the practice of gratitude


credit: drchristinahibbert

credit: drchristinahibbert

“I want to stay in love when fear drives me to hate and judgement. I want to practice gratitude and cultivate joy in the darkness. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be afraid or sad or vulnerable, it simply means that reacting to tragedy by living in fear doesn’t create empathy, it breeds more fear.” Brene Brown, inspired by Martin Luther King

This practice of gratitude is a daily intention, a prayer for living, hopefully even a way of life. There is much to be grateful for and many ways to find it, from a simple meditation to a five-minute entry in a Gratitude Journal before going to sleep at night. When I first tried this practice, it felt, frankly, a bit awkward and even forced. I found myself penning gratitude for the same things over and over.

While this is great – to appreciate what I have in my life – it quickly became apparent that there was so much more I could reflect upon. And with each reflection, the gratitude went deeper and wider, until it spread to an ongoing perception of abundance in even the smallest of events, moments, observations. When filled with gratitude, it is hard to retreat in fear. Somehow, it becomes easier to carry fear without becoming fear-filled. Might this then be the foundation of empathy?

Try it. Perhaps you will find yourself moved from abundance to empathy, letting fear take a back seat to your day. And then, please share your gratitude moment(s) here.


pair dancing - koffTwo weeks back, I posted two sets of writings from the women inside Vermont’s prison where I hold weekly writing groups. We had responded to a set of five statements from Brene Brown  which circulated following her highly-popular November 12 interview with Krista Tippett. In light of recent events and the coming solstice, it felt right to share my own writing on those themes; writing I did along with the incarcerated women – inside, writing about vulnerability with metal doors clanging, corrections officers interrupting three or four times per hour for head count, women sitting together with others they might not even speak to on the unit; but here we were writing and sharing ouir raw unedited vulnerability.

The five topics are not specifically referenced here. Nonetheless, I believe the resulting lines speak not only to her words, but to many of us for whom the idea of opening ourselves can be frightening, even to point of refusing to do so.

I. When the shell is tight
across the chest, breathing
is labored, forced;

without digging in secret
places within
whence would poetry arise?

If I follow the same path
day after day, I remain
in a rut.

II.  We cannot afford to forget
any experience,
even though painful.

If I live numbed
how would I become better
than my past mistakes?

Absent feeling, there is no pulse;
my soul demands
to feel it all.

III.  How can I demand of you
that which I would not myself do? Continue reading