When I was in college, I lived in an intentional spiritual community of 6 people, three men and three women. We committed to a number of things over the course of our year, including eating dinner together barring any occasional commitments, Sunday through Thursday. One of our traditions was to go around the table those nights with everyone mentioning at least one thing they were thankful for. Being a fairly well-adjusted bunch, we shared moments of gratitude for friends, good grades on tests, letters from home, that sort of thing. Occasionally, someone had a rough day and would be grateful they made it through the day without falling apart or killing anyone.
Then there was my housemate Amy, a lovely soul, truly. Sometimes she’d just be so filled with gratitude for her day, she’s speak for several minutes about the flowers or the squirrels or the way the sun shone through a window, completely reliving her bliss from the day. Most of the time we couldn’t help but get caught up in her joy. Although sometimes, we did just want her to finish up so we could get around to the meal.
What I learned from Amy though, is that the more specific your gratitude, the more profoundly you actually feel grateful. So I could tell you I’m grateful for fall. OK, I guess. But if I tell you I’m grateful for fall because of the way a specific section of my drive up I-97 looks when all the trees change and how it makes me remember fall as a child growing up in the woods of Maine, well, now that’s visceral gratitude right there.
Being grateful and feeling gratitude are not the same thing. Feeling gratitude is always more powerful.
In some of my retreat work, I have people list 50-100 things they are grateful for over the course of the day. It’s interesting to see how as the day progresses, they really have to get more and more specific. They often realize they are grateful for more things than they realized on the outset. It’s an experience of feeling the true power of gratitude for many of them.
Over the next couple of days, I encourage you to do the same thing. Make a list, get very specific and pay attention to the mundane, everyday things that make you grateful, even for just a fleeting moment. By writing them down, you get to hold onto them for a little longer.
So here is the beginning of my abbreviated list:
I am grateful for:
1. Growing sweet potatoes this summer. Because, today in the rain, I went outside to dig some up for Thanksgiving. I looked ridiculous and at the same time felt like I was a total hardcore gardener.
2. My red-headed child who is clever and witty and loves to laugh. It’s amazing how you can feel when you are around joy incarnate.
3. My older daughter who is brilliant and thoughtful and empathetic, especially around children with disabilities. Her kindness and patience and unconditional acceptance makes me proud and filled with love for such an amazing presence in my life.
4. Going from a beginner guitar player to an intermediate-beginner guitar player (yes I made that term up). When you can play 10-12 chords without too much trouble, it’s amazing how many songs you can actually get through.
5. Finally getting the hang of knitting. Yes, I now understand the obsession and I see color and yarn and texture in a whole new light. I look forward to my active meditation time and appreciate the relaxed state it often affords me.
6. A spouse affected just so slightly with OCD. There are several projects around the house that happened this year because he could not just walk away – I appreciate the fact that he makes things happen that I would never make the time for because they are overwhelming to me in their scope and size.
7. The snores of a funny little sleeping dog plastered against my body who thinks I’m the moon and the stars. Everyone should have one living creature feel this much love about them.
8. One old 16 year-hound dog. She mostly sleeps, but every once in a while, she gets a twinkle in her eye and bounds off around the house. We almost lost her last year and that jolted me into remembering to appreciate her every day.
9. The wildlife in my neighborhood – foxes, deer, bald eagles, great blue herons, hawks – they all remind me of the wildness of the Universe.
10. The roof on my house not because it keeps the rain out, but specifically because it doesn’t. There are several places in my kitchen and dining room where my roof leaks. And with every major rain storm, I am acutely aware that I do have a roof when many don’t.
11. Reading books with my girls at bedtime. My nearly twelve-year-old will tell you she is too big for this tradition, but she still comes to bed early three times a week to listen to whatever book her younger sister and I are working through. I cherish every page.
12. Friends – Friends who laugh with me, cry with me, and get me out of my head when I’m over-thinking – friends who start inside jokes so funny my sides hurt – friends who know and give me what I need even when I can’t figure it out myself.
Tomorrow, I’ll share thirteen more. I’d love to hear something specific you are grateful for.
This is day 27 in the 30 day National Blog Posting Month Challenge.