The concept of gratitude is terribly batted around during this holiday time. The word almost fades in meaning through its commercial overuse. And yet what a moment it is seasonally, as the light drains from the day, to reconsider the powerful practice of finding the good in all. This ancient practice, called hakarat ha-tov in Jewish tradition, urges us to see, no matter what we are given, the seeds of blessings being planted in our day. The leap of yogic faith is exactly that; life is showing up to offer us the doorway away from the ego-driven “I”, toward the greater flow of positive life energy.
I no longer see gratitude as a noun (forgive me—once an English teacher, always?), a feeling that I sometimes do/sometimes do not experience. I understand and respect gratitude as a living and breathing practice, one that has to be cultivated and developed. We need to strengthen the muscle in us that can look for, identify, and play forward the blessings we receive, no matter the package in which they arrive on our doorstep.
How, then, does one practice, especially in this time of such world crisis and despair? Here are some simple specific practices with which I have experimented. See if any of these resonate for you:
- Celebrating Heart-Blasts—at the end of the day, identify and write and/or talk about the one thing that day that blew your heart open, the one totally delightful/delicious/beautiful/grace-filled thing you witnessed. Share this with another for a deepening practice.
- Inviting It In— at the beginning of the day, create a prayer of thanks for all that you will be receiving that day. YES! This is counter-intuitive, since we don’t know what we will be receiving. But what a powerful reframe it offers us. (My prayer for years was something like, “Thanks for everything you are going to give me in this day. I know what you are going to give me with be exactly what I need to grow closer to those parts of me that are You.)
- Imagining Possibilities—consider the next day or two. What are you looking forward to? What might you be grateful for, up ahead? Another radical and crazy idea, imagine the possibility of creating positive moments, to shine down on you!
- Playing It Forward—in response to a blessing, to a gift, or to a relief, offer this to another in an on-going form. What might that look like? (Example: after narrowly avoiding a car accident, practice mindful driving, letting other drivers in, relaxing within the speed limit, not pushing or rushing forward.)
Give yourself full permission to explore these practices. If one resonates for you, draw it into your life with loving commitment to self-practice. Through the lens of gratitude, the doors of abundance are flung open for us—we are bestowed with more and more grace. Focusing on what is, rather than what is not, frees us up to receive.
Through the lens of gratitude, may you and yours be blessed in this season of Thanks-Giving.