Cultivating Gratitude

Our Thanksgiving holiday is only a few days away, so it seems quite natural to sit here at my desk this early Monday morning in contemplation of those things for which I am thankful. How blessed I am indeed…there is so much for which I am grateful. This year has been full, overflowing even, with so many good things: vacations; running/biking race weekend getaways; home improvement projects; memory making family events.
Of course, this year has also had a fair share of illness, loss, and business challenges.

And yet, as I consider the past 300+ days I have lived this year, I cringe when I realize the frenzy in which I inhabited those days. How could I have sped through so much living with so little attention? Busyness is the spoiler of modern living; and I am such a modern girl in this regards. One glimpse of my day-timer reveals the disconnect of an over-booked life. Seriously, my days are packed. If my calendar was a credit card, it would be  completely maxed out!

No amount of regret changes the past people, no amount of anxiety changes the future, but any amount of gratitude changes the present.
Ann Voskamp, The Way of Abundance

Even now as I look back on this year, it feels like I have lived like some kind of ship-wrecked survivor…swimming, floating, treading water in open sea with no land in sight. The promise of rest, visible on the horizon, vanishes with the setting sun. And when I finally reach the shore of my destination (a weekend or vacation), true rest and restoration was fleeting at best. I may as well be chasing a desert’s mirage.

The capacity to reflect well and deeply on daily life is an achievement. To reflect well you have to be comfortable with a degree of solitude, because reflection requires some quiet and aloneness.
Thomas Moore, An Ageless Soul

Even reflecting on this busyness of mine feels wearisome, but I am hopeful because I have not yet lost sight of myself altogether. Because even now, in these moments of contemplation, there is a welling up of hope, not resignation. In my heart of hearts I am truly grateful for all that I have been granted to accomplish this year. Good health and bodily strength this year has given me a solid platform for training myself and assisting many of my clients towards better health and fitness.  This is most fulfilling work; this work energizes me even while it wears me down to catch my breath. Nonetheless, I am grateful for this work; it is highly meaningful to me.

The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

But as I consult with myself and the wisdom of those of whom I read and with whom I acquaint, I am jolted back to reality; to alertness; to attention. Cultivating gratitude into my life is just like cultivating fitness into my life. In order for these attributes to grow strong and stable, they require daily doses of my full, undivided attention.

To flex my gratitude muscle will require repetitions (minutes per set) of quiet thoughtfulness interspersed throughout each day. Regular bouts of purposeful contemplation are truly the most refreshing, gratitude building exercises I may perform. Even just writing about this practice brings me a sense of peace, quiet and purpose. This morning’s interlude has already instructed me, and changed me so that even now I perceive more clearly how to grow this grace into my bustling life.

There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation.
Anne Lamot, Bird by Bird

Tomorrow or maybe a day or two after the holiday, I will have to spend some time thinking about how I’ll attack and conquer my frightful day-timer in 2020! But first, it is time for me to rest…and be thankful for the lesson learned today.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! I hope your holiday finds you digging into a plate full of yummy food with a heart full of grateful appreciation.

Watch this beautiful video to cultivate gratitude, everyday:

Gratitude: The Short Film by Louie Schwartzberg from ecodads on Vimeo.

 

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