Today’s newsletter on gratitude takes shape as a personal note and reflection on my daily Gratitude Ritual and how it has evolved and deepened over the past 10 years.
I trust that you have crafted your own gratitude practice that serves you. There is a wide range of gratitude practices to choose from, such as: starting and ending your day in gratitude and prayer; creating a Gratitude Journal or a Gratitude Jar; writing a Gratitude Letter; making a special Gratitude Call; or incorporating gratitude into your art, be that poetry, music or painting.
I offer my gratitude journey as it may give you new inspiration and/or renewed commitment. In my opinion, a daily Gratitude Ritual is foundational and transformational.
One day in May 2010, I started an intentional daily gratitude practice. In Be Happy NOW!: From Wall Street Ambition and the Illusion of Success, My Path to Happiness, I write:
“David suggested that I start my day with breathing and also gratitude, specifically choosing at least three things I am grateful for that day. I instantly connected with the relationship of gratitude and prayer. I have often started my day with prayer to find the comfort of the Lord, even if it is only reciting my Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer. This suggestion made my prayers more heartfelt and more specific, and it helped me start my day in gratitude rather than in stress, thinking about my long to-do list for that day.
Thus, I began to start my days when I first open my eyes with three expressions of gratitude. The three things I choose evolve and vary— family, friends, nature and events.
One day almost five months into this new daily gratitude practice, I chose to be grateful for "me." I was thankful to be me, thankful for my life. Imagine that! This was the first glimmer of understanding that gratitude is an attitude, a way of living that includes everyone and everything, most especially "me.'”
Back then, I had no idea about the transformative nature of gratitude. I did not know the science and research which documents that by focusing on gratitude we can measurably improve our physical and emotional well-being.
I used to call my daily gratitudes a “practice.” I now refer to it as a “ritual” because it is sacrosanct. Before I get out of bed in the morning, I silently say my 3 gratitudes.
There have been several important shifts in my Gratitude Ritual over the years. The first insight, as I mention in my book, was to add an appreciation of “me” – for my health, for my journey, for my light.
This was the early stages of a deeper awareness that gratitude was more than appreciation – saying “thank you” – it was an emotion! The common phrase “an attitude of gratitude” in just one step on the journey. “Being” grateful – takes me deeper and moves gratitude from my mind to my heart and to my soul.
Along the way, I add an intentional smile to my morning ritual of saying my gratitudes before I open my eyes. I feel the smile on my face – and I feel my eyes light up, even in the darkness. This is a tangible step in realizing that deep gratitude is an emotion – and for me, the emotion is joy!
By 2014, I am starting a serious commitment to meditation fostered by the 21-Day Meditation Experience led by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. I did 3 different series that year. Free... right?! I loved the combination of practical insights offered by Oprah and the science and wisdom added by Deepak. Learning the Sanskrit Mantras was a marvelous bonus. For me, this was a great introduction to meditation because each lesson was only 20 minutes, I was hungry to learn and grow, and the Sanskrit Mantras helped bring my inquiring mind back to the centering thought for the day.
In 2015, with the release of “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude,” I now had a resource to grow my evolving gratitude practice. I buy the CD set – several times, because I keep giving it away to friends! I have the streaming version now. I highly recommend you explore this site and add Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude to your resource library. Each week builds from an understanding of how gratitude changes your life, to experiencing how gratitude can change your personal reality and finally how gratitude opens the door to the transformative power of Grace. Thus, by Day 19, when the Centering Thought is “My inner light is guiding me” or Day 20, with the Centering Thought “I allow love to come to my aid,” I found that, step by step, these concepts were not vague generalities, but rather the meditations were guiding me to a deeper, personal space of Knowing.
In 2017, a dear friend introduced me to Insight Timer and now I am searching their library for meditations on gratitude. One of my early favorites that I continue to replay is by Cathy McDonald, Gratitude Meditation. Each of us will find the teachers and the voices and the styles that speak to us. Personally, a few of my favorite teachers are Sarah Blondin, David Gandelman, davidji, and Kenneth Soares – and all of them have highly rated meditations on a wide variety of topics, including gratitude.
More recently, I added a daily Gratitude Journal to my morning ritual. This grew out of the 66-Day Quest with Robin Sharma on the Mindvalley platform. I started this program in the winter of 2018. On the 2nd day of “Think Like a Hero, Perform Like a Genius, Live like a Legend,” Robin Sharma introduced “Deliberate Gratitude” – and challenged us to start writing 10 gratitudes in a journal every day. I took the challenge and bought a cheap soft cover, green composition notebook at the local Walmart. Gosh – 10 gratitudes – is a challenge to dig deeper. For starters, it takes longer. And, I also learn the value of journaling because it allows me to relive my favorite experiences and feelings, it imprints gratitude and my growing awareness of what I notice. A Gratitude Journal records my remarkable life – one day at a time.
My life – like everyone’s -- has its ups and down. Every day is some mix of positive and negative events and emotions. Some days are better than others – some days are worse than others. Some days feel devastating -- like the day I lost my partner of 44 years. And through it all, my daily gratitude ritual has nourished me and continues to feed my soul, my light, my Spirit.
At this moment, my Gratitude Ritual is continuing to evolve in 2 important ways.
First, I am inspired to refocus on myself and making myself my best friend. I found a new meditation by Elliott Treves, Rise and Shine: Be Your Own Best Friend. In this 26 minute guided meditation, Elliott says, “Think of 3 things you can appreciate about yourself. This will start your morning in a state of love, positivity, and gratitude.” For example, on my first day of adding this focus to my morning Gratitude Ritual, I think of my small act of kindness to a recent widow, my inquisitive mind/commitment to life-long learning by joining a 40-day meditation series with davidji, and my listening skills over a recent coffee, learning from a good friend. My list runs the gamut from the ordinary to the strategic, to my purpose. I make my rules -- about what i choose to appreciate about myself. You make your rules. Fun, right? I continue my commitment to my daily Gratitude Journal – and these are now my first 3 entries… and sometimes the list grows to 10 – and sometimes it doesn’t.
Second, I am inspired to cultivate gratitude in challenging times. I recently completed a course on Insight Timer by Brian Hyman, Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude. Day 9 of the 10-day course is: “Cultivating Gratitude for Challenges.” Brian says, “Today’s lesson may be difficult, may be challenging, as what we will talk about are how to find moments of grace, how to see challenges, difficulties, handicaps as assets rather than liabilities, as moments to look at life in a way we have never looked at life before. He goes on to share an inspirational quote from Helen Keller:
“I thank God for my handicaps. For through
them, I have found myself, my work and my God.”
I have found this 10-Day Course on “Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude” to be well structured and paced, with personal stories to lead by example. It is not surprising that the lesson on ways to cultivate gratitude when we are facing challenges was left to Day 9. I encourage you to try this course and see if it is a fit for you. While you can subscribe to Insight Timer for free, the Courses require a fee. You have options to pay a fee for a one-time listen or a higher fee to access the course at any time. I have opted for the Premium subscription to Insight Timer, where the access to all Courses is free.
Personally, I love Day 10 on “Cultivating Gratitude for Opportunities to Serve” because it speaks to my heart and my purpose. This lesson also relates well to Day 19 in the Oprah-Deepak Meditation class I mentioned earlier. Oprah tells a story about reaching out to her mentor during a time of great distress, when she was crying and feeling sorry for herself. The advice from her friend and mentor, Maya Angelou, was to look for the rainbow hidden inside of every cloud. The full lesson and inspirational quote from Maya Angelo relates to being of service. She says:
“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be the rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God -- if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
I am so grateful for the people who were there for me -- when I was in a daze, a cloud, a dark place, a tunnel. They are rainbows I carry with me in my heart -- forever.
And I am prepared -- have been preparing for years -- to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.
My morning prayers and Gratitude Ritual incorporate asking myself, “How may I best serve my friends and family who are facing challenges now? As an INFJ, The Persistent Counselor, I always have ideas and messages. One of the poems I am sharing is an old favorite of mine, by the famous Persian poet, Rumi:
The Guest House
"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."
Some times being of service – being the rainbow in somebody else’s cloud -- is simply being there for them – in silence, with a hug or with a smile.
My journey with my daily Gratitude Ritual continues to evolve and deepen. I sincerely encourage you to adopt a daily Gratitude Ritual and/or encourage others to join us on this journey.
I truly hope you can feel the depth of my joy, or as Hafiz so eloquently writes:
“May the gratitude in my heart kiss all the universe.”
With heartfelt gratitude,
May you be happy now and always, Alison
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