Cultivating Contagious Gratitude
When I walk through my plant nursery, The Sacred Garden, right after we have water, there is a tangible energy in the air. Everything feels different. When I stop to be observant and consider what it is that I am feeling, I realize that the feeling is oozing and emanating from the plants—it feels like gratitude and joy fill the entire greenhouse. Then I discover that gratitude is contagious.I feel different. I feel joyful.
I have to then ask myself: Does this lesson from the garden translate to life—and love? What if we all decided to ooze gratitude? How would our relationships be different? How would we be different?
Okay, so I can hear some of you wondering what to be grateful for. We are facing one of the most challenging economic times ever, one of the most challenged health times ever, one of the most challenged environmental times ever—and simultaneously we are facing the most relationship-challenged times ever. Never before have we been so poor at making relationships work. Everything from culture to technology now has an effect on our relationships, but we have not changed our relationship skills to match these changes. Our divorce rate and unhappy marriage rate reflect our inability.
So, in the face of all that bad news, let’s start simple.
Make a list of the 100 smallest things you can think of to be thankful for—a glass of water, a bite of sushi, petting your dog or cat, a dream-filled sleep, a beautiful sunset, the ability to read. List things that you take for granted because the blessing is so commonplace that you have forgotten to notice. Be sure to add the workings of your body to the list—the ability to swallow, breathe, eliminate waste, dance, walk, smile, cry, taste…
It is my belief that if you take any one of the “little” things that you are grateful for, and then move the microscope in a bit on that one thing to see all the miracles or efforts of others that had to take place in order for you to have that one thing or experience, you would have no choice but to ooze gratitude. There really are no “little” things; everything has a huge network of people or events behind it, making it so.
Take a glass of wine or sparkling juice that you might raise a toast with this holy-day season, and turn that “microscope” of your awareness onto all the people and processes that were involved in the making of that drink in order for you to enjoy it. The grape farmers, the wine/juice makers, the tasters, the label makers, the bottle designers, the shippers, the sellers—I’m sure I am leaving many out. If, when you raise your toast, you stop to send thanks to everyone that had something to do with every sip and every morsel that you are blessed with, you will discover miracles to be thankful for. Even if you find yourself at a fast food restaurant for the holidays, the same miraculous process holds true. We can all practice oozing gratitude, everywhere, all the time.
Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” When you see everything as a miracle, the gratitude comes flooding in—and flowing out.
Once you have the simple steps of gratitude mastered, see if you can extend the exercise into the more difficult realms. What are you grateful for in your family, friends, coworkers, and sweethearts? What are you grateful for in yourself?
Then move on to the “Master’s Level of Gratitude.” Can you offer thanks and discover the blessing in everything you have experienced—even the death of a loved one, an illness, the loss of a job, the loss of a home, or a broken relationship? Can you reach into your soul and find the lesson, the growth, the strength, or the new perspective that came from every experience and be grateful?
This is my personal exercise: Can I continue to feel blessed, as if the universe is out to do me good, even when I face huge challenges and deep emotional losses? Can I ooze contagious gratitude, no matter what?
Can I walk through the greenhouse of life and “water” the world with my own joy and appreciation?
I invite you to try this too. B, 2017– November 26