By Phyllis Kennemer
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.
— Melody Beattie
Are you dreading the approaching holiday season? Are you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and anxious? What if you could give yourself a gift that will enhance your joy of the season beginning with Thanksgiving and carry on through the New Year? What if this gift could help you become more optimistic, think more creatively, and improve your health? Are you in? Then give yourself the gift of gratitude. Think about how your life could change if you made a conscious effort to give thanks in all things. Albert Einstein said that we can live in one of two ways. We can live as if nothing is a miracle, or we can live as if everything is a miracle. If you choose the latter, all of life becomes a miracle worth celebrating.
Gratitude Starts With Being Thankful
Isn’t it great that the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving? How perfect! We can launch our gratitude habit while preparing for a celebration devoted to giving thanks. Of course, we are grateful for the usual things mentioned in Thanksgiving services and prayers, such as the bounty of the harvest, the delicious meal, and the gathering of family and friends, but let’s delve a bit deeper into our well of gratitude.
Living in the moment; savoring the “right now” offers a positive first step for developing an attitude of gratitude. What do you feel grateful for in this moment? Stop. Breathe. Ah, you can give thanks for breath; for life. And what about the fantastic body you reside in? Quickly enumerate some of things your body can do. You may start with your senses. Think about sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.
Then consider the miracle of a specific body part, such as your hands. List the things you have done with your hands so far today. Did you turn of the alarm clock, wash up, prepare breakfast, eat, tidy the dishes, call or text someone on your telephone, open this magazine, turn pages? Wow! This is just a smattering of ways we depend on the use of our miraculous hands.
Next, make a conscious effort to increase your awareness, not only of your body, but of your surroundings. Notice things, people, events that you have been taking for granted. Consider your first hour upon awakening this morning. How many things could you consciously be thankful for? How about a comfortable bed, a good night’s sleep, an invigorating shower, a hot cup of coffee, a nourishing breakfast — and that just begins to crack the surface of things we take for granted and seldom give thanks for.
How to Achieve the Gift of Gratitude
Deborah Norville explains how she began her research about gratitude in her book, Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You. She asked herself, “Is it possible that the key to happiness can be found in just two words?” Her findings confirmed that, indeed, it is. Just say, “Thank you.” She cites many examples and techniques that confirm her basic premise.
Taking gratitude walks is one suggestion. A gratitude walk can take place anywhere — on a beautiful mountain path, a neighborhood trail, or a busy downtown sidewalk. Walk with heightened awareness. Notice things that make you smile. Stay in the moment and be fully aware of your body and your surroundings. You may notice a clump of beautiful wild flowers or smell the sweet fragrance of a blooming tree or hear birds communicating with each other. If you are walking on city sidewalks, be aware of the people and sights around you. Smile. You will be amazed with how many smiles you will receive in return.
I often take gratitude walks on Chartres style labyrinths. A rose shape with six petals appears in the center of this design. Sometimes, I stand in each petal and give thanks for the stages of planetary evolution, as defined by Lauren Artress in her book, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice. The petals symbolize mineral, vegetable, animal, human, angelic, and the Unknown. As I bring conscious attention to each of these areas, specific examples come to mind.
I especially love standing in the Unknown petal as I contemplate the mystery of life and give thanks for unexpected miracles along the way. I then stand in the center of the labyrinth and experience a connection of my spirit with Universal Spirit. Other times, I stand in each petal and give thanks for six different people that I am grateful to have in my life. The petals can also be used to represent important lifetime events that I continue to treasure. What categories for thanksgiving resonate with you for this form of meditative gratitude? (A printable copy of a Chartres style finger labyrinth is available at www.Paths4Change.com.)
Writing in a gratitude journal is another way to keep focused on the good things in your life. Many people choose to write in the journal at bedtime. Some write lists of things that brought joy during the day. Others prefer a different approach. They select two or three outstanding things from the day and write about them in depth, really thinking through the reasons that they feel so grateful.
Share your gratitude with others. Saying “Thank you” to others raises their spirits and yours. Think of someone who has been a positive influence in your life and write a letter to this person expressing your appreciation. If possible, deliver the letter in person, so you can share in the joy of the person receiving it.
Why You Should Keep This Attitude of Gratitude
Living in a state of gratitude will definitely improve your life. You will feel more positive as you live your life from a different perspective. Obviously, it does not obliterate all challenges and problems that you face on a daily basis, but staying in this higher state of consciousness can keep you from feeling defeated by them. Perhaps you can even find something to be thankful for in what at first appears to be a negative situation. Always be on the lookout for good. Here’s the plan.
Start living in an attitude of gratitude around the time of Thanksgiving. Strive to savor the moments of life — the unexpected joy you will discover as you become more aware of the small miracles around you. Continue your practice of appreciation as you move through the holiday season, and as the New Year approaches, you have a ready-made resolution that you can likely keep. You can state it in your own way, something similar to “I resolve to continue to live in an attitude of gratitude as I consciously look for and appreciate the good in my life.”
If the only prayer you say in your life
is “thank you”, that would suffice.
— Meister Eckart