The Discipline of a Gratitude Practice

The-Beach-At-Sainte-Adresse Claude Oscar Monet

Claude Oscar Monet

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.



18 thoughts on “The Discipline of a Gratitude Practice

  1. Hy Kempler

    Thanks so much for the gorgeous painting. I paused a while to take it in.

  2. Beverly Bader

    I had a smile on my face when I read your recent blog essay, since it resonated strongly for me. Yesterday morning I awoke at 2:00 am, watching shadows dance on my walls as I prepared to return to the east coast from California. My friend Heather volunteered to pick me up at 4:00 am and drive me to the airport. As I stood outside in my pitch black street, I saw two huge owl eyes lit up like full moons inching toward me slowly. I felt my heart warm as Heathe’s car came to a halt. She jumped out and helped me load my luggage into her welcomed trunk. As we pulled away, I told her how much gratitude I felt toward her. The warmth of the flames continue to kindle.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Bev, what a sweet moment— two huge owl eyes—lighting up your life. Glad you are home safe and sound.

      1. Beverly Bader

        Sweet moments bring tears to my eyes. I try to hug them and keep them close, even for a few squeezes.
        I try to carry sweet moments to others when I see a chance. Thanks for bringing many sweet moments to me over the years.

        1. fayewriter Post author

          Bev, sweet moments are a great sensory description of feeling grateful. Thanks for this.

  3. Eva Skolnik-Acker

    Hi Faye
    I never thought there were so many levels
    of gratitude to explore. So I am grateful for
    the new and growing depths of and appreciation for this important topic that
    you are taking me to

  4. Charles Boisseau

    Thank you Faye. I find that my attitude – good or bad – is something that I can choose. Alas, the difficulty comes when I am not pleased with my circumstances. Writing a gratitude list can help change my thinking and put me on a better, more positive path. This can sound Pollyanna stuff, but the results of more positive energy and joy are real enough.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Indeed, Charles. I find that taking pen to paper and allowing for reflection of the meaning of what I am writing can add up and make a real difference. Yes, positive energy and joy!

  5. Patricia Rogers

    Faye, seems what you’re saying is this is a discipline and one that is well worth adopting. Personally I try and remember to use my morning walk as a time to reflect on something I feel grateful for, like the Cardinals chirping away!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Pat, Yes, exactly, how, in the moment to take stock and take in what is offered. Cardinals chirping early in the day, so enlivening!

  6. Faye Rapoport DesPres

    A friend and I have been writing down and sharing five things we are grateful for each day in recent weeks. I read somewhere that it can actually change your brain chemistry and help you feel happier to focus on feeling grateful each day. I’ve just sent her a link to your blog!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Yes, I find that focusing on specific events or situations and writing them down has a positive, “feel good” effect. Thanks for sharing with your friend and for your tweet!!

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