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A Gratitude Practice for Challenging and Uncertain Times

I’ve been reflecting on what does gratitude feel like this year? What does an authentic expression of thankfulness look like when we are missing so much? I think of my friend who has lost her father to Covid, and many people who have lost a sense of belonging or support during these times. We won’t be gathering together and the divide between peoples feels never ending.

With gratitude we acknowledge the goodness in our lives. Acknowledging goodness and joy when we ourselves feel overwhelmed, is biologically very difficult. Our nervous system is on the look out for danger because it is trying to keep us safe. When we are in a cycle of overwhelm or stress, we are constantly looking for danger. This isn’t because we are negative or having a pity party but because there is a biological need within all of us to find safety, the problem is we get hooked into only seeing what is not working. We orient towards danger. This is especially true if we have experienced trauma.

Gratitude is an orienting practice, or intention practice, we are intentionally orienting our attention to what is authentically good, supportive, pleasurable, fun, and resourcing as opposed to what is not working, what’s missing, what’s uncomfortable, and what we see are the problems of the world. Gratitude is not denying our grief or anger, our uncertainty, or how we feel divided, it is being able to honour or see these things, but also being able to see the goodness. One of skills or habits of post traumatic growth is being able to take in the beauty and joy of the human experience in spite of the pain.

Because of our human nature to orient towards danger or what isn’t working, the gifts in our lives might feel fragile and fleeting and we may want to cling to them and we get stuck in wanting or not acknowledge them because a part of us is already anticipating losing them. This practice is to honor our tendency to armour around the forever changing landscape of our lives and feel gratitude for all the tiny gifts.

Gratitude Practice

1. Find a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to settle. Take a few deep breaths.

2. Bring your hands together in front of your chest but create space between the palms with the heels of hands touching and the fingertips lightly touching. Imagine you are holding a tiny bird or butterfly in your hands and that you cup it ever so gently. Hold the gifts of your life gently. What are some of the gifts your holding?

3. Bring to mind some simple pleasures; morning coffee, homemade soup, a warm blanket and a good book, a run in the fall leaves, yoga practice, a funny show (I’m loving Schitts Creek) what are some of the simple things you enjoy or things that make life a little bit easier?

4. Many people find gratitude in nature; the smell of leaves or rain, the feeling of sun on your face, being in the trees or by the ocean

5. Bring the companions who are walking through life with you; good friends, furry friends, family, community, teachers, etc. Gratitude for the people who show up, make us laugh or sit with us when we cry.

6. Place your hands on your heart and feel these gifts as warmth. Breathe into your heart and hands and just notice and feel.

7. Finally let your hands rest in your lap, palms facing up. Hands open and receptive but not clinging or holding. Notice what this feels like, there might be some uneasiness with letting go, no need to try to shift it or change, just notice and feel

Happy Thanksgiving!

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