“But the value of gratitude does not consist solely in getting you more blessings in the future. Without gratitude you cannot long keep from dissatisfied thought regarding things as they are.” — Wallace Wattles, American author
Well, this quote, from a new-thought writer who died 101 years ago, really brings it home for me. Gratitude practice is not just sunny sharing of thanks. Sunniness is lovely, yes, but I would never ever have stuck with this practice if it wasn’t, every single time, saving me from my propensity to be dissatisfied. To think, speak and act from bitterness, disappointment and regret. To believe the jabber in my head about how I’m a victim. To be a walking, talking ball of resentment, envy and entitlement.
So. Let’s look at this. All these negative patterns exist and manifest, to a greater or lesser extent, in all living, breathing humans, and become habitual (my theory, and supported by lots of juicy spiritual neuroscience—read James Baraz or Rick Hanson, for starters). There are many tools that help you break away from the habit of negativity as soon as you’re ready, committed, determined to live a more positive life. These tools include stress reduction (restorative yoga or a daily walk for example), a meditation practice, generosity, and/or gratitude. (The more tools you use, gorgeous, the better, especially if you have a dark side the size of Nebraska, like me.)
Writing down fifteen things for which you’re grateful, every day, is powerful magic that gives you a foundation for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the crap you hear in your head isn’t true. And the more you do it, the stronger and more believable that possibility becomes. Which leads to a wonderful detachment. What if it were possible to begin hearing the monkeys jabbering in your mind without actually listening to them? What if that noise in your head becomes like a white noise, like a not-so-loud sound of a distant radio station that’s not quite tuned in?
It can happen, love. It has happened for me enough to allow me to really enjoy the difference in the quality of my day, which makes me keep doing it. Because, like I say so often, today’s acceptance, lightheartedness and love do not come from the gratitude practice I did last week. Or last month. Or last year. You can only bank the juicy goodness for so long.
Think about it.
If you’ve walked down a path habitually for years and years, that path is grooved deeply. You don’t even have to think about where it is, or where it leads, you can just put one foot in front of the other, sorta unconsciously, and keep going the way you’ve always gone, and getting the results you’ve always gotten. (Yuck, right?)
When you start blazing a new path, one step at a time, one day at a time, this new path, if you walk it just once and then forget about it for a while, will be hard to find when you look for it again. The grass will have sprung back up and you won’t have made much progress in making it a recognizable, habitual path. It may feel like it’s easier to go back to the old path, because who wants to blaze the trail again?
The results of this year-long Gratitude Challenge experiment has been so powerful! Watching the quality of the gratitudes I receive from others change with practice mirrors my own experience with this work.
I’ve written long today, so I’ll add a quick gratitude list and a couple of grats from the mailbag.
- I am grateful for a lovely dinner with my sister and brother-in-law last night. We ate in the garden and shared my amazing roast chicken, with squash and beans from the garden that I grilled along with grilled corn. Yum!
- I am grateful for being such an unbelievably good cook! My chicken thighs roasted in coconut water is amazing (and yes, I will share the recipe if you ask nicely. It’s simple and foolproof and delicious!!)
- I am grateful that I begged off going to the Gaultier exhibit this morning. Although it means I miss an outing with six friends, I am taking fabulous care of myself and putting some quiet downtime into my crowded weekend.
- I am grateful for a book my friend Sharon Rosen recommended: The Slow Down Diet by Marc Rosen. What a powerful tool for me to use for self-healing, and while I’m at it, completely changing up my relationship to food. And life. Finally!
- I am grateful to feel so much love and appreciation, that gratitude has become habit. This is big!
Only two submissions this week:
The ability to grieve
Recent deaths that have been painful but have allowed me to release a little bit of my tight grip on life
My healthy body
I am grateful that when I cried at my second acupuncture session this week with Whitney, she said it was OK; that a lot of people cry when they do intensive sessions- it seems to shake things loose; that I wasn’t bothering anyone, and that I was safe.
I am grateful for liking my old poems. I was willing to send a couple to my bride-to-be friend and she wants me to read them at her wedding. She liked them too. What a great boost to my self esteem as a writer!
I am grateful for financial clarity.
I am grateful for the simplicity of my afternoons with Sophie.
I am grateful for kindness.