Monday, November 22, 2010


When I think about what I am grateful for, the first things that quickly come to mind are my health, my family, and my friends. I have been blessed with many wonderful people and things in my life and for that, I am happy. Recently, however, I have been ruminating on the following question: is it only possible to be grateful when my life seems to be going well and I am surrounded by the people and things that I love? What will happen when these people and things leave or change as they may in the course of a lived life? Will it not be possible to feel grateful any longer? Life transitions are inevitable. If I say that I am grateful for my health, my family, and my friends and one day they are no longer there, do I suddenly shift into feeling ungrateful?
The practice of gratitude can be a transformational life experience. It is especially potent when there appears to be nothing to be grateful for and life is taking us down “one of those roads” again. Or when we forget that the best things are sometimes the smallest. We have all traveled down those paths. Yet, it is at precisely those kinds of moments that the practice of gratitude is essential, and even critical. When the obvious is no longer visible, can we begin to see with microscopic lenses? What are the littlest, most minute things that we may appreciate in the course of a day? The practice then becomes to take a seemingly negative experience and convert it to an object of gratitude. Allow me to share some of my reflections of today.
My little dog is not feeling well and today she is going to the vet. I am worried and upset that she is not well, but through a shift in perspective, focus my attention on the fact that she is being seen by a doctor today. And suddenly I feel grateful. I begin to focus on the less evident appreciations of the day and inevitably, my list begins to grow: a comforting mug of hot tea, colorful socks that put a smile on my face when I put them on, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet, the sunshine of today’s November day, a genuine compliment from a stranger, the trust of a friend, last night’s full moon, a hot, morning shower, the ability to drive and take myself where I need/want to go, witnessing an “aha” moment on a student’s face today, coming home from work while it is still light out. It doesn’t matter that some things really did not work out well today. And they didn’t. But, when I stop to re-read the little moments of joy I experienced today, a small smile quietly appears on my face where there was a frown a moment ago. And that is it. Gratitude is an attitude and if I change mine, suddenly the world appears different and the possibility of a grateful day is…well… possible.
The practice of gratitude can be a momentary pause in meditation at the end of the day or the observation of appreciations in a little gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is simply that- a “noticing” at the end of the day of those things that made our lives positive. Some days we may find that there are fifty things on our list. Other days, we may have really had to dig deep to find only one. The practice of gratitude has been shown to relieve stress and boost immunity. And simply help us feel good. Why not begin a gratitude journal today?
I wish you all a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. And may you find the little joys that have made your day a good one today.

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