Practicing Gratitude

About two years ago I engaged my friends in a gratitude challenge online.

The purpose was to individually reflect every day for an entire month something we were each grateful for during the course of that day. Despite the ups and downs that can come any day the objective of the challenge was to focus on one or many little blessings we each encountered in a day and share it with each other through social media. Some days it was easy and other days were daunting yet the challenge put forth posed the opportunity for each of us to be present, conscious and reflect on how we encountered each day and find the many little blessings we were gifted with. I share with you below an extract of a journal reflection at the end of that gratitude challenge month to give a sense of the experience:

On November 1st of 2011 I decided I needed to challenge myself by actively focusing on the everyday blessings that go unnoticed because of the capacity of everyday frustrations to manipulate where the limelight shines. A personal challenge can very well begin in private yet I brought it to the public domain to ask my friends to join in on this journey and share the big and small aspects of life we take for granted. It was heart-warming to see many take up the idea and follow it through to the end of the month, encouraging many more others to come on board.

It is astounding what the mind can be trained to do and how the manner in which you train it can influence your immediate environment and the circumstances you find yourself in. I am by far blessed with the comforts of life I enjoy in relation to many people’s everyday challenges and stories of survival in the absence of many of these comforts and basic necessities. However, as the saying goes “each person carries their load the heaviest” and we all find ourselves in situations from time to time that have us experience the full spectrum of human emotions. I know I do!

So this exercise was a way to bring to presence and celebrate the many sweet things in our lives despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. I live a very fast paced life these days and have witnessed my grip on being in the moment, in the “here and now” continuously slip away in between the everyday TO DO list that keeps getting longer. Yet the power of practicing gratitude is empowering for I also witnessed how my mind began to switch itself off from the chaos every day for the past thirty days and question me on what I was grateful for in that moment and in many moments, where it became apparent that I had to choose among many I had come up with each day before sharing with my friends.

“What are you grateful for today?” became the key question that my mind would ask me at the start, during and at the end of each and every day, making it very difficult to be anything but meditative in each moment the question arose.

Practicing gratitude unveils the many hidden blessings that can turn a mediocre moment into a celebrated one for when we put on our gratitude lenses and senses on, the way “we see and feel the grass and the way it chooses to see and feel “ come into harmony. And it’s in these instances of harmony that we witness and experience contentment and the ability to identify the positive aspect of a given situation, enabling us to move beyond, to transcend some of the self erected obstacles. And the beauty of it all is that it’s in our hands to do that.

Now this night, on Ethiopian New Year’s Eve, as I stood holding a chebo in hand, surrounded by some of the people that mean the most to me in this world, and watching in silence the flames of fire devour the bound twigs, I myself began to be devoured by gratitude;

–          For the love of family who love the same at one’s best and worst

–          For the capacity to make choices and act on them

–          For a cloudless night that enables gazing into a star dotted night sky

–          For the smile exchanged between strangers because we have not forgotten how to be kind

–          For friends who gently guide you back to earth when assumptions sway you away

As we celebrate the Ethiopian New Year I invite all of us to reflect on our big and small blessings.