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Gratitude: Powerful Medicine

November 19, 2010
Common Roots Cafe
Minneapolis, MN

Lately, more and more of my journal entries are beginning with the words “Dear God.”   Not the God from any religion, but rather the God of every religion.  The God of spring that pushes the tulips through the flattened and thawing ground.  The God that made the birds of paradise and leaf-cutter ants.  The God that I saw through the eyes of each of my children upon our first meeting.  The God that silently encourages me to continually learn and become who I am meant to become.  The God that has sent me human angels when I’ve needed them most to help point the way along my path.

Sometimes the “Dear God” is followed by the words, “Please help me figure this out because I’m out of ideas.”  Other times it’s “Dear God,” when my fear of losing what I love most has brought me to my knees, and I just need to release the fear to something bigger than me.  But a lot of times, the Dear God is to express gratitude for all of the luck and grace of living this crazy life.  And because I want to change my mind from a space of lacking to a space of grace.

“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend… when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present — love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure — the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach

It is a normal, human (and unfortunate) tendency to focus on what is not going right in our lives and what is missing than what is going right and what we already possess.  Why?  I don’t know.  But I can tell you that I have spent more of my life thinking about what I am missing than relishing in what I have.  It’s a precarious line to balance the things we want in life–to spend time envisioning and creating what we want with the canvas we are given–and to stop to appreciate what we have along the way.

What if we flipped our thoughts, consciously changing the direction of our minds by spending more time thinking about what we are grateful for?  It’s a simple awareness that can be brought into a sharper focus through our writing.  Instead of thinking, “I hate waking up early,” I can flip the thought to, “I love that first cup of coffee in the dark of the early morning.”

Life is just more poetic when we realize all that we do have.

Why not spend some time thinking about why we are lucky right now?  For example, begin with all of the little things that are actually great big huge things like our sight, our hearing, our ability to walk.  Without those things we take for granted, we would spend the rest of our days wishing for them.

“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner

Being mindful and aware of our gifts, talents, comforts, and abilities—all of which we have right now—is a powerful medicine.  Conscious gratitude counteracts depression because it shifts the focus from thoughts of what is going wrong to thoughts of what’s going right.  Numerous studies are showing that it literally makes us healthier—mentally and physically—to be thankful.

Imagine if we began our day writing five things that we are grateful for.  What do you think would happen in your life?

Writing Exercise: “I am grateful for…” Write everything that you can think of that brings you comfort, happiness, and life as you know it.  The little things and the big things.  Challenge yourself to keep the pen moving for ten minutes—see how much abundance exists in your life right now.

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