Gratitude and healing. They are as inseparable as tomato and basil, eggs and bacon, steamed crabs and cold beer.
Gratitude is a feeling. Thankfulness is the action. That is how I have come to related to my morning gratitude practice (see below). I evoke the feeling of gratitude by recalling a visual image of something that brings me happiness, comfort, or joy. Then, I allow that image to evoke the emotion of gratitude. Enjoying the emotional feeling, I give it words, draw its image, bring that object alive in my heart and mind with as much detail as possible.
Next, in my practice, I flow into an expression of thankfulness. Maybe it is the recitation of a prayer. Searching for a particular poem that comes to mind is another way I express gratitude. Thankfulness, for me, is that act of connecting the personal blessing to a more universal source of loving-kindness.
My Morning Practice
After my marriage ended, life was very difficult. To add insult to injury at that time, I had decided to work in urban community development. This is a career requiring a thick skin, long hours, and surviving a daily test of one’s integrity. To sustain myself during these torturous these years, I began each day with a gratitude practice. It continues to this time in my life, some 20 years later. I give all the credit for surviving and thriving in that time and beyond to the healing offered through the experience of gratitude and the expression of thankfulness.
For me, the healing is not just spiritual or emotional. I have managed a great deal of stress with minimal physical symptoms. I believe, and science seems to validate, that my journaling and contemplative practice each morning is the source of this wellness. Most of my health issues are food related, but that’s another story.
Gratitude and Healing – A Journaling Meditation
I rise early, as early as 4am, to get at least an hour to myself in the morning. I like to begin with a warm cup of tea or coffee and sit in dim light while allowing my consciousness to greet the day. Once my mind, body, and heart are all awake to the moment, I begin my loving-kindness meditation.
Writing of Thankfulness
I move to my desk and light a candle. Background music is added. I reach for my journal and favorite pen and begin to answer these questions:
- What am I most thankful for this morning?
The answers can be far-reaching: friends and family, my home and farm, good food, running water and indoor plumbing, the experience of joy. Sometimes I am simply grateful that my arthritic knee didn’t keep me up all night, or that the recent bad weather did no real harm to my gardens. I am often surprised by how the most mundane of topics evoke the strongest emotions, like being free of the sound of sirens for 8 years now. As stated above, in this part of my journaling, I simply go deep into the details of what I am thankful for and allow that silent center in myself to notice the rise of the feeling of gratitude. Then, I give it form through words.
I act on that feeling to bring it into the manifest world. I think, for me, it would seem so selfish to just ride the tide of the emotional high without bringing it into physical expression. Songs, poems, and prayers often come to mind. I will find recordings to listen to. I might read the prayer or poem out loud to the dawning light. Often, I will get my jacket and carry my gratitude out into the morning twilight and offer it in thankfulness to the fading stars and rising sun.
- What would make today exceptional?
I enjoy entering this question through contemplation and journaling because it suggests the possibility of an exceptional day right at its beginning, boldly and shamelessly. It also suggests the experience is within my grasp, responding to my will and intention. This journaling exercise often flows seamlessly into a calendar review and the beginning of my workday.
I hope you find this practice useful and customize it to your personal daily rhythms. Not everybody rises at 4am, I am sure!
Here are a few resources I found to help us all explore gratitude and healing this Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
A Gift by Katheryn Starbuck – The Poetry Foundation
Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant – Youtube
Gratitude, Where Healing the Earth Begins by Joanna Macy – Lion’s Roar
Other wellness posts from the blog…
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