How My Gratitude Practice Changed Me
Today, as I write, I am remembering my maternal grandmother, Lula. We called her Muddie (I think it was the child’s version of Mother Dear). It’s her birthday in heaven today – June 26. I always admired my grandmother. She was a woman of great principle, college educated, a teacher, and a widow for all the time that I knew her. Her husband, my grandfather, died when my mother was only seven years old. My grandmother raised two girls on her own during some of the toughest times in U.S. history for Black people. She had a lot to be fearful of and bitter about, but she never was. She was hopeful. She was joyful. She was grateful. Today, I am grateful for my Muddie.
When I was a little girl, my mother and grandmother taught me to say please and thank you. I was told it was good manners to do so. I thought it was obligatory. That’s just what you’re supposed to do. But as I am now older with grandchildren of my own, I know there is something spiritual about having appreciation and telling someone, “Thank you.” It is acknowledging your gratitude for generosity shown toward you, be it a service, gift, compliment, or some other kindness.
Gratitude is not an obligation.
Over the years, I have read so much about the benefits of starting a gratitude practice. I thought, as I did as a child, it’s something I should do. So, I did. There are meditations on gratitude, gratitude journals, gratitude affirmations. I’ve done them all, but if I’m honest, they all seemed rote – like when I was a child. I’d select gratitude meditations from time to time, and I’d feel good afterward. In my daily journal, I would list three things I’m grateful for that day. I would repeat gratitude affirmations over and over – “I am grateful for the good in my life.” I had a gratitude practice, but my practice was a routine. It was kind of like going to church every Sunday. It’s a good practice, but do you know why you’re doing it?
Having a gratitude practice is not the same as being grateful.
I had an Aha! Expressing gratitude is not the same as being grateful. We can all say, “I’m grateful for another day,” “I’m thankful for the food I eat,” “I’m grateful for a job that I love,” and “I’m thankful for the relationships I have with my children.” But too often, we really expect those things to be in our lives, or if we’re honest, we take them for granted – that’s how it’s supposed to be.
It’s not about being ungrateful.
I’m not claiming to be ungrateful. I don’t think you’d say that about yourself either. We don’t have to go to the other end of the spectrum. What I’m really trying to convey is that I’ve been doing gratitude and now I am gratitude. I am grateful.
What’s the difference between doing and being gratitude? When I think of being anything, it’s a part of my makeup. It’s at a cellular, spiritual level. I’ve come to this place where my practice has turned into a state of being. I take nothing for granted. I no longer assume anything is supposed to be. Everything is a miracle – a surprising and welcome event; an amazing achievement; the work of divine forces; an outstanding occurrence.
I am grateful for every miracle in my life. Life itself is a miracle.
What happened? What changed? My brother died. The pandemic happened. I lost friends. I remained healthy. I stayed employed. My Dad is alive and healthy. My children are growing spiritually. My grandchildren graduated. Seasons changed. The sun came out. I woke up this morning. And none of it is about “supposed to be.” Life is happening. And I woke up to the realization that being grateful is the pathway to joy. My grandmother was joyful because she was grateful.
Perhaps this is the evolution. If I had never been told as a child to express gratitude, I would not have thought it important to do as a practice. And if I had not started a practice, I would not have become it.
One comes before the other and keeps building toward something beautiful.
Where are you in your gratitude journey? Is it something you do because you were taught to express gratitude? Is gratitude a practice or ritual? Is it a part of your very fabric of being? Wherever you are on this journey, keep moving toward it.
One day, you’ll awaken to the realization that being grateful is who you are, not just what you do.Being grateful is who you are, not just what you do. Click To Tweet
Thank you for reading this article. It’s a bit of my personal journey to becoming grateful at a deeply spiritual level and a testament to our ever-evolving selves. It’s also an ode to my grandmother and how a simple act of watching her live gratefully influenced me.
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