If we are not careful, our gratitude practice becomes one more thing to check off of our to-do list. Did I make my list of 10 things I am grateful for today? And we can perform our gratitude lists in the most perfunctory of ways. Yes it is done, but it means nothing at all.
How can we deepen our sense of gratitude in this world? How can we allow a sense of gratitude to permeate through our very beings? Truly allow gratitude to become a part of how we breathe and who we are?
The very first step for me is noticing. We cannot develop gratitude unless we first notice. Notice all that unfolds around us, and perhaps even more importantly, all that unfolds within us. And to notice, we need to slow down, way way down.
I cannot notice what is happening in my world, between me and others, and inside of me, if the world is spinning around me at a frantic, break neck speed. Let us make time to live in this world. Breathe. Create space for rest and awareness.
Part of slowing down for me is disconnecting. I cannot notice if I am checking in with my phone, ipad, or laptop every two or three minutes. The only thing I become aware of is my technology. I lose connection to the moment I am living.
I start to feel anxious about emails that require a response, or senseless tragedies unfolding in the world. I am trying to put my phone away; use it strategically as a tool, but not as a substitute for my life.
From this slower, more conscious place, we can now be in direct contact with our world. We can start to look people in the eye. We can feel the ground beneath our feet. We can savor our food. We can have genuine conversations with people whose paths we cross.
We are no longer rushing. We can notice, truly notice, the beauty of a sunrise, or the brightness of the moon and stars against the black of night. We can feel love, laughter, fear, sadness.
This is where gratitude begins.
For me, the next step in deepening gratitude is feeling gratitude in my body. What does it feel like to be thankful? For me, I notice an expansion of my breathing. A certain tightness in my chest releases, and I can breathe into the moment. My left trapezius relaxes. Sometimes I feel a sensation of warmth in my lower abdomen.
In particularly intense moments, I might even feel like I want to cry. This is because for me, true gratitude can be a fine edge, with fear of loss on the other side.
Each one us feels gratitude differently in our bodies. What do you feel? How does it feel? Focusing in on how gratitude manifests in the body allows us to deepen the experience.
Perhaps a final step in deepening gratitude is articulating our blessings. Why keep our gratitude quiet? Do we fear seeming too Pollyanna-ish, or artificial?
In whatever way feels right to you, let the gratitude out. Perhaps this means vocalizing what we are grateful for with those we love. It could even mean thanking the person who cleans your office building every day. We take a leap of faith and vulnerability and allow ourselves to connect with each other in a meaningful way.
Or maybe articulating for you means writing it down in a journal. The process of articulating our experiences, sharing them with others or even our journal, makes the gratitude all the more real for us. We linger on it a little bit. The words or conversation can be brief, but when they come from the soul, they can be life changing.
As I experiment with compassion, mindfulness, and gratitude in my own life, I am taking a step away from the daily 10 gratitude list. At least for now. I am going to try to deepen my gratitude as and when it occurs, really feel that sense of greater wonder and consciousness in every aspect of my being. The beauty lies in how we each find the path that feels right to us.