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Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ John Milton

NOTE: IF YOU DON”T HAVE MUCH TIME, SKIP TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST AND WATCH THE YOU TUBE VIDEO. IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO 🙂

July 15, 2013 5:52 am

imagesLast week in my post Journal Fever and Life Satisfaction , I began a personal experiment in which I wrote the first of three letters expressing gratitude. The experiment will continue over an 8-week period of time; writing my second and third letters in two-week intervals. Right before I wrote my first letter, I completed a life satisfaction survey to establish my baseline and will finish up the experiment with a post-test 2 weeks after my third letter has been written. Of course I’m curious to see if I fall into the majority of those whose life satisfaction scores improved.

As I was writing my first letter I had some disturbing feelings, which has caused me to pursue the concept of gratitude on a deeper level this week.

I’m just going to make myself naked here and admit… there were moments when I felt like I was falling off a cliff because I couldn’t think quickly enough of what I was grateful for. The thoughts were not coming the way I assumed they would.

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I didn’t lift my pencil once in the 20 min period of time I was allowed, but it gave me real anxiety, and actually a fair amount of shame. I’ve always considered gratitude to be one of my strengths, so when I found myself so quickly at a loss for words, the background chatter in my mind was chanting “What’s wrong with you?”

Twitter_question_markI’m inclined to think I’ve become so busy and outwardly focused that I have let my sense of gratitude slip.  I can see the ghost of my dad pointing his finger at me, repeating the single word, SHAME, each time taking 5 seconds to annunciate. STOP!!! Okay, I have banished my illusion, but I am left with a serious question. “What’s up with this gratitude thing?”

July 15, 2013 6:05am

 I found  a really great article in Psychology Today that talks about all of the benefits both physical and mental, of practicing gratitude. If you click on the quote below you will be linked to the article for your reading pleasure.

 “In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.

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Energy? Did someone say energy? I’ve been so concerned about my energy levels lately. I thought it might be connected to not getting enough sleep, in-proper nutrition, definitely lack of exercise or maybe I’m just an overall low energy person.  I never thought of low levels of gratitude. Hmmm, I feel another experiment brewing…

July 15, 2013 6:58am

I spent the last hour reading articles on gratitude and see the value much like I see the value of mindfulness. Not only does practicing gratitude require slowing down, but the act of gratitude is experienced deep in the cellular level…or deeper… perhaps it’s transcendent. I wonder if gratitude affects the amygdala (the fight or flight center of the brain) positively like prayer and meditation. I would think it does.

July 15, 2013 7:15am

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright coppered kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown papered packages tied up with strings…these are a few of my favorite things…  Maria had it all figured out.

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July 15, 2013 7:10pm

Make no mistake about it: Cultivating gratitude takes work. This morning I tried to spend my entire drive to work thinking about the things I am grateful for. I noticed I was coming up with superficial stuff- the same old rote things I always think of. I kept getting distracted. Another eye-opener; I have taken gratitude for granted. Gratitude is another verb just like patience. It needs to be proactively practiced so it can become a habit, which then can become internalized.

July 16, 2013 5:39am

I think a way to deepen my sense of gratitude, is to not only say or think what I’m grateful for, but also why I’m grateful.

Example #1

If I’m grateful for my family…why am I grateful for my family?

…because they give my life purpose and meaning…because I feel loved…because I can serve them… because they are there for me when I need them…because I care deeply about their happiness and it helps me feel like we are all connected…because they help me grow in so many ways; patience, selflessness, understanding, empathy, charity, faith, hope, accomplishment, wisdom…they are my friends and my teachers, and I love their uniqueness …the list goes on and on. Yep, as I think on a deeper level, my heart swells with gratitude.

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Example #2

I am grateful for The Farmer’s Market… because…

…it makes me happy… somehow it makes me feel like I’m with my tribe… I’m grateful for the people who grow life sustaining produce, the beekeepers who passionately  produce honey that makes my mouth happy… all of the colors at the market that make me feel alive… I feel safe in an environment where people are creating rather then complaining and destroying… I love participating in the bounty of life… life is good at the Farmer’s Market and when I’m there I am in the flow.

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July 16, 2013 6:04am

I’ve been reading an article on gratitude featuring Brother David Steindl-Rast (BDSR), an expert on gratitude. He says people who practice gratitude create a society that the world is craving. Unhappy societies are filled with Exploitation, Oppression, and Violence. Grateful living is a remedy for all three of those because gratitude acknowledges what we have, and the latter focuses on what we lack. I love that!

July 17, 2013 5:19am

41G7boad-OL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Yesterday at work I read more from BDSR. I was so impressed with his life’s work focused on gratitude. I bought one of his books from Amazon called “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer; An Approach to Life in Fullness.” It should come tomorrow. I can hardly wait for it to arrive.

July 17, 2013 5:26am

 Yesterday I talked about gratitude with my clients. I watched their faces soften, and smiles appear where tears once were as they remembered the times they knew they were loved and why. When they started speaking about what they were grateful for, they didn’t want to stop even though I gave them opportunities. Maybe at least in part, that is how gratitude increases energy.

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I read another article about a campaign in which people all over the world committed to not being critical or complaining for 21 days. They wore purple bracelets as a symbol of their commitment. I assume the results were favorable, because a book was written about it.

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I think people who choose to abstain from criticizing  and complaining, go through the same detox one does when they choose to give up electronics or sugar for a week. Chronic complaining is a bad habit that we sadly rely on to structure our life. It can become part of our identity if we are not careful. Some people are actually proud of being cynical.

Criticizing and complaining are the opposite of gratitude and they bring with them darkness. They are two of the biggest energy drainers there are. Think about it! What does it feel like to be surrounded by criticism, sarcasm, cynicism, and complaining?

July 18, 2013 5:19am

If you were to picture gratitude, what would you see?

I ‘d see awe and wonder in people’s faces. I’d see smiles and tears. I’d see hearts. I’d see a lot of the same things I would see on the faces of people who are happy and of those who love. I would see what it looks like to have needs met. What is the difference between happiness, love, and gratitude?

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

I think gratitude is the expression of appreciation and acknowledgment that there is something greater than you that has made your life better. It can and should be proactive. It is a magic elixir. Poor a little gratitude on life and things transform.

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 July 21, 2013 5:32 pm

It’s Sunday, 5:32pm. My family (children and grandchildren) are downstairs waiting for me to make dinner, so I have to wrap this up.

I hope you don’t mind traveling with my mind as I ponder my focus for the week. My wish for you is to take this topic of gratitude and assess where you are with it.

Join me in cultivating a deeper awareness of things to be grateful for. In a sense, we can all be pioneers of peace by making this world a little sweeter through focusing on what we have, and less on what we lack.

Please take the time to watch the You Tube video below. It is written and narrated by Brother David Steindl Rast and will jumpstart you on your path to gratitude. 

Until next time, may you find your cup half full 🙂

Barbara (The Blog Whisperer)

P.S. This is another post raw and un-edited

P.S. P.S.  Stop back later in the week to see what’s new in Self Discovery: The Michelangelo Way. It’s not to late to cast your vote on whether you are more oil paints or finger paints. Chow!