Monday, November 27, 2006

Cultivating Gratitude

by Dana Reynolds

The last of autumn’s leaves are falling to the ground,
a signal that we are at the threshold of the potentially
busiest time of the year. May we embrace the small rich
moments in between the frenetic hours of shopping,
cooking, and gift-wrapping, to experience gratitude and
to offer our prayers. Perhaps gratitude consciousness
will help to prepare our hearts and souls for the true
sacredness of the holy season that is swiftly approaching.

Each of us has been blessed with those times in life when something profound happened and it was automatic to say, "Thank God." Those holy moments when the job offer came through, or the house sold, or the diagnosis was benign, or the plane landed safely, or the baby was born healthy. Gifts from the Divine, like these, signal we have made it through another passage, we’re still here, and life is good. Big events like these are cause for celebration. They are recognizable. They are landmarks. Gratitude is the natural response in the way applause follows a bravo performance.

This month, as we focus on gratitude, I invite you to celebrate not only the big moments, so worthy of thanksgiving, but also the little blessings that come your way. Additionally consider the special people in your life who deserve gratitude and acknowledgment.

Beginning the day in gratitude sets the tone for whatever the next twenty-four hours might bring. During the month of November, in honor of Thanksgiving and in preparation for a soulful and sacred holiday, you might like to try the following process to bring gratitude awareness to each day.

Living in Gratitude: A Thirty Day Experiment

The following four-fold map is intended as a daily spiritual practice to be experienced for thirty days. Following these steps will bring gratitude into your conscious awareness throughout the day. Feel free to use your creativity to expand the concepts and make them truly your own.

Step One: Waking up to Gratitude

As you awaken each morning immediately bring gratitude into awareness. Give thanks before throwing off the covers to leap into the river of carpooling, appointments, meetings, or the needs of family and children. Take a deep breath and for example, say a prayer of gratitude for a restful night’s sleep, for your eyes and the gift of vision that welcome the day’s light, for the bird’s song of joy outside your window, for the protective warmth of your comfortable bed. These are blessings that might otherwise go unnoticed or could be taken for granted. Being actively grateful for these graces through prayer sets a tone for whatever the day may hold.

Step Two: Slowing Down to Count Your Blessings

Throughout the day there are often moments that provoke annoyance and impatience. Interruptions such as the red traffic light when you’re running late, the phone ringing just as you’re heading out the door, the chance meeting with an acquaintance when you should be running errands, or simply having to stand on line at the post office to mail an important package. These moments seem to occur daily and the cumulative effect is high blood pressure, anxiety, and irritation.

Bringing gratitude to these times of forced pause shifts the energy from aggravation to appreciation. The next time the traffic light turns red forcing you to an unwanted halt, take a deep breath and call to mind three things or persons you are grateful for and offer a prayer of thanksgiving. This might be a good time to consider those people in your life who have been your greatest teachers, or to remember the unexpected guidance you received from a stranger. Allow those times during the day that cause you to pause to become sacred times as you count your blessings.

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Copyright© 2000 Dana Reynolds.

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