Monday, March 2, 2009

The Attitude of Gratitude

The morning started with the sound of rain pelting against the bedroom windows.  It was still dark and the predicted  weather for the week was coming in on cue, rain, rain and more rain.  The early ferry from Vancouver was cancelled due to high winds.  Seemed good to pull the covers up a little higher and snuggle in for a few more minutes. 

But by the time I opened the curtains it was a different world.  The sun was shining and the streets drying.  So after a long, cold winter there was something in the morning that called us out to play.  And we were not disappointed.

It was with real gratitude that we walked along the ocean path in the wind free, sun drenched morning, feeling gratitude for the simple pleasure of a pleasant walk on a warm day.  No hat required, no chin down facing into the wind.  Nothing special, nothing dramatic, just a nice day and the good fortune to live somewhere safe and beautiful and to have a body that could participate in a walk.  It seemed apparent that many dogs and their humans were also feeling grateful for the day (do  dogs feel gratitude?)

Ah gratitude. .... In this case gratitude was inspired by outer circumstances, the awareness and acknowledgement of something pleasant .  But it is possible to meet the same day with a grumble, that it's about time the weather changed , that until now it has been so crummy and yada, yada, yada.  So what is gratitude?  It seems like a feeling that arises.  It might be in response to outer circumstances, the weather, someone, something of beauty, some experience or place but I think it can just arise in us, just as a recognition, a general gratefulness for what is.  Perhaps some people are more inclined toward gratitude, the same way as some people see the glass half full?

I would say that I was not born with the  gratitude spoon in my mouth and it has only been through the refining of my practice that I have come to realize the importance of cultivating gratitude.  Last year I felt called to take James Baraz's course  "Awakening Joy" and focus on the positive aspects of practice.  One of these was gratitude.  During the course one of the speakers talked about "the attitude of gratitude".  Other speakers talked about practices that incline the mind toward gratitude.  We can't force gratitude but we can cultivate it.  One suggestion was a gratitude journal, where you write at the end of each day about the things you felt grateful for.  Another woman spoke of a practice where she sends a short email to a friend each evening and names 5 things she was grateful for each day.  She talked about how this caused her to be scanning her environment during the day for things that made her grateful and in this way she oriented herself  toward gratitude and in turn built and strengthened the gratitude muscle.

So what did I feel grateful for today?   I was reminded of gratitude by the warmth of the first Springlike day, the fact that I could at my own free will go out for a walk, then putter some in the garden, gratitude for living somewhere so beautiful, gratitude for the friendly clerk in the hardware store, a call from a friend I haven't heard from in a while.  And how about you?  Can you find 5 things you felt truly grateful for today?

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