Gratitude - What Is It?

This is an excerpt from Mary Oliver's poem, Gratitude:

What was most tender?
Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.
- Mary Oliver, Gratitude

Take a few moments to look back on your day and find someone or something you were grateful for.

Q: What did you come up with?

Why Not Gratitude?

Q: What keeps you from experiencing gratitude?

Here are two reason that gratitude researcher Robert Emmons notes in What Gets in the Way of Gratitude?:

Self-Serving bias

The belief that when good things happen to us, we think we earned it, but when bad things happen, something or someone else is to blame.

The Need for Control

We desperately want to feel in control, but gratitude opens you up to accepting that life is out of our control and it's important to notice and be thankful for what we have.

Guided Gratitude Meditation

Get into a comfortable, seated position either on a chair or a cushion.

Breathe and let your eyes gently close.

Allow yourself the freedom to arrive and settle in this moment.

When you feel ready, let your spine stretch gently upward, so you sit just a little taller.

Let your chest soften, expand and open.

Feel the delicate curve of your neck.

Let your shoulders unroll toward the earth.

Notice your arms resting peacefully by your sides.

Bring to mind something small you have that you feel grateful for, perhaps a tea cup, a pencil, or a stone.

Holding that object in your heart-mind, breathing calmly, repeat to yourself on each exhale, "thank you".

Bring to mind a person in your life that you feel grateful for, such as a child, a parent, a friend, a lover.

Holding that person in your heart-mind, breathing naturally, repeat to yourself on each exhalation, "thank you".

Bring to mind a quality or capacity of yours that you feel grateful for, like your eyesight, your ability to walk, your sense of hearing.

With that quality in your heart-mind, breathing freely, on each exhale repeat to yourself, "thank you".

Now, let your breathing carry on, in its own way, in its own time. Allow your body to sink deeper into stillness.

When was the last time you felt goosebumps over a moment of wonder, tenderness, beauty?

Bring that moment, no matter how small or how grand, to your heart and mind. Rest there.

Letting go, letting be, feel the simple and nameless beauty of right now, of just this.

Invite yourself into the mystery of arriving at this exact time and this particular place.

As just this, as nowness, say to yourself, "thank you" as you exhale.

Let the rich and brilliant display of this moment wash over you, through you, in you, as you.

Wondrous. Amazing.

Q: Reflections?

What It Is

  1. Affirming that there is good in the world and that we have benefitted from it, without denying the existence of the not-good.
  2. Recognizing we have received, and continue to receive, many gifts that we did not earn, that come from outside of and beyond us.

You did nothing to earn the sunlight that ripens the peach or the rain that waters the lily.

Gratitude Is An Action

...gratitude is an action of returning a favor and is not just a sentiment. By the same token, ingratitude is the failure to both acknowledge receiving a favor and refusing to return or repay the favor. Just as gratitude is the queen of the virtues, ingratitude is the king of the vices. - Robert Emmons, What Gets in the Way of Gratitude?

Q: Can you think of an instance where you were ungrateful and later realized it?

Q: What might it mean to return the favour?

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