It’s Thanksgiving here in America, a day when we are reminded to be thankful. It’s a day when many do take a moment to pause and reflect on what it is that we are grateful for, and that’s a beautiful thing. But, what’s even more beautiful is when we incorporate gratitude into our everyday living. When we can find gratitude for small things we can truly change our attitude and our state of wellbeing. For me that cute bulldog puppy in the grocery store parking lot who made me smile this morning was one of those small things. Today I also really appreciated the yoga teachers who were offering donation-based practices, giving of their time to be of service to our community. I am grateful that my husband is raking out our gardens and preparing them for the winter ahead. I’m grateful for a couple of days of warmth that are here so that I can put my Christmas lights up with comfort. And, I am grateful for my family that is with me today, even as I miss those I love who aren’t here now.
There have been a lot of posts out recently about the power and health benefits of gratitude, and I encourage you to search them out if you’d like to know more. I’m here to share my personal experience with the power of a daily gratitude practice.
Most days I post what I am grateful for that day on my Facebook page – sometimes in the morning, but usually in the evening as I reflect back on my day. And this might make my life look great and throw me into that unloved group of people called the “better thans” (or something like that – people who give the impression that their lives are so much better than yours). That’s not my intention at all, and sometimes I include gratitude for the sadness or grumpiness I’ve felt that day and for my ability to be with it or to let it pass. I’m always grateful when I’ve been able to find gratitude on a day when it’s really hard. And, for me, that’s one of the most powerful aspects of this practice – it helps me to shift my perspective from “That was a really crappy day” to, “Yes, I’m having a really tough time right now AND I can still find things to be grateful for."
I am striving to welcome all aspects of the full richness of life into my experience, because this is real, and being real is really important to me. Life is full of ups and downs, shadow and light, joy and sorrow for ALL of us. To fully live life means to allow what is here to exist, to not always be wishing for something other than what we are living in this moment, and to remember that everything is in a state of flow and transition.
Whatever we are feeling right now won’t last forever, whether we perceive it to be “good” or “bad.” So to be able to breathe in to the here and now, to notice it and welcome it in, whether it’s really joyful or peaceful or extremely painful or uncomfortable, is a valuable practice. This noticing and welcoming helps me to get back into a flow with life. Often times when I am suffering I notice that it’s because I am resisting some aspect of my life, wishing it were different, wanting something else, something I may never have. Also, I don’t want to miss out on truly appreciating and soaking in the sweetness of a particular day.
So, to find a way to be grateful even when life doesn’t look the way I’d like it to, even when my heart is really heavy and I’m feeling very sad and afraid has helped me to keep on going. It helps me notice and remember all that is in my life, and it helps me to slow down and be present. It allows me to find and create joy and peace and to have those coexist with sadness and loss. It’s not an all or nothing world – there’s room for it all.
My invitation to you is to find a way to incorporate gratitude into your daily life in whatever way works for you. You could simply take a moment of quiet, close your eyes and silently reflect on what you feel grateful for in that moment and really feel the sensation in your body. You might want to journal in the morning or evening (or any time in between) a list of a few things you’re grateful for. I’ve found gratitude to be a really great way to begin my day and start it off with an intentionally different tone than it might have otherwise had, and it’s also a great way to send myself to bed and into a more peaceful sleep. You might choose to send a quick note to people you appreciate, letting them know what it is you appreciate about them.
Thoughts? What ideas do you have for bringing gratitude in to your life? What have you found to work or what would you like to try? Please let us know in the comments below – it’s through sharing that we all may grow and learn.