In the last couple of years there has been a surge of literature, both spiritual and psychological, on the benefits of practicing gratitude. If I am perfectly honest, whenever this topic was brought up or encouraged in my life, I would feel a cringe inside of me, almost an aversion to it. I would nod my head and think “yeah yeah, I get it” and go on with my day. I think at the root of that, I just didn’t actually believe in the practice of it. I didn’t actually think taking time to quiet myself enough to give thanks for the outrageous amount of graces I have received in life, would bring a sense of peace or enlightenment. And as awful as it sounds, the popularity of this topic made me want to dart the other way.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada right now, and though October is my absolute favourite month, and Thanksgiving being one of my favourite holidays (you know, no pressure for gifts, just good food, family, and friends); this year has felt a bit different. A bit clouded and maybe appropriately grey. But as I woke up this morning, made my coffee, sat in my favourite rocking chair, I felt an invitation call me.
As I sat in the silence of my small apartment, I picked up my pen and an inventory of gifts in my life just came out of me. I could almost feel my spirit bow within me in a posture of “thanks”.
And all of a sudden, there were these faces of people, both near and far that came flooding back to me. The encounters with folks who I have met along the way, even just for a week or two who reminded me of simplicity and what really matters in life.
The real friends who stick it out with you. Who sit with you in the shit and mess of life, and who can authentically celebrate your victories. Who make you meals, light candles, and watch your favourite films with you when you’re half asleep.
The family who holds a gracious space for you, no matter what you are telling them on the other line. Who without a doubt is there for you in a second, with unconditional embrace of all that you are. A consistent voice of truth for your dreams and failures.
The mentors who I often think, “How on earth did I end up with these people in my life?” Who have let me into their lives, hearts and spiritual journey’s without hesitation.
Then came the kindness of doctors, counsellors, and pharmacists who care about their jobs and the people who they’ve been entrusted to care for.
For my body. In all of its wonder and imperfection, in its ability to run, walk, cook, clean, feel, and experience the world. The way it has taught me to love with radical acceptance, and care for the created world.
For my mind and heart. For the way I think and feel in this world. The ability to create, to analyze, reflect and respond. For the depth of emotion that reminds me of the layers of experience in life and in God. For the feeling centre of Being and the empathy that it provides.
For experience. For the past experiences that have taught me more about myself, God and the human condition than any dogma or psychology ever has. For the gifts that came from grief, loss and complete desperation and disillusionment. For the moments of complete elation and joy, that propelled me to dream and take steps to live out my vision for life. Because the past reminds me that my present is too a gift. One that I will eventually look back on, with gratitude and fondness for the ways it has led me to where I am going, and who I am becoming.
I think this post is probably more for me than for any reader, and I could sit here for another couple of hours adding to the list. But, for someone who didn’t always believe in the power of practicing gratitude, this morning was a very upfront reminder of the renewing power it has.
I hope that sometime today or this week, you can take a small inventory of your life, however that looks for you. That you would feel the humble adoration that comes from bowing to the power of Grace in your life. Because it is there, we just have to take notice.
A Blessing for Celebration by John O’Donohue
“Now is the time to free the heart,
let all the intentions and worries stop,
free the joy inside the self,
awaken to the wonder of your life.
Open your eyes and see the friends
whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
those whose kindness watchful and near,
encourages you to live everything here.
See the gifts the years have given,
things your effort could never earn,
the health to enjoy who you want to be
and the mind to mirror mystery.”