It was 29 degrees with a stiff north wind and very few clouds when I arrived at the lake this morning and yet I felt gratitude rising in me from the moment I stepped out of the car. As strange as it might sound, I was grateful to feel gratitude.
I have been practicing gratitude, loving-kindness, self-compassion and mindfulness this year. I say practicing because for a long while I wasn’t feeling any of these thing. I was feeling deep loss, anger, anxiety and exhaustion. I searched for solutions in books, podcasts and talks. Every door I opened carried the same message: practice gratitude, loving-kindness, self-compassion and mindfulness (“being with”).
So I practiced. And I resisted. And I practiced. And I resisted. I was aware and went unconscious and surface to awareness in tiny moments again and again. I cobbled together a practice that added to my walks in nature a hodgepodge of journaling, meditation, listening to the words of so many brilliant writers, taking courses and an app that reminds me multiple times a day to stop and practice. I did the work as best I could even when I didn’t feel like it. Slowly I have seen glimmers of light. When I felt gratitude arise this morning I had such a deep sense of how very fortunate I am to have found a way back to this experience.
I sat in the sun and thought about what I am grateful for on the inside.
I am grateful for my curiosity which makes me pick up that next book or try one more thing when I am ready to give up. My beautiful curiosity that makes me wonder what’s around the bend or under that leaf and why the blue jays are making such a racket. My curiosity has saved my life again and again despite all the times I have subjected it to the straight jacket of “focus on the task” and false ideas about what is “important” and where I should spend my time.
I am grateful for a playfulness of spirit that inspired me to sit for an hour and take photographs of water splashing into the rocks just for the pure enjoyment of doing it. I have beaten my playfulness into the rocks of shoulds and schedules and practicalities for decades and yet it is still here, bouncing off the rocks like the water, refusing to be subdued.
I am grateful for a heart that gently, stubbornly refuses to give up on what it deeply desires even when my conscious mind doesn’t comprehend, even when I feel afraid. A heart that flat out refuses to accept “fitting in” as a poor substitute for real belonging and connection.
I am grateful for the tender shoots of self-compassion finally starting to grow within. For awareness that is starting to catch my self- criticism sooner and a small but growing ability to be with all the feelings I have pushed aside. These small sprouts still need so much watering to grow but my faith in myself to keep them alive is stronger.
I am grateful for all those that love me who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hear their voices in my head and feel their presence in my life.
I woke with these lyrics from a “Jungle Book” song in my head:
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That's why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life
Wherever I wander, wherever I roam
I couldn't be fonder of my big home
The bees are buzzin' in the tree
To make some honey just for me
When you look under the rocks and plants
And take a glance at the fancy ants
Then maybe try a few
The bare necessities of life will come to you.
What are you thankful for inside yourself today and where are you struggling? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
I am absolutely grateful for everyone who reads my writing and enjoys my photographs on social media. It makes my heart happy to do something so very “selfish”, entirely for my own purposes, and have it find an energetic path in the world. Thank you for being here!
I’m also thankful to the many writers and app creators who have inspired and sustained me this year. Here’s a partial list that doesn’t even include all of the fiction books I’ve loved - maybe that’s another post!
Brene Brown - 10th Anniversary Edition of “The Gifts of Imperfection”, “Dare to Lead”, “Braving the Wilderness” (I can’t wait for her new book, “Atlas of the Heart”!) and both of her podcasts (“Unlocking Us” and “Dare to Lead”)
Tara Brach - courses, weekly talks and meditations (tarabrach.com)
Dr. Jud Brewer and the “Unwinding Anxiety” books and app
Natalie Goldberg’s anniversary edition of “Writing Down the Bones” on audible
Kasia Urbaniak, “Unbound”
Barbara Brown Taylor, “Learning to Walk in the Dark”
Julia Cameron, “The Artists Way”