As the holidays approach, what keeps coming to my heart is gratitude – gratitude for all the gifts in my life and in my work. So let me invite you to join me in the spiritual practice of gratitude.
As the holidays approach, what keeps coming to my heart is gratitude – gratitude for all the gifts in my life and in my work. We have so much. I am so grateful. So let me invite you to join me in the spiritual practice of gratitude.
The practice is this. At the end of each day, express five things for which you are grateful. Last year at this time I wrote about how my mother introduced me to this practice several years ago, when my marriage was falling apart and I was going through a very rough time. Some days my five were my health, that of my son, having a roof over my head, having enough food to eat, having good friends.
As I practiced gratitude longer and became better at gratitude, I found myself looking out for better things. I grew bored of writing those same things down every night I guess. Eventually, five items were not enough. If I really paid attention, even on bad days I could fill a whole page. Good stuff happens, even in the worst of times. Gratitude opened me to that reality and helped me find my joy again.
Try this. Every morning put on an attitude of gratitude, and pay attention to what is happening around you. Keep track of the things that touch your heart. Then each evening find a way to express at least five of those things. Here are some ways to do this, just to get you started. Do it in whatever way most feeds your spirit. Try writing them down in a Gratitude Journal If you are musical, sing your gratitude, or play it on an instrument. If you are artistic, draw or paint or collage them (can do this with kids, too!). If you love to dance, put on some favorite music and dance your gratitude. At the family dinner table, taking turns naming one gratitude until you each have named five. Maybe light a candle at the end and say “thank you” for these gifts.
If you have a partner, before you go to sleep, take turns naming the things you are grateful for in one another. Very romantic. If you are single, try calling a friend or family member, the same or a different one each night. Tell him or her about your gratitude practice, and share your thankfulness. Spread the cheer.
You may discover, as you practice gratitude over time, that you become attuned to the splendor and the abundance of the world. Too often we hear only the bad stuff that happens in the world. The good stuff doesn’t make good press. It is not as sensational. Intentionally practicing gratitude helps counteract the negativity of our media, and also the winter blues that can afflict many of us.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.”
This holiday season, open your hearts to gratitude and see what happens. Then share it with those you love, and see what else happens. Be prepared for surprises.
The Rev. Tess Baumberger, PhD, is minister at the Unity Church of North Easton, Mass. You can reach her at 508-238-6373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Unity Church, please visit our Web site, www.unity-church.com