With Thanksgiving (here in the States) just around the corner, I find my thoughts turning towards gratitude.
I don’t have a specific gratitude practice.
Yes, I’ve read about the benefits of practicing gratitude or having an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ I understand, thanks to Brené Brown, that it is impossible to live a joyful life without actively practicing gratitude.
However, for me, practicing gratitude contains a should. As in, “If you want to life a joyful, connected life, you should practice gratitude.”
As with everything containing a should, I resist. I rebel. I don’t do it.
Followed by, naturally, feeling guilt for not doing something that could enhance my life.
Such an unnecessary cycle! And so easily avoided by simply practicing gratitude!
Except, that isn’t how things work for me.
While I don’t have a specific gratitude practice, I often do feel grateful.
There are times when I feel such immense gratitude for everything in my life that all I can do is bow down to the earth saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ over and over and over.
There is nothing quite like that sweet intermingling of joy, humility, and gratitude.
To bring that state of joy and gratitude to the surface, I don’t practice gratitude.
I practice connection.
Gratitude flows from connection.
When I am deeply connected to my body, to myself, to the present moment, all I feel is gratitude. Gratitude so intense and so filled with joy that it verges on pain, that it overwhelms me and I have no option but to surrender to it.
When I’m not connected to my body, myself, the present moment, no amount of trying to feel grateful is going to get me to that place of deep joy and thankfulness.
Same scenario; different experiences.
Let’s consider the following regularly occurring scenario:
Me, lying in bed in the wee hours of the morning after being awoken for the umpteenth time by a little one learning to sleep.
Experience 1: immense upwellings of gratitude and deep relaxation.
I listen to the rain softly falling outside my window, I feel the utter exhaustion of my body, I hear the soft sounds of my little one as he returns to peaceful sleep, the wind rustling the bare branches outside the window. I burrow deeper into my covers, filled with gratitude, joy, and love.
In these moments, there is no striving to feel grateful, there is only this natural outflowing of thanks-giving for every precious moment of and in my life…
Experience 2: anger, resentment, and self-pity combined with tension radiating through my body.
I lay there, mind racing as I think about how little sleep I’m getting, how my body aches, how very sleep deprived I am, how every moment that I lie awake is one moment less of precious sleep, and how I will be even more exhausted when morning finally arrives.
The difference is connection.
When connected to myself, to my body and spirit, to my external worlds of home, family, community, work, and to my internal worlds of feelings, sensations, and emotions, gratitude becomes effortless.
When I’m not connected, no amount of ‘trying’ to feel gratitude is enough.
When I am, there is no other state possible than utter and complete gratitude.
For you, today, I’m offering this gift:
My connection practice takes many forms. I share one here:
One of the 7 audio Remedies for Holiday Overwhelm, listen whenever you want to feel more gratitude and connection – to the natural world, to others, to yourself.
While this recording contains the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address* and I’m offering it to you now, at Thanksgiving, its true purpose is to connect you deeply with the natural world.
And, through this connection, to bring you naturally, effortlessly, into a state of gratitude.
My wish for you.
May you remember this holiday season that deep connection leads to effortless gratitude.
May you surround yourself with practices, people, rituals, and reminders that help you connect deeply to yourself, to Spirit, to the natural world, and to others.
May you know, feel, and live gratitude this holiday season.