Cultivating a Gratitude Practice

In February I did Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. Each day I would get an email introducing the day’s topic which also included a brief guided audio meditation. It was really great- just 10-15 minutes or less each day focusing on mindfulness. And the best thing about it: I asked Sharon via Twitter if she could provide a transcript- my hearing loss prevents me from being able to understand any audio guides. And she did! Thanks again Sharon!

I decided to participate in this challenge to help me through this funk I have been in lately. This past winter my parents died within two months of each other. I think most of us know our parents/older family members will die some day but no matter how cognizant we are of that fact, it seems as though one is never really ready when it actually happens. And the whole thing happened so quickly that I am still in disbelief.

And of course, Trump somehow got elected and turned my world upside down.

And THEN I injured my foot just this past Friday when I missed a step in an art museum. (what a metaphor- my foundation has disappeared!)

Digression: I was having the most lovely time with my son who had had the day off from school. We had just come from his student conference which he led from start to finish. Proud mama, I must say. It’s his last year at this school- he goes to middle school in the fall. Seems like this whole year is full of transitions…my daughter is also going to a new high school.

I spent the whole weekend icing and elevating my foot and it really made me slow down. I am usually racing from one thing to another- mostly in my mind- until I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of to-do’s I create for myself.

Garfield stressed

So there I am lying on the couch, surfing Facebook (ok, it’s not what I did ALL weekend- I actually finished a book!) – oh, some backstory here: I had noticed some time ago that a Facebook friend (a classmate from middle school) had started posting daily gratitudes. I would glance quickly at them–“oh, that’s cool. Let’s see what so and so is up to now”– but while I was stuck on the couch this weekend, I noticed she had posted her 60th-something gratitude!

A light bulb sort of went off for me at that point. I had a flashback to my Peace Corps days when my morale was low and the rainy season prevented the mail from being delivered (my roommate and I really depended on that connection with our family and friends). I would draw upon my reserves of positivity and remind myself the rain was only temporary, we were having an amazing experience, I was making a difference, I had a cool boyfriend, etc. And I would feel grateful having had this unique opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps. That positive attitude has served me well up to this day but has definitely taken some hits in the past year.

Then really soon after that I was talking with a childhood friend who had lost her parents some years ago, about a) how time takes away the pain of grieving and b) remembering that they were such a positive part of her life.

And then I realized when you verbalize a gratitude, some of the positivity starts to seep back in. I notice it every week when my family does Friday night gratitudes at dinner time. We share what we are thankful for and what we are looking forward to. It really brings a certain lovely energy into the space.

So I am going to try and make time to write down my gratitudes every day for as long as I can. Here we go as a start:

I am grateful to have had parents who loved and supported me unconditionally throughout my life. (ok, this is making me a little teary, so I am not sure it is making me feel positive right now, but I know deep down it will in the end)

I really am fortunate because I work for an amazing organization that helps people become resilient by nourishing them and providing resources and connections with others via our food bank and resource center. Many of these people have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Research as shown that the greater the number of ACEs, the increased likelihood there will be negative outcomes in one’s life.

My parents were good people and were staunch advocates for me. Just knowing this on a cellular level only reinforces how I want to be with my own children and grandchildren: supportive, loving, nonjudgmental, generous, and welcoming.




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2 Responses to Cultivating a Gratitude Practice

  1. Johanna Nicholas says:

    Beautifully said, Elizabeth.
    Losing wonderful parents can be so tough. But stopping to consider how *lucky* we are (present tense, still lucky!) to have had them in our lives at all does help. Their influence, their warmth, their loving way of shaping who we continue to be…. they are not gone. We are just going to experience them in a different way. Just as you have discovered, they are guiding how we want to be as parents and friends.

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