The practice of gratitude
let's make this a habit
At this time in the world, I sometimes question whether it’s appropriate for me to chatter about my beloved garden, how much I love sunflowers or some other lighthearted subject in a post. But I’ve come to believe that an uplifting or inspirational post might be just as important as a serious one that addresses the turmoil. We need a balance from the barrage of incoming mortar, metaphorically speaking.
So to that end, I’m going to stop apologizing (in my head as I’m writing) and forge ahead with a weekly Wednesday morning gratitude post, which I hope my readers will engage in.
(Photos courtesy Dennis Tuttle/5editorial) A soul without gratitude.
My dear friend Peter sent me a delightful surprise letter about gratitude a few years back. I still have the letter in the drawer of my desk. Most days, I look right over it; but every once in a while, I notice it and take it out to reread it. Once again it makes me happy, just like it did the first time I read it and the time after and the time after that.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for achieving happiness. In fact, I might go so far as to say I believe it to be the only path toward a peaceful heart. But like many beneficial activities (yoga, exercise, study, etc.), feeling gratitude is a practice. It often doesn’t come naturally, especially if we are experiencing a large degree of chaos or strife in our life.
To our advantage, the human brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Granted, we can switch rapidly from topic to topic, which might lead us to believe we are thinking about numerous subjects simultaneously. But we aren’t. The moments we concentrate on thankfulness preclude our brain from thinking about something worrisome or painful. And I actually believe the moments spent in gratitude are protected by a greater force helping us to send something positive into the world.
Opening ourselves to the practice of gratitude.
Contentment is my reality in the minutes (more likely seconds) that I am feeling grateful for something. I’m considering as I write this, what if I approached practicing gratitude like I would if I was trying to increase my running or hiking stamina? At the very least, I’d be spending more minutes in my day creating a happy and peaceful mindset, regardless of what was happening around me.
Years ago, I read a life-changing book, All but my Life: A Memoir by Gerda Weissmann Klein. It’s the story of her life in and escape from the Nazi concentration camps. Gerda taught me that even if life is nothing short of a horror story, there will always be something to feel grateful for. And if we can grab onto whatever that one thing is and hold on tight, our hearts will feel light in those moments of gratitude.
A life lived in gratitude.
I hope you will join me on Wednesdays to share a bit of gratitude. Your responses may prompt a thankfulness inside of me or others, like Peter’s letter of gratitude lying in wait at the bottom of my desk drawer. We have the power to lift each other, every minute of every hour of every day. Let’s put that to use, see where we can go. Send me a sentence, a paragraph, a story, a single word… what are you grateful for?
Ps… And speaking of gratitude, thanks go to my editor of Lessons of a Wayward Yogini, Dennis Tuttle, for allowing me to use his gorgeous sunflower photographs. The words in italics under the photos are my words, not the name of his photos.
Pss…And on another note, I’m considering the title Hump Day Gratitude for this weekly post, but not totally sold on that and I’d love suggestions. I adore most any game, especially if there’s a prize. Send along your suggestions, and my favorite title will receive a year’s paid subscription to my blog as well as a copy of Lessons of a Wayward Yogini.
Tales of a Wayward Yogini is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.