I believe that if we live consciously and mindfully, gratitude comes naturally to us: we are aware of what we are harvesting and gratitude rides in on the back of that awareness. However, often we don’t live consciously and mindfully, distracted by our busy lives and the fullness of all our interests, commitments, relationships, experiences and dreams. I find that gratitude grounds me in the present, anchors me to the important stuff and breathes peace into whatever the storm is – even if just briefly.
But where to start? My husband and I have sometimes found that gratitude can almost feel a little cheesy, a little Sunday School reminiscent, and that in our hearts, there really is a lot we’re grateful for. Yet if we offer that “I’m grateful for the inventors of toothbrushes and toothpaste and for the knowledge that brushing teeth prevents tooth decay. I’m grateful for there being clean water in which to rinse my toothbrush and for our landlord having installed a mirror above the sink so that I can see what I’m doing…” etc, acknowledging gratitude is going to take all day.
The school/Sunday School gratitudes I remember were quite broad, global subjects such as being thankful for having food and clean water when many people in the world don’t. Furthermore, such gratitude can trigger a huge guilt trip; at times I’ve felt depressed, I’ve then felt worse still wondering what right I have to feel depressed when I have clean water, food on the table, a roof over my head etc. Of course, it’s all contextual and these feelings are still valid. something that came up during some counselling i had a while ago was that we often tend to polarise and make either/or’s. We subconsciously say to ourselves: “I can feel depressed OR I can feel grateful”. Surely, when we think about it, we can feel grateful AND depressed. We don’t even need to try to remedy our sadness with this list of “good stuff” in our lives; just to let ourselves feel both feelings.
I find it more meaningful to be more specific in my gratitudes; to use what has impacted upon that day/week/year. Sure, I am always grateful for food on the table but that’s not the whole story; I’m grateful for these salad leaves growing well in our garden, for Dylan helping me to bake this bread and for the convenience of tinned beans that we can rustle up a quick hummus even when we’re really busy.
For a while, Rob and I have put aside a few minutes each Sunday to reflect on our gratitudes from the past week. We’ve got better at not missing this time, especially as we noticed that the weeks when we were most likely to not make or “feel like” making time for gratitude were the weeks when we most needed to! I’ve started trying to practise gratitude daily – at mealtimes and/or at the end of the day. I take a deep breath in and, as I exhale, let my mind scan over the day. What will jump out? Brushing my teeth doesn’t (what a surprise!) Some are obvious, easy gratitudes (autumn leaves being just so crunchable!), some less so (those silver linings of the clouds, if you like). Even on days like the ones this week when Dylan’s current teething episode has meant difficult daytimes and sleepless nights for all three of us, there are still gratitudes, such as for the chamomilla homeopathic remedy that seems to help him. For surely, every day has its harvest, for even through pain – sometimes especially through pain – we are constantly learning.
Happy harvest moon, the full moon at this time of year when we are gathering, reaping, enjoying, sharing and preserving. We collect seeds to save for next year by acknowledging the things that we have learnt and gained that we want to carry forward with us into the future. We are thankful in our hearts and in our celebrations, be they just personal or with others. And I am thankful to you for sharing with me this interest in dancing to nature’s rhythm. ♥
We keep this little basket on our sacred display and, throughout the lunar month, put in it objects that resemble significant events, achievements or gratitudes.