This week I learned about gratitude. I had a lovely conversation with a woman dedicated to gratitude, Matana Jacobs, who reminded me that for those times when you just can’t begin to feel grateful, start with your breath.
Are you breathing?
Grateful. Sacred breath. Is your heart beating? Sacred. Start there. If your heart is beating and you are breathing — grateful. We all have those two in common. From there, gratefulness diverges: We get these different seasons in life.
Right now, for sure, I am enjoying a season of closeness with people. Deep, loving relationships that I honestly never thought I was worthy of.
And I think that may be a bit the clue to how gratitude works: My season right now centers around relationships. And when I remember to focus on what is blooming, gratitude flows.
Not everything blooms at the same time. There is a season for everything. What is blooming — or about to bloom — in your life right now?
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” - Epictetus
I’m really drawn to the reminders right now that we don’t have everything all at once: focus on what you have now — relationships, quiet, success, challenges, warmth, coolness, health…
I’m convinced that each season brings something to us. When we can get perspective on what this season brings, what we’re doing right now, we can more easily find grace there and become grateful.
What season is it for you right now? What are you planting? What are you harvesting? Are you preparing the soil? Are you tilling? Is it a time of intense quiet or is it a time of non-stop noise? Is it a time to dance or a time to sit still?
Describe your season:
Gratitude. Attitude of gratitude. I admit, sometimes when I hear that, my inner-contrarian just balks and wants nothing to do with it. It sounds so surfacy, so false.
Anytime I feel pushed to “have a better attitude” I pause. I’ve always had the greatest respect for people in service jobs — public service, restaurant servers, customer service — anything where you must put forward a positive and caring attitude no matter what.
Whenever I have had to do that, quite honestly, after not too long, my actual true attitude becomes pretty dark. Being told to smile is the best cure for actually genuinely wanting to smile as far as I am concerned.
However: What if you focus not on having to smile, but more on what makes you smile? What would happen, as an experiment, if you tried for one week to find one thing per day that makes you smile so broadly that it almost hurts?
If you can, find three? And if you feel like it, write them down so you can look back in one week and have several things that, unique to you, make you smile?
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
Riffing on the idea that each of us humans is unique, why not try to find out one thing — that you did not know before — that makes someone in your life smile?
There’s a vulnerability there, certainly. Staying safe, with a trusted/trusting relationship, learning what makes someone close to you smile — if your family is where you feel safe, then learn more about a family member. If you have a trusted friend, then reach out and learn what makes them smile.
6. POD Poem of the day Ha Jin: Missed Time)
7. Podcast (Matana Jacobs: Hope to Recharge)
8. Video (Soul Pancake — An Experiment in Gratitude) <= This short (2 minute!) video always feels incredibly cheesy at the beginning but it’s such a great reminder to think about how you may be able to be a good friend to others in your life. Be a good influence, be a good role model. Make the world slightly better because you are in it.)
9. Hero: Chiune Sugihara, Diplomat and Spy
Why? “I don’t think that my father should be honored as a hero… he was not fighting, he was just an honest person,” said Nobuki. If anything, he said, “he was fighting within himself” to do the right thing for the Jews.
Chiune Sugihara saved as many as 10,000 Jewish people by issuing transit visas to them while he was an attache in Lithuania.
He did this with the full knowledge of his Japanese bosses, but was at constant risk of death from the German Gestapo who were circling him as he did is work as a diplomat but also spying on them and the Russians…
He was an honest, deeply good person who risked his life to save people who had no kinship to him but needed his help.
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available everywhere you download podcasts. Gratitude episode Thursday. I asked a new friend of mine, Matana Jacobs of the podcast Hope to Recharge, for her thoughts on gratitude. My life was recharged — can’t wait to share on Thursday.