“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
–A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
It’s turkey time in Canada. I love this point in the year with its bountiful harvests of root vegetables and pumpkins and the deliciousness of a delectable turkey dinner. Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to 1578 and was declared a holiday in 1879 to celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the past year.
This weekend we are reminded to give thanks. But what about gratitude as a daily practice? I mean a conscientious everyday statement of blessings.
As I did laundry this morning, I remembered a young African athlete I met when I was 18 years old. I remember his name–Solomon Kondowi (I don’t know if I’ve spelled it right). He was in Canada to compete in the Commonwealth Games and was being hosted by a friend’s family.
What was imprinted in my memory was his wonder and joy of what he saw in Canada. My roommate and I had him over for dinner one night and his face lit up in complete fascination as he described the washer and dryer he was able to use at his home stay.
“There are two big machines in their house. And you lift a lid, and you put your clothes in the machine. You shut it and push a button and it washes the clothes for you! Then you take the clothes and put them in another big machine right next to it and it dries the clothes! It’s incredible!”
He was so thrilled with this experience and went on to describe how laundry was done back home by beating it on the rocks and washing it in the distant river. He also told us how he would be the star of his village with the new pair of Levi’s the family had given him.
Most likely you have a washer and dryer at easy access in your home. This morning as I did laundry I got a small buzz of appreciation for those two “big machines.” For 16 years, I had to go downstairs to a smoky, dingy basement to do my laundry with others. We shared one washer and one dryer in the building so laundry was always a production. Purposefully paying attention to all of the luxuries we take for granted and saying thank you for them reminds us that we likely have it pretty good, overall.
I know it may seem a bit trite and overstated (especially on Facebook), but there is a reason why most religions and spiritual practices promote thankfulness. As much as has been said or written about gratitude, there’s actually nothing trite about it. It is a transformative force in human life.
Making gratitude a daily practice can shift your mood and bring in more optimism. I’ve added this concept once again to help change my attitude. This weekend I have set my phone alarm for every 15 minutes (while I’m alone). When it rings, I think of something or someone I am grateful for. It’s an interesting exercise because it brings you back to the moment. Your focus is upon what’s going on and what’s good about right now.
When you actively remember to give thanks each day, you start becoming aware of the half full glass. You complain less. It can nip envy and comparison in the bud.
Appreciation and gratitude can also have a calming effect over anxiety and worry. In stressful times, it’s easy to forget the good. Jotting down the positives in a journal or sticking them on the mirror helps to break rumination on bad luck or hard times.
Remembering to thank others for anything they do for you improves relationships. Maybe you’d like to write a note to someone who has had a positive influence on you or how one small and seemingly insignificant act made a big difference to you at the time. Or phone them. Here are a few examples …
I learned my favourite meditation from the HeartMath Institute. It’s simple and incredibly powerful.
Sit and relax.
Focus on your physical heart.
Think of someone or something you love or appreciate deeply. Sit with those feelings for a couple of minutes.
Keep your awareness around your heart and focus on the person you wish to send some positive vibes to.
Then send someone appreciation, thanks, blessings, love, or forgiveness if need be.
I’ve healed disagreements and had people call directly after doing a meditation and once, someone showed up at my door an hour later!
Noticing and appreciating the small beauties in nature takes our focus off of the material world we are bombarded with. My spirits lift and my sense of wonder expands on my walks around the river. It keeps me mindful of the true values of my heart. My child self sparks with awe when I see a woodpecker, warm sunbeams on the path, or a cloud that looks like a dolphin.
Gratitude: Louie Schwartzberg (this is beautiful)
Cultivating gratitude can change circumstances. When we are grateful for what receive and what we have, it allows life to give us more. It brings us into a state of grace.
I don’t know why, but earth school is one of hard knocks. A very minute few of us escape unscathed. Right now as I hang from a precarious ledge at mid-life, I need to remind myself that even though some challenges appear insurmountable, I am still very fortunate. I need not compare myself to the worst off, or the best off. I can look through the lens at my one life and give thanks.
I admit to sometimes feeling defeated as a writer and wish for more readers (the raison d’être of all writers). But today, I say thanks to you for taking the time to read my blog. Thank you for your shares, comments, and uplifting responses. I thank you for making me feel I am making a tiny difference.
Today I am grateful for …
Delicious food shared.
Being able to walk.
And because tomorrow isn’t promised, for today.
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