Archives for Gratitude
This little duck (in the photo, above) was swimming in the clouds in my local park this morning, rippling the upside-down sky in the pond. It’s moments like these I want to remember to see. To live. To pause and breathe into in the midst of the day. That’s about as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I got this year. Just to stop. To look. And to remember to see the small stuff. And this morning there seemed plenty around to see: little crystalline moments of inexplicability that you can climb into and rest in if you just get down to their level. Do you want that sometimes?
I took a different route to work yesterday. And I saw different things. Suddenly, in a gap between buildings, I spied this view in the photo, above: stairs and a distant clock face above them. A thought struck immediately: "Take the steps to make the time..." And then, a heartbeat later: "... time for the things that matter." I had to stop for a second, to drink it in and let all the bustling commuters around me blur on by. So what are those things for you? The things that matter? Life can change at a moment's notice - we all know this. Profound, unexpected change where the things we previously took for granted become the things we miss, for we can no longer experience them in quite the same way again. At least for now... At the moment, I'm getting lots of reminders of this. Lots of losses, big and small, in my own life, and in the lives of those close to me. I guess it comes back to our fragility. Our mortality. Our passage through the (limited) time we have. And our ability to recognise what really matters to us, so we can live it, love it, while it's here in our hands.
Yep, it’s that time of year already – again. Welcome to the season that packs so much into itself: The “silly season” The season of goodwill Of giving and receiving Of remembering or maybe even trying to forget… Of balancing extra pressure and expectations Of anniversaries and reflections; joy and pain. It’s a complicated time of year… So as you prepare yourself for whatever shades of the seasonal spectrum that you will face this time, maybe it’s work asking: What will you give yourself this year? (And you know I’m not talking about the material stuff here). Or perhaps it’s easier to think about what you might like to receive from yourself?
It’s so easy to take things for granted. We almost seem built to do it – wired to see the danger over the delight. To spot the problem floating on a sea of stuff that’s working. When this happens, all the enriching, joyful, sustaining things in your life – however fleeting they may be just now – get backgrounded. Lost. Instead, your foreground is filled with the close-up perspective of the things that bring pain and difficulties. And you get to feel all the anxiety and worry attached to them. Can you relate to that? What would happen if you could reverse the flow for a moment? Move the foreground into the background, and the background forward? What if you could deliberately set the inspiring and rejuvenating stuff up front for a moment? Let your mind and body remember them, and feel the relief they bring? Well, you can… And one of the simplest ways to do it is to harness the power of gratitude.
How easy it can be to let the moments just slip on by. And keep slipping. Caught in a web of 'more important' things to do, of obligations and responsibilities, you might find yourself at times not quite noticing what's around you. Not quite living out your own life... Have you ever felt that feeling? Maybe you're just too busy to notice the countless little impossibilities unfolding all around you. Or under too much pressure worrying about how to make the future work out, that the present moment is lost; invisible. Yet, even if they remain unseen, it seems these magical little moments of "now" continue. Take this particular moment (in the photo above), unfolding in my living room just the other day...
Recognize what’s in the photo? “Brown paper packages tied up with string These are a few of my favorite things”… Oprah Winfrey’s a woman who knows a thing or two about favorite things. And over the last 25 years of her inspiring career, she's shared hundreds of them with us. “I know you shouldn’t love things, but…” is pretty much how Oprah began her final Ultimate Favorite Things show. And she’s right. Maybe there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with things – or with appreciating them. Maybe it’s ok to ‘love’ them or enjoy them. (Especially if it’s done knowing that everything’s only on loan to us anyway, seeing how we’ll one day be going where they can’t follow…). But what flew into my mind when Oprah said that, was the memory of a little handwritten note on my aunt’s refrigerator: “The best things in life aren’t things.”* And so it might be worth taking a moment to ask yourself: how do you value those?
I was sipping tea at a café, when this rusted, busted air vent on the wall across the street caught my eye. Or rather, its shadow did. Somehow, with the sun at that angle, it was like the brokenness had wings. “Divinity is in everything,” my companion said. The rust. The edges. The hard places and the soft. The small things in life that hold the bigness of it all… Yet how easy it is to gloss over them and simply not see. To turn away. To try ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ and so to miss it altogether. And what are you missing when you do that? A lot, if Dr Martin Seligman and his positive psychology are right.
When was the last time you were thankful? Just think back for a second. Maybe it was only earlier today. Or maybe it’s been a while… maybe it’s hard to actually remember. And where do you feel it when it’s there? How does your body hold it? What happens inside you when gratitude turns up? Maybe there’s a kind of glow or a warmth or a lifting of sorts. However you experience it, this very feeling is thought to be directly linked to happiness and wellbeing. Thought to buoy our spirits, help stave off depression, and even strengthen our sense of meaning and purpose in life. It’s considered so potent that positive psychology puts it at the heart of its theories, and has created exercises to increase gratitude (and all its knock-on effects). So how can you awaken more of this stuff in your own life?