I first became acquainted with the idea of a gratitude practice in 1995 through Sarah Ban Breathnachâs book Simple Abundance. The bookâs core concept was to begin and end each day by naming at least five things for which I was grateful. Some days the list overflowed with twenty-five or more items, evidence of my consciousness of the generosity of the Universe. Other days, when I perceived things as going poorly, I struggled to identify even five things for which I was thankful.
I followed the gratitude practice off and on through the years but abandoned it entirely at the very time when I could have most benefited from it. When I got insanely, stressfully busy in the final years of my consulting career, I left the gratitude practice by the side of the road, having erroneously concluded that I was too busy to be intentionally grateful.
Fast forward to 2010, when I had left consulting, lost eighty pounds, escaped depression, and began pursuing my calling as an empowerment coach and Reiki master, teaching others about the transformative power of falling in love with themselves. Though love, respect, curiosity, and compassion were serving me well in manifesting unconditional self-love, sometimes when my life became especially complex, the judging voice could still take over with its fear-based constricting messages of doom and gloom.
One day, during written meditation, I remembered the power of my former gratitude practice and wondered if it might be the missing link. As I went beyond just a morning and evening event to making it a way of life I call radical gratitude, here is what I discovered.
Love and gratitude serve as the bookends of constructive core energy. Between them, they encompass and support all the other aspects of love: respect, curiosity, and compassion. Love initiates the flow of core energy; gratitude expands it. Love is the originator. Gratitude is the catalyst. Through the eyes of gratitude, we see that everything is an opportunity, a grace-filled gift of Universal love characterized by loving-kindness, elegant beauty, copious generosity, and infinite mercy.
Radical gratitude fosters a life of generous, effortless, gracious flow filled with faith, hope, prosperity, peace, and joy. What might this look like in real life? Letâs start with the example of cleaning the litter boxes for my three beloved cats, SiddhaLee, Mortimer, and Maisy Janeâmy constant companions, playmates, comforters, teachers, and assistants.
The rule of thumb for litter boxes is to have at least one more box than the number of cats. With experimentation, I discovered that, ever the overachievers, my three cats require six boxes that are scooped free of any refuse morning and night. In addition, once a month, those six boxes must be washed, dried, and refilled with a fresh batch of litter. Weâre talking 70 pounds of litter a month.
As the number of litter boxes escalated, at first I was resentful. Why couldnât they stop being so territorial and use fewer boxes? I perceived the money and time I was investing as excessive and onerous. Until, a year after he came to live with me, Mortimer became ill and nearly died. When we pulled him back from the brink of death and he began to grow stronger, it finally hit me: cleaning litter boxes isnât a burden, itâs an act of love. It is a privilege and honor to be able to return a fraction of the love and companionship he and his mates shower on me daily, by handling this hygiene task for them. A funny thing happened; when I chose to shift my energy from resentment to gratitude, litter patrol was no longer an obligation. Now I sing and chatter happily to the cats while I move from room to room, ever their faithful, itinerant scooper.
So many things to be grateful for: clean water; hot showers; healthcare; education; heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer; healthy food; smiles, hugs, and kisses; and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abilities.
On-the-spot, real-time gratitude is the most powerful antidote I know to fear and any of its ugly cousinsâfrustration, judging, resistance, jealousy, worry, scarcity, depression, despair, and the like. When I stay centered in gratitude for all of lifeâs simple blessings, I find it easier to stay anchored there in the more painful times. The friend who dumps me. The spouse who becomes ill. The hurricane that devastates the beloved South Jersey Shore of my childhood. The movie theater mass shooting in my hometown of Aurora, Colorado. Being present in New York City on September 11, 2001, where I spent the night accounting for my missing consulting colleagues. When viewed through the lens of gratitude, even those painful experiences are opportunities for deeper insight, greater compassion, dramatic personal growth, and increased appreciation for the gift of life. In the words of the great sage Kahlil Gibran, âWake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.â
And, if, on your darkest days, despite your best efforts, you still can find nothing to appreciate, try doing a simple kindness for someone in need. If you are like many, you just may find the hope and gratitude you awaken in another will rekindle the flame of hope and gratitude in your own troubled heart.
Read part 2 of this article for additional insights into the power of gratitude.
Â© Copyright 2013 DJW Life Coach LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
What’s love got to do with minimizing stress and getting unstuck? Everything, according to empowerment coach and inspirational speaker Deborah Jane Wells, author of Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life! During her 30 years as an organization transformation consultant, Deborah served as a senior partner in four of the world’s largest, most prestigious global professional services firms. In 2005, she took a five-year sabbatical to find healing and peace because non-stop work had taken its toll. Her recovery from burnout, including a sustained 80-pound weight loss and freedom from 10 years of debilitating depression, led to finding her purpose guiding others on their journeys. Through healing and self-exploration, she discovered that loving yourself unconditionally is the key to transforming your personal life, your work, and the world. Deborahâs books, blog, radio show, and signature coaching programs help individuals and organizations harness the transformative power of love to step into their greatness. Learn more at the Deborah Jane Wells Website.