I find that gratitude is not a given. It needs to be courted and noticed to be experienced. Especially in this finger-pulsing, talky tech age, when speed and the Internet dominate our lifestyles, we need to consider alternative ways of being connected to our minds and hearts.
Consider an average day. If you are a doer like me, you fill your day with work, relationships, personal and home chores. How often do you give pause, take a deep breath and think or say aloud—I am grateful for….
More likely, you take a coffee break, check e-mail messages, text, call a friend or take a walk to get the Fitbit steps up. We pursue the tech rhythm—fast, quick, efficient, or so we believe. But what of the alternative— a conscious effort to step back, to pause and take a breath and reflect upon an event or experience which might elicit appreciation and bring lift to the spirit. For some, three deep breaths can engender thankfulness for what is given.
As a child, I was introduced to piano lessons at the tutelage of Miss Burke, a rigorous and proud New England Conservatory graduate who lived and taught in a studio apartment in Portland’s Longfellow Square. A dutiful student, I practiced an hour daily, arrived at her studio once a week, nervous to please and show competence. Miss Burke was strict about what made for good performance. All these years later, I am grateful for the lessons of discipline and its ability to harness and define a space and time for practice.
During my 82nd year, I initiated a daily writing practice in a gratitude journal. The first few months, I felt like a novice, reminiscent of my beginner self at seven years, approaching the notes of gratitude just as I did piano music, substituting the pen for the keyboard, practicing the felt sense of gratitude.
Nowadays, my sense of gratitude flows more easily, imbedded as a result of a year of writing. Of course, I sometimes need to pause, to prompt my mind, to scan my day, to consider the question— perhaps, with a list as I did last night after a too-full day. The challenge to recall and name each event helped me to focus and reflect on the event’s meaning and its effect.
When gratitude arrives spontaneously, in the moment, a sense of warmth and excitement ripples my gut. I literally say to myself—I am grateful to have you arrive—my signal to pause, to stop the action, to take note of the whole experience— such as how a friend’s intuitive comment resonates, causing me to feel less alone or how I attune to the seashore’s calling at the scenic edge of Monet’s painting, The Beach at Saint Adresse.
The sense of gratitude is deeply personal and can be deeply felt. It must be noted, experienced and appreciated to become a daily practice. To know it is to hold it.