Just this, each day: bear yourself up on small wings to receive what is given. — Marcia Brown (full text is here. bring tissues.*)
If you read this blog, it’s not news that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In addition to my sincere love of autumnal foodstuffs and having a super-long weekend for hiking and hanging with loved ones, I also am a big believer in the power of gratitude.
In recent years, I’ve kept gratitude journals of various kinds, I do my best to write thank you notes for gifts big and small and I say a gratitude prayer before every meal (and this week I joined Mandy Blake’s Embody Gratitude project – want to do it with me? It’s free!). One of my favorite yoga teachers invites me in every class to identify one thing for which I am grateful (she cleverly does this right after the most intense pose of the practice when I’m sometimes hatin’ life) and every time, I’m appreciative to come back into a grateful heart.
A grateful heart is a light and spacious heart no matter what is happening around it. Grateful eyes see a world full of abundance and possibilities even when things are pretty bleak.
And yet for all these practices and despite my abiding love for gratitude, there is one thing I always forget. Over and over, I pour my gratitude out onto others, to the many gifts in my life, to Nature and the Earth. But over and over, I forget to be grateful for myself. I remember to be grateful for my health and my body and all it allows me to do, but for ME? For the I that I am? That, I always forget.
Which is understandable in some ways, since I grew up with an emphasis on humility (which sometimes wanders into the realm of self-deprecation) and besides, nobody likes to be around a braggy pants. But my lack of self-directed gratitude is surprising, even shocking, given that it’s what I teach about and write about all. the. time.
So in this sweet season of remembering to be thankful to the embarrassment of riches that is my life, I commit to adding myself to that list. If you happen to have the same habit for forgetting what a gift you are in the world, I hope you’ll do the same.
Grace finds goodness in everything – U2
Grace. I just love the word: Grace.
I love it in part for its multiple meanings**. On the spiritual front: unmerited divine assistance given humans and a virtue coming from God and a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace. (“State of Sanctification”! I just love that.)
On the secular side: approval, favor, mercy, pardon, reprieve, and the disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.
On the physical plane: a charming or attractive trait or characteristic. And of course, one of my favorites as a movement teacher: ease and suppleness of movement or bearing.
And finally, in this season of gratitude, grace is also a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks. Of course it means that. To give thanks, to ask for blessing is by its very nature an act of ease and suppleness.
I’m often an awkward thing: heavy-walking, tripping and bumping into things; slow on the uptake, at a loss for the right thing to say or do; missing emotional cues or blundering in sensitive situations. But I set an intention for grace and I’ve noticed that the most direct route to grace is gratitude. For suppleness and ease in my interactions, mercy and pardon for myself and others when things get bumpy, nothing gets me to grace more cleanly than gratitude. Grace puts the world and everyone in it in a state of sanctification because even the most awkward and misguided of us are sacred.
At this time of year, gratitude is the headliner as it should be. And gratitude will inevitably take me to grace It is a truth we observe and feel in our bones: when a heart is full of gratitude, it is also a heart full of grace.
* Thanks to Mary Linn for this quote and poem and for teaching me more in the past year about gratitude & grace than I’ve learned in a lifetime.
** all of these definitions come from Merriam Webster