Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratitude Practice

When Thanksgiving comes around and someone inevitably asks you what you're thankful for (at least I hope everyone gets asked this question!), it's very easy to pull from the basics - family, friends, health, home, relative safety and security.  It's pretty much a given that those are the things that will be at the top of our gratitude list.

What about the things you regret in life?  Heartaches that still provoke pain that you wish had just plain never happened, or had happened differently.  Periods of depression or health issues.  Even a situation currently going on in your life can be something you wish would just go away.

I had tea with an old friend who was an intern with me at Florida Studio Theatre four years ago, who I haven't seen since that time in my life.  We had a blast catching up, reminiscing, shuddering at past behaviors and events.  I went back later that night and reread some of my journal entries from that period and was brought back so vividly to how sad I was at that time in my life and what ridiculously intense feelings of sadness I so often felt.  It tapped in to a lot of fear, shame, and other lovely things of that sort to the point where I wished so much of it had never happened.

By the same token, though, it's exactly those feelings and those experiences that I've learned the most from and have shaped me the most profoundly as a person.  It's important to give the dark times our acknowledgment in gratitude, too.

Try a new gratitude practice this Thanksgiving.  Take something - it can be the worst regret of your life or a current tiff with a family member, or anything that you'd paint with a negative brush at first glance - and at least for one moment, see if it's possible to be grateful for it.  It's easy to feel gratitude for the obvious blessings and things going right all the time, but let's work that gratitude muscle a little harder and go deeper.  How did that dark moment make you stronger?  How did that heartache make you more independent?  How have embarrassing moments made you more aware of your flaws?  Turning darkness into light is definitely something we can use more of this time of year.

Happy Turkey or Tofurkey Day, everyone, and I'll see you next week!

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