Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Focus on Gratitude

by Dotti

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.


Sandra said...

Such beautiful images of those yellow tulips to go with your words on gratitude. I love the idea of the Discipline of Gratitude - and now I'm going to look it up! I do actually have a gratitude book which is really a great thing to write in when we feel the day might have just given us a raw deal! I shall look forward to seeing Cathy posting here!

Irina Kolosovskaya said...

Hey, Dotti! Thank you so much for this meaningful article. I do agree that photographers are noticing beauty and goodness in common things and that's why the practice of gratitude can become natural.And it's so important to understand that the “discipline of gratitude” is a wonderful way to be grateful even during not-so-good-times.

Focusing on Life said...

There's always something to be grateful for, even on a not so great day and it only takes a few moments to stop and think about them or record them. I've been writing my gratitudes down for a while and that practice has changed my life.

Anonymous said...

Great topic, Dotti! Its interesting how being disciplined in gratitude is just the tip of the iceberg. I find that discipline is (a must) in our everyday lives! Without self discipline, we would just coast thru life with blinders on! Thanks for sharing and the tulips are spectacular!

terriporter said...

Thanks so much for the reminder to be grateful. I know the benefits that being grateful have on my life but it is so easy to forget. Making it a discipline, remembering every day to think about what we are grateful for that day, that is what it takes to make it a habit. And we are so much happier when we dwell on the positive rather than the negative. And those beautiful tulips are definitely something to be grateful for!

CarolHart said...

Beautiful post my friend and lovely images too! My discipline of gratitude began in earnest 5 years ago with my breast cancer diagnosis. Focusing on all the wonderful people and things in my life gave me the strength to make it through a year of chemo. Gratitude and a positive additude is a powerful combo. Great to hear about Csthy joining your ranks. Perfect fit!

Anonymous said...

Such a profound article, Dotti! I have found the real difference to come when I find things to be grateful for when things get uncomfortable or challenging. So when the temperature goes down and we have no heat on the boat, I'm grateful for my LL Bean fleece, which keeps the biting wind out and keeps me cozy inside. And that's just a tiny example…LOL I love your yellow tulips. They warm me up too.

AFishGirl said...

So happy to hear Cathy will be on board and see your beautiful shots of the tulips. Gratitude. Yes. All the way. For the smallest things. It may sound bizarre but every time I turn the tap on I think of what a miracle it is that water comes out.

Barb said...

Gratitude is such a simple concept but sometimes hard in practice. I try each day to start and end in gratitude. Sometimes the smallest things make me feel the most grateful.

kimmanleyort said...

A beautiful and important reminder Dotti. I agree that photographers tend to practice this with thei photography. So glad to hear that Cathy is joining you at FOL.

Liz said...

Gorgeous images and am important post! I too practice daily gratitude and know first hand that it changes lives!

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