Hold Gratitude In Your Heart

We're all experts at holding onto negative feelings. But it doesn't come as naturally to us to hold onto the good.
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Portrait Of Young Woman Relaxing In Grassland
Portrait Of Young Woman Relaxing In Grassland

"In this day I will behold a thousand beautiful things"~Grandmother Parisha

Just as well I decided to take a walk on the beach in New Zealand that day. If I hadn't I would not have seen the bubbles. They were so beautiful and catching sight of them made me feel so deeply grateful. They were shining rainbow colours on the steel grey sand and for this fleeting moment here they were, lighting up my life.

This world is so beautiful and we are blessed with so many things to be grateful for.

Reflecting as I write this blog post on the one thing that I am most grateful for, my thoughts initially turn to loved ones, my health, my home, the air I breathe and a few treasured possessions.The longer I think on this the more things come to mind, of course. But in the end I come back to those bubbles. Why? Because these little moments out amongst nature help me see that this world of ours is far wider and deeper than we give it credit for. They help me understand what Trappist monk Thomas Merton meant when he said, "Here is the unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us." They encourage me to stop, breathe into the moment, and remember that there is more to life than my to-do list and all my worries and fears. They slow me down. They centre me. And then they lift me higher.

These little nature moments are the one thing I am most grateful for because without them it would not be possible to be fully present to anything else in my life, at least not in the way I want to be.

Because they are so important, and I like to make these beautiful little moments last, I've got into the habit of holding them inside my heart and savouring the feeling for as long as I can. After that I find they never quite leave me, and end up being a refuge I can return to over and over, whenever life gets chaotic and I'm feeling alienated and alone.

Lately I've been reading the writings of neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, and I'm getting the impression that modern neuroscience approves of this life-long habit of holding little moments of gratitude inside my heart. It seems that for reasons that have to do with our very survival.

We're all experts at holding onto negative feelings. But it doesn't come as naturally to us to hold onto the good.

We have to consciously do that for a while until it becomes second nature.

Rick suggests we make it a daily practice to move beyond just noticing things we're grateful for, and feel them as well. He suggests we embody that gratitude by smiling, jumping up and down with delight, softening our face, or reaching our arms up and out to the world. Doing this, Rick says, leads to lasting and important benefits. It lifts our spirits, increases the satisfaction we feel with life and builds resilience and a stronger immune system.

There's no doubt that any gratitude practice we remain true to is potent in its capacity to turn our life around for the better.

Gratitude has been making headlines a lot lately and you may have already started writing a gratitude journal as part of your daily routine. Perhaps you're writing letters of gratitude, or even creating a luscious art journal filled with images of things you're thankful for. I'd like to suggest, if I may, one more simple daily practice.

Next time a tiny bird catches your ear with its sweet love song pause for a moment and move into gratefulness. Then inhale that moment deeply and feel it -- holding it inside your heart for a few seconds. Now let that feeling take you where it will. Savour it. Dance it and sing it right there on the spot!

This seems like such a simple child-like act and, yes, it is. But it is also very empowering.

At a later time, when you're overwhelmed and stressed, bring this little bird to mind and remember how that love song made you feel. Over time and with practice you'll find that moments like this will offer you a sense of refuge, not just in that instant but all across the years.

As for me, I'll be walking the beach as usual today and if I see my bubbles again. I'm planning on dancing my gratitude right there on the beach. Who knows, maybe others will join in the dance!

This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Gratitude, entitled 'The One Thing I'm Most Thankful For.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to gratitude@huffingtonpost.com.