I have continued my practice of adding one thing each day for which I am proud of myself to my daily gratitude journal. I am amazed not only at what this small practice has done for my confidence and outlook on life, but also at how it has enhanced my overall feeling of gratitude in general.
It did not seem intuitively obvious to me that recognizing myself for things that I have done well should have any impact on my gratitude. In fact, I commented on this last week in a bit of puzzlement and surmised that it stemmed simply from feeling a sense of gratitude to myself for having done something well.
I attended a fall festival today at a local orchard. There was a corn maze, a hayride, games for kids, live music, food and drink available, lots of produce and products made from produce (like apple cider, jams, jellies, butters, and more), and a collection of artists selling their wares.
One of the vendors that I talked to was from Niger, and he produced lovely silver jewelry. He commented that he was a sixth-generation silversmith. It’s hard for me to imagine the amount of time and practice he must have put into his craft as he learned it from his elders. It also made me wonder whether he ever wished he had been born into a different line of work. Or did he grow to love this craft as his skill grew and his creations improved?
My conversation with him reminded me that it’s impossible to create well without investing in the time and practice needed to learn the craft of the kind of thing one wishes to create. There is always a learning curve (some steeper than others). Everyone has to start out as a beginner even when born as a descendent of generations of that craft.
As I continue making my gratitude lists each night, it’s a delight to see how often the “little” things in life are the things that spring to mind to be grateful for: the joy of watching new grass sprout where I’ve seeded, the extravagant colors of the fall leaves, the delight of a good cup of tea, a delicious meal, kind words from a co-worker, a snuggly cat, the satisfaction of having completed a dreaded task.
It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I need big things (like a winning lottery ticket) to make me happy when I’m actually surrounded every day by more than enough to wrap my world in joy, if I just take the time to notice. There are indeed so many things to be grateful for even in the toughest of days, and it is good to remind myself of this.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because the world needs people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman
I shared recently about the struggles I’ve been having trying to determine what I’m meant to do with my life and what it is that I have to offer. I received such an outpouring of support and encouragement in response to this, both here on the blog and privately, that it really amazed me. Thank you to all of you who reached out!
I’ve often heard it said that people tend to take their best gifts for granted because those things come so naturally to them. I know this is true in my experience. People have often commented on how organized I am (particularly in a work setting—less so in my personal life), but I tend not to think of that as a strength of mine because it’s not something I work at. It’s just how my brain works.
It’s now been six weeks that I have been completely my gratitude practice on a daily basis. I continue to notice how I am grateful for the little things more often during the course of my day and not just during my gratitude journaling time at night.
I am also noticing how often the idea of gratitude comes to mind during the day. I find myself thinking in terms what I can be grateful for and how I can remind myself of gratitude on a regular basis throughout the day. But I’m also noticing a downside to this.
As many of us probably did, I grew up being taught that pride is sinful. In fact, I was even taught that having any positive self-esteem at all was sinful, but I suspect that’s a bit more extreme that what most people were raised with.
Still, for many of us (particularly those of us who are female), showing any kind of pride in ourselves feels uncomfortable. There’s always the worry that we will seem arrogant or boastful. At least that’s my experience.
It’s book review time again! Tonight I want to write about Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. This book has been on my “to be read” list for several years now, but I just got around to reading it a few weeks ago. It’s one of those books that I borrowed from the library but liked it so much that I turned around and bought a copy of my own.
This book is the story of a neuroanatomy researcher who has a stroke at the age of 37. It describes her experience as she was having the stroke, the story of her recovery and the challenges that entailed, and how her life is different now because of all that she learned during this process. I learned so much on so many levels during the reading of this book.
Part of any process of transformation is letting go of pieces of who we have been in order to make room to grow into who we are becoming. They challenge so often is that it is necessary to let go of who we were before we have clarity about who it is we are becoming. At least, that is the way it works for me.
It is easy to say that I want to become more authentically me, but it often feels like “me” is more of a committee than a single identity. My strengths and my weaknesses, my light and my shadow, all my dreams and interests and patterns and wounds and talents all mixed up together competing for the ability to direct my life. As I let go of the pieces of me that are no longer serving me, I find myself making choices among all of these competing voices to determine who it is that I will become.
I’ve had mirrors on my mind all day after yesterday’s post where I mentioned Rabbi Sasso’s suggestion that God is like a mirror. I’ve never cared for what I see in a physical mirror. I also seldom like what I see in the mirror of the people around me, but that is often because I only consider them to be a mirror in those moments when they are annoying me because I know that my negative reactions to other people are really just reactions to the shadow parts of myself that I don’t like. As I ponder the idea of God as a mirror, I catch myself doing the same things. The first things that come to mind are the ways that I have viewed God negatively (i.e. as an angry judge) and the thought that this must be a mirror of what I’m like, not what God is like.
For the first time, though, my pondering of this today made me realize that in each mirror—a physical one, the mirror of other people (or situations or events), and the mirror of God—I only see the negative aspects of the reflections. I never see someone I deeply admire and wonder whether I admire that person’s characteristics or accomplishments because I have the same traits in my shadow that I am not using. I did ponder God as a mirror and credit that reflection with showing me the places where I act with love or generosity or healing. This inability to see my good points is part of what leaves me for hungry for outside validation in the hopes that others (including God) can see something that I can’t see in my reflection.
As I considered my thoughts for yesterday’s post on God as silence, I was drawn to revisit a book by Gary Thomas that I read years ago. It’s called Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God (the link is to a more recent edition than the one I read and own, but the content appears to be substantially the same from what I can tell).
In this book, Gary presents nine distinct spiritual temperaments that he claims have different ways of best relating to God. No one-size-fits-all approach to worship or discipleship will work for everyone. Given that God designed each of us differently, he suggests that discovering our temperament (or blend of temperaments) will enable us to best form a relationship with God in the ways that we were created to be.
This sounds like a relatively straightforward concept, but I still remember how revolutionary the idea was for me when I first encountered this book. I had struggled all of my life to fit into a model that did not suit me, and suddenly I was given permission to relate to God in the ways that best suit me!