Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.
I believe we’re invited to celebrate life daily, to share in joy and the unfolding of each breath and each moment. I don’t mean this in a Pollyanna, all-to-cheery sort of optimist way. Sometimes I feel very much like my heart is too small and that life is squeezing me pretty tightly, and so I have to reach down pretty deep to find something akin to light. But life has become more joyful for me as I’ve aged and encountered more things for which, perhaps, I am not at all grateful. The contrast, though, has only presented to me more opportunity to appreciate, to stay awake, to contemplate, and to say ‘thank you’ daily. I love that there’s a whole entire day set aside for this very thing and I wonder if thanksgiving could be something we’re offering by staying enchanted and willing to pause for wonder and gratitude daily. I recognize that gratitude has gotten a bad rap of its own lately, possibly because so often it’s the incredibly positive moments that accompany our gratitude. Recently, I’ve been practicing creating a pause, a stop sign of sorts in my day, to observe with my five senses the world around me and really settle in to the wonder of being able to hear, touch, taste, smell, and see the world as it is. There has never been a moment that breathing into a pause of this sort of moment doesn’t yield something wondrous–like the sound of the wind rustling the trees or the sight of my sons big brown eyes gazing back at me.
This fun information from Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier and host of a podcast by the same name, popped up for me today. He writes, “Gratitude isn’t about maniacally focusing on the positive and pretending that we live in a problem-free world…Shawn Achor [is the] author of a best-selling book called The Happiness Advantage, [that is] evidence based, practical, and actionable. First Achor cites all kinds of data that gratitude can boost energy, improve sleep, and increase both optimism and social connection–two of the greatest predictors of long-term happiness. Gratitude even correlated with a 23 percent drop in headaches, backaches, and fatigue. More importantly, spending just two minutes a day thinking of things you’re grateful for can train the brain to become happier…doing so builds new mental muscles that scan for the positive.”
Try this: whatever you’re doing right now, stop. Take a breath. Now close your eyes and notice what you hear. Just let yourself listen without judging and say to yourself, I am thankful for hearing. Breathe in again. What do you smell? Can you taste something? Can you also savor for a moment these senses? Open your eyes–what do you see? Without judgement, take in one small piece of the world around you and allow yourself space for gratitude for seeing. Let yourself really see whatever it is. Bring your attention to your body. Can you feel gratitude in your body, making it more than a thought? Now, proceed from the pause and notice how you feel after. Maybe like Harris you’ll start to notice how the two minutes of gratitude starts to leak out into the rest of your day.
We have an opportunity to share in this gift of life.
As Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
If we’re willing to slow the rush of life, the drudgery of the day, the complaining, anxious mind, gratitude can come as an opportunity to celebrate life–and this is the most connective practice there is. I hope this Thanksgiving is an opportunity for you to remember. No matter who is at your table or what fills or doesn’t fill your belly, let yourself stay hungry for more gratitude, for less doing and more observing, for noting that wonder is in the sometimes smallest streams of light coming through dark, bare branches in fall.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. To say I’m thankful for each of you would be a wild understatement of how filled I am by your presence and love.