Happy November and gratitude month.
As the year begins to wind down many of us will find ourselves reflecting back on what we accomplished, how we did it and what we did not do. Often as soon as we get to that point then we begin to look at what and how we want to do next year. Maybe even trying to get a head start.
Notice how quick you are to jump from what you did to what did not get done and to beginning to visualize your new goals or figure out to bring those old ones back to life. Are you skipping over the simple yet profound act of pausing to be grateful? When you recognize what you are grateful for, how long do you allow yourself to savor it? Like with a fine wine or a luscious dark chocolate, there is much to be discovered within gratitude, on the palate, as you roll it around in your mouth and as you enjoy the lingering notes, taking plenty time before the next taste.
Gratitude can be easy to breeze by. Any of us who are driven or passionate about what we do may keep the thrill alive by seeing the new possibility, discovering the bend in the road and taking the corner, ascending the next mountain. There can be a sense of joy in ongoing progress but it is easy too, to get drawn into the need for constant accomplishment. Then, in any moment that progress is not being made we feel somehow unfulfilled, bored, disheartened. But is it really realistic to be always acheiving? It is really ultimately satisfying?
There are many teachings that encourage cultivating gratitude as a practice. Scientists have even studied gratitude and have shown that people who do gratitude practices:
* are happier,
* feel better about their lives,
* are more optimistic about the future,
and even report
* fewer health problems.
They also show that people who practice gratitude sleep better, suffer fewer symptoms of chronic disease and go to the doctor less frequently.
Some additional benefits that I have experienced are:
* I am better able to see the positive in situations that could be construed as negative.
* I appreciate the effort, both my own and that of others, rather than focussing only on the result.
* And, when things don’t go just as I planned, it simply doesn’t bother me as much if I am in a grateful space.
There is a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment, santosa in Sanskrit, that comes when we stop and take time for gratitude. Much more, I find, than is in an accomplishment itself. There is a way that the essence of gratitude rolls around the heart and the deeper experience is awakened. And to heighten that experience even more, stating the gratitude out loud goes a long way. As writer William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it”. The gift of gratitude spreads and both the giver and receiver benefit.
Whether it is gratitude you feel for the the friend who believed in you, your partner’s support that allowed you to succeed, the Universe for setting up the right circumstance or yourself for taking that chance, say it out loud. Express it in words. Acknowledge how you feel. And roll the words around in your mouth. Savor them and the feelings they further evoke, the overtones as well as the subtle undertones. Give the feelings and the expression space to be fully experienced. Tame the urge to move on to the next thing until you have thoroughly enjoyed each drop of this. Not only then will you more fully appreciate what you have and what you have done, but you will have more space within which to let your next project emerge. You can develop a more natural rhythm of work and rest; accomplishment and gratitude.
So go, be grateful and thrive!