a partner.
You exchange lists with your partner. That’s all. No advice. No commenting on the list other than acknowledging receipt. As partners, it’s important to agree that you will NOT comment on, give advice, or try to fix your partner’s problems. Your role is simply to read the list and witness it.
It’s very important to choose someone as your partner whom you can trust and who is more or less at the same level of maturity and development as you are.
I have a partner, L. I started out doing this exercise alone and then I told my friend L. about the exercise and she asked me to be her partner. L. and I simply write back to each other, “Read and received. Love you.” We decided to do this because we felt is was important to acknowledge the list had been read. We ask each other permission if we can ask about something on the list.
Here is what L. says about our partnership:
“Part of the reason it’s so powerful is because of the partners. When I forget to do it, I have a reminder in my inbox–a human real reminder. And when I feel shame, I read yours and realize that I’m not alone and when you say you received it, I feel shame go away. So that’s a big part of this exercise for me. I am sure it’s still good without that though, but not as good.”
You can also start out doing this on your own like I did and then see if a partner comes into your life. It was a big deal when L. asked me, and I knew it was a big deal, because I had already been doing this practice for a while and I knew it would mean witnessing each other at our most vulnerable level and not commenting. The not commenting aspect is hugely important for feeling safe and trust.
After a while, L. decided she didn’t want to do it anymore because she had other practices, and I continued alone, and that’s been fine too.
Melodie’s book Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have into What You Wantis wonderful and very real. I suggest you read it especially to understand more about her concept of miracles and how doing this will help you create miracles in your life. I am mostly focused on the aspects of self-acceptance.
The main point of this exercise is learn how to slow down and witness and accept yourself everyday as a practice. Which in itself is a miracle.
I call it Milagrows because Milagro is Spanish for miracle and I see myself–and L.–growing so much by doing this practice every day. You can get Melodie’s book here.
Take 10-15 minutes and try making a list like this. Write your “I’m grateful fors. . . ” first, and if you wish, your “wants,” then your “needs,” then your “magic wands.”