Cultivating Gratitude & Mindfulness in Our Lives

                                                                                                translation by Coleman Barks

                                                                                                translation by Coleman Barks

 

This poem arrived in my life many years ago and has remained a timeless piece of wisdom that reappears at just the right moment.  It is so easy to talk about gratitude at times in life when we are joyful and everything feels perfect.   What this poem speaks to is a gratitude practice transcendent of circumstance and all the changing parts of life.   It is exactly that; A lifelong, daily practice that can truly bring us into our center when all else in life seems out of sorts.

Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”  It is a force that brings us into connection with both the present moment and with all those around us.  It offers us the ability to both grow in giving and receiving its healing force.   Gratitude is a grounding practice, useful throughout all of our life and especially applicable as a mindfulness tool in pregnancy, childbirth and all of parenting/motherhood.   In times when all things can be tested:  our patience, our energy, our relationships, our resources, our finances, our identity, and so much more, a practice of connecting to gratitude move us from spinning in isolation to feeling the power & support of the web of interconnection that all of life shares.

This practice isn’t just for mom.   It is for the whole family including little ones.   Below you can find three of my favorite practices that I integrate in my life and with my family.   There are many others out there so if these don’t feel like fit for you, keep searching and you will find one!   The practice itself will be a testament to the power of gratitude in our lives.  

 

1.      Ending your day with a Gratitude Offering

Our lives are often filled to the brim.   The content of that particular day can sometimes carry into our sleep.  The question is how do we connect to the content of our day and close our day out, whether it be an exciting day or a day filled with difficulty.  One of the simplest and most powerful practices I was taught by a mindfulness teacher many years ago was to make a ritual practice every night of reminding yourself (or sharing this between a partner, friend or child) of one thing that you are grateful for.   By bringing our awareness before we close the day back to that presence and connection, we can enjoy ending the day on the note of gratitude and letting our body & mind drift off into sleep with a positive return. Many people find this practice especially helpful with sleep issues that center around stress or anxiety.

2.       The Gratitude Jar

This practice can easily be enjoyed by the whole family.   It can be set with an intention around a particular relationship or aspect of life or family that has been particularly challenging or successful.  And it is as simple as it sounds!  Take a moment to find a jar and make a label that names its purpose “Nicole’s Gratitude Jar” or “The Zibelman Family Gratitude Jar.”   Every day write down something you are grateful for on a small slip of paper and place it in the jar.  Feel free to write a few extra gratitude offerings on days that are really challenging or on days that feel overflowing with goodness.    It isn’t just about the act of writing those slips of paper, but also important to have that jar visible for you to witness over time how full our life is with gratitude.  Sometimes it is easy to forget and the reminder of its physical presence can bring us back into a deep state of gratitude & connection.

3.      Gratitude Prayers & Rituals with Daily Life

Many of us grew up saying grace or toasting to a joyful event like an engagement or new job.  Practices of taking a intentional moment to honor the richness in our lives are really powerful.   It absolutely does not need to be religious in any way shape or form.   One of the easiest places to weave a gratitude practice into our family life is coming up with a pre meal ritual.   Beyond saying grace, this ritual can be a song or a rhyme or even just a moment of silence.   It is about connecting to the abundance of the food on your table (from a sparse spread to a holiday feast) as well as honoring all the resources & hands it took for that food to arrive for you to enjoy.  We honor the connection of receiving this goodness and offering out thanks for all the nutrients, vitality and health the food will bring to our body.   This practice is both nourishing for our bodies and for our families.

 

The reality is life will always have its’ ups and downs, its’ share of ebbs and flows, and it’s laughter and tears.  The real practice begins when we can allow the present arisings to happen and yet see them not as permanent markers but in connection to the ever changing flow of our lives.  As Rumi shared in his poem, when we make gratitude a life practice, it is about accepting all of the colors of emotion and experience as valid, true and also forever changing.   May you connect to a gratitude practice in your daily life and share them with those around you.  

 

Nicole Fugo Zibelman, is a mom of two as well as an acupuncturist, herbalist and yoga teacher with a private practice & group classes in Petaluma.   She specializes in prenatal/postnatal mindfulness classes from yoga to meditation as well as integrative health services focused around women’s wellness & pregnancy/postpartum support.  For more information, check out her website at www.sacredmoonwellnes.com.