Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. —Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy
During a town hall in New Hampshire last week, a candidate for president was asked a very thought provoking question and in her response, she shared that to maintain equilibrium in her life, she practices the “discipline of gratitude”.
Wow. Think about that – the discipline of gratitude. Actually, I have been thinking about it, a lot, since I read that phrase. We write frequently here about the practice of gratitude. And this is nothing new for me. As a small child, my father used to often remind me to “be grateful for small blessings.” Of course, I didn’t understand the wisdom of that lesson for many years to come.
But now I get it. So I strive each day to practice gratitude. At the conclusion of my day, I list at least five things I am particularly grateful for that day. By intent, they are usually small things that would otherwise go unnoticed and I try hard not to be trivial and trite about it. But – the discipline of gratitude introduces a whole new dimension. Forgive me, Emeril, but it kicks it up a notch. So I have a couple of challenges for you.
Knowing I needed a better understanding of this concept, I googled it. Well! Imagine my surprise when I turned up a veritable treasure trove of articles about this topic. Some were spiritual, some were less so, but all were relevant and very thought provoking. So, go ahead, Google discipline of gratitude if you wish, and read for yourselves what it’s about.
We all know that there is beauty and goodness all around us. As photographers, we are more attuned to noticing this than many who are not photographers so we may come to the practice of gratitude naturally. And how did we begin? By noticing the small wonders everywhere to be found so we could shoot pictures. Through this very act, we make ourselves present, right here, right now. (Being present. Where have we heard that before?) We practice gratitude.
Does it seem to you that the words "thank you" are becoming less common in our daily life? Although I do believe those in our FOL community are prolific with our “thank you’s”, I’m sure we’re still guilty of forgetting to thank our spouse/partner/friend/child when they do something unexpected for us, particularly if it’s a small thing. First challenge: find unusual opportunities today to say “thank you” – to the mailman, the checkout clerk, your family and friends, particularly when they do some small, almost unnoticeable act of kindness. This is a good step to practicing not just gratitude but the discipline of gratitude. It will also help us pay attention, to be present.
Why not just the practice of gratitude? Why is the discipline of gratitude necessary? Discipline implies daily practice. On good days, when it’s sunny, when all is right in our world, it’s easy to be grateful. But what happens when life’s storm clouds gather, as they will? If our practice of gratitude is a casual thing, we may forget to find something to be grateful for. However, if we have disciplined ourselves to practice gratitude daily, we will find that we must continue this discipline, thereby finding comfort and strength in the dark days. In a sense, the discipline we’ve expended on our gratitude practice in the good times will help open our hearts to the goodness that still exists around us in the not-so-good times.
And, finally, others too numerous to cite, have found that those who practice the discipline of gratitude find more happiness and contentment in our lives. And this, after all, is what we all strive for. It helps us focus on the positive aspects of the modern, fast-paced world we live in, where so much seems to be distressing and negative.
As you finish reading this post, I’m going to pose a simple challenge for you. Close your eyes. Right now. And list five things you’re grateful for so far today. Say the list out loud, it will be more powerful. And then join with me to practice this discipline of gratitude every day.
Be intent upon the perfection of the present day. – William Law
And finally, an announcement: Tomorrow, Cathy Hubmann will join us as a colleague here at Focusing on Life. I think many of you know her through her own blog, Gramma’s Little Corner and as a frequent commenter here. She has been a faithful member of this community since Day 1 and we’re delighted to welcome her to our ranks. Please be sure to visit tomorrow and give her a warm FOL welcome.