“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”
— Melody Beattie
Morning finds me in the woods, walking out my troubles.
It has been a year with many blessings, but also a flock of burdens. And that is the nature of life . . .
Somewhere in the swirl of it all, I started a new practice of naming 25 blessings as I walk. I don’t know why I picked 25. I do know that coming up with that many blessings caused me to dig a little deeper, to focus on the unrecognized and ignored.
Take ‘fingers’ for example. How often do we consider our fingers – how they make it possible to touch, type, unbutton, stroke, undo, grasp, tie . . . .If my fingers were suddenly gone I would be saturated with sadness and loss, and yet . . . I hardly consider these true treasures.
I have discovered that while I exercise my body, I can exercise my outlook . Counting my blessings changes my focus from lack to abundance, from difficulty to possibility.
In her life-changing book, Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, written 20 years ago, Sarah Ban Breathnach challenged her millions of readers to start a gratitude journal that would be the blank canvas to capture five blessings a day. She promised that practice would be life changing.
She would know.
Sitting in a restaurant many years ago, a heavy ceiling tile fell on her head causing serious injury. Her vision was affected and her eyes could not tolerate much light. She sat in her darkened bedroom in despair.
One day, she made a decision to go to her kitchen table and sit there until she had written 100 things for which she was grateful.
Not only did she eventually recover from her injury, but it lead to the writing her best-selling book which changed her life and the lives of her readers. In it she advocates creating a gratitude journal in which blessings are recorded daily.
I don’t know how many times I have read her book, but it is outlined in enough different colors of ink to remind me of the importance of adopting a daily spiritual practice of gratitude whether with pen in a journal, on our knees in prayer, or in the woods in contemplation.
The title of a country song, Standing knee-Deep in a River, (Dying of Thirst), by Don Williams reminds me of the importance of becoming more conscious in life. I am surrounded by blessings I take for granted.
I am learning anew that gratitude is a well we can draw from when our emotional life is parched. As we drink from gratitude’s waters we begin to glimpse a bigger picture that holds the promise of possibility. What we focus on expands.
The conscious contemplation of what is working in life allows the fragmented activity of our mind to slow down, giving way to trust in the unseen. A glimpse of the light is caught despite the shadow.
This happens when we release resistance to our difficulties by accepting what is. We then come to realize we have choices, even if it’s just the choice to do the best we can and let go of the rest . . .
Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More, learned for herself — in her difficult recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction — the importance of gratitude in healing.
“It turns what we have into enough . . . denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity,” she writes. “It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
As I consider all that I have, the natural inclination is to give thanks. As I do, my heart is filled again.