Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

“Most of our day
is gift after gift…
if we wake up to it.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

Tomorrow will be the strangest Thanksgiving that many of us have ever experienced. Some of us will mark the date for the very first time without family and friends at their tables and some will be grieving loved ones. A very good friend of mine will spend it entirely alone. If Thanksgiving meant huge amounts of food and a spirit of celebration to her, she might have been feeling sad and deprived as she anticipated her empty house tomorrow. But that’s not what Thanksgiving has meant to her for years. Instead, for the past decade she’s immersed herself in experiencing gratitude for much of this day. She goes for a long meditative walk along the river, taking note of the beauty that graces her along the way. She returns to her warm house, where delicious smells are wafting from her crockpot. She makes a sweet and aromatic cup of tea while soothing music plays in the background and writes in her journal. She recounts the many and varied experiences and people that have graced her life throughout the past year. She asks herself a number of questions including:

  1. What have I learned this past year that I’m grateful for?
  2. What acts of kindness have I been the recipient of this past year?
  3. What are the ways that I’ve been kind this year?
  4. What moments this past year give me the most pleasure to remember?
  5. How have I shown compassion to myself this past year?
  6. How have I shown compassion for others?
  7. What new delights have come into my life this year?
  8. What challenges have I overcome this year?
  9. What have I created this year?
  10. What modest gifts have I given myself this year?

At some point before the day is through she takes a scented and luxurious bath, thanking each part of her body for its faithful service during the year. And smelling wonderful, wrapped in a soft robe, curled up in her recliner beside her electric fireplace, she reads from a small selection of books that she keeps specifically for this day. Books like “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Everyday Gratitude: Inspiration for Living Life as a Gift” by Kristi Nelson, and “Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness” by David Steindl-Rast. While she no longer learns anything new from these books, she is reminded of something wonderful, “something that feels fresh and resonate” she tells me.

One afternoon, Ross Gay, poet, gardener and author of “Unabashed Gratitude,” decided that he was going to write a short essay on something that he found delightful every day for a year. His efforts to do so grew into the bestselling book, “The Book of Delights.” In it he wrote, “It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.” And so, I too, have begun studying delight, and am happy to report that I’m fostering a delight radar of my own. Ross also advised that “The more stuff you love the happier you will be.” He wasn’t referring to loving material objects like cars, houses, and designer clothes. He was writing about the delight of “casting about in bed, drifting in and out of dream, as the warm hand of the sun falls through the blinds, moving ever so slowly across your body.” In an interview with Krista Tippet he shared that when he first began writing “The Book of Delights” he thought it was going to be hard to find something that was delightful every single day to write about, and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t difficult at all. And because I want to provide you with a few examples of what delights he simply happened across, I’m going to share one last quote from his book.

“This morning I was walking through Manhattan, head down, checking directions, when I looked up to see a fruit truck selling lychee, two pounds for five bucks, and I had ten bucks in my pocket! Then while buying my bus ticket for later that evening, I witnessed the Transbridge teller’s face soften after she had endured a couple unusually rude interactions in front of me as I kept eye contact and thanked her. She called me honey (first delight), baby (second delight), and smiled before I turned away. On my way to the Flatiron building there was an aisle of kousa dogwood—looking parched, but still, the prickly knobs of fruit nestled beneath the leaves. A cup of coffee from a well-shaped cup… Or the peanut butter salty enough. Or the light blue bike the man pushed through the lobby. Or the topknot of the barista. Or the sweet glance of the man in his stylish short pants (well-lotioned ankles gleaming beneath) walking two little dogs. Or the woman stepping in and out of her shoe, her foot curling up and stretching out and curling up.”

I was raised to be a glass is half empty kind of person. My eighty-eight year old father regularly begins a sentence with “the trouble is…” While embracing a gratitude practice has required a significant amount of discipline and commitment choosing to be mindful of the countless small blessings and simple pleasures that come my way hasn’t only enhanced my life, it’s transformed it. Feeling grateful on a daily basis has led to my being happier, more resilient, less stressed, and much more open.

I encourage you to notice what small things come your way tomorrow that you can be truly and sincerely grateful for and make a list of them at the end of the day.

Just a Few Resources

Gratitude: The Short Film by Louie Schwartzberg   

An Experiment in Gratitude

Ross Gay Reading from The Book of Delights

55 Gratitude Questions

How to Teach Children Gratitude

The Benefits of Gratitude for Stress Relief

How to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Mindfulness Benefits of Gratitude

Photo by wewe yang on Pexels.com

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Today was a perfect autumn day, the kind that calls me out of my head and into my senses. The kind that finds me with my car windows rolled down and the music loud. The kind that makes me feel giddy and free. The kind that’s drenched in vibrant color and sunshine during the day, and graced with the scent of baking apples and cinnamon at dinner time. The kind that says to me, “hey, just maybe you can spend each and every day living in ‘radical amazement’ – each and every day – even the hard ones.”

There’s such sweet celebration and melancholy in autumn – temperatures drifting down, mists rising, the ancient choreography of birds embarking on their long migration, the harvest moon – an enchanting paradise so soon to be lost as nature once again begins her inevitable journey into the frigid arms of winter.

While the autumn advances and the leaves deepen and dazzle before relinquishing their hold on the bodies that have sustained them, my mother’s own grasp weakens as her cancer progresses and her spirit quickens. My love of nature has never been more acute than in autumn and I have never loved my mother more fiercely than right now.

I walk along the shore of Wolfe’s Neck woods, hear crows cawing in the distance, tilt my face up towards a gentler sun that caresses now instead of scorches. I’m both awed and saddened at the same time. I wonder how much of life is at its most beautiful just before dying. Is this the truest bitter gift of death, that life becomes oh so much sweeter?

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Ammidst the loss, the longing, the life, and the love, I am amazed……

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As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m reminded once again of the benefits to each of us of integrating a gratitude practice into our lives. Allowing ourselves to fully experience a sense of gratitude on a daily basis has proven to be highly beneficial to our minds, bodies, and souls (for more details about how this is so you might want to read, “Giving Thanks: The Effects of Joy and Gratitude on the Human Body” .)

Episcopal priest and author, Matthew Fox declares that gratitude is at the heart of his spirituality. Roman Catholic theologian, David Steindl-Rast, advices that gratitude is the source of our happiness, and Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, maintains that gratitude is a characteristic of wisdom. My own experience supports the assertions of these grateful sages.

When I practice gratitude on a daily basis I not only feel better, I believe that I become a better person. I’m more generous, appreciative, peaceful, and more easily open to wonder and awe. When my practice slips away, it’s not long before I notice the difference. I’m much more likely to be vulnerable to envy, discontentment, and anxiety. I worry more and sleep less; hoard more and give less; work more and celebrate less.

Melodie Beattie observed, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” My life is fuller when I practice gratitude, it makes more sense, and it offers so many more gifts as my heart opens wider to them.

Gratitude Resources:


Selfless Gratitude

Spirituality & Practice: Gratitude

Lets Create more Grateful Organizations

Selfless Gratitude

Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness

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