For 42 days, I went on a journey into gratitude.
I want to share stories of how I can be grateful for it all. I want to share my daily struggles and how I approach them as valuable spiritual assignments that help me learn more about myself than the wholly peaceful encounters. I find it easy to be grateful for the obvious. But can I challenge myself to feel deeply grateful for those experiences that bring me to my knees? Can I be grateful for traffic? Can I be grateful for that rude retail employee? Can I be grateful for the messy and the grey?
I went deeper into the feeling of gratitude than ever before. I challenged myself to live in it every day. I brought it back to my awareness every time I started to feel anxious, frustrated, or impatient.
We also started a bedtime routine with the kids. My friends Angela and Peter have this amazing bedtime ritual with their kids. They list why they are grateful to God. Last winter, I had the opportunity to put her boys to bed. They reminded me of their gratitude practice and we each had a turn. It was lovely. I had forgotten about it until I started this project 42 days ago.
It was so beautiful that we decided to start this ritual with the kids. Each night, they told me why they were grateful to God. I learned a lot about what was important to them and what brought them joy. Most times there was overlap. But sometimes, I was astounded by their clear understanding of what gratitude truly means.
Last night, we did our bedtime ritual. I went to #4 and #5’s room first. Their beds lie in an L shape so that their heads are together and they can chat.
I asked #5 why he was grateful to God. As I expected, they were all related to his birthday celebrations: a special birthday cake made by a best friend, baseball fun with friends, and a special dinner at a favourite restaurant with family.
I asked #4 why she was grateful to God:
She said, “I am grateful that you made my brother.” As she spoke, she began to tear up which made me tear up. You see, #4 and #5 used to fight a lot. They would drive each other crazy. But ever since we changed sleeping arrangements and move #3 to the bigger room with the big girls, #4 and #5 have been best buds.
#5 lifted his head up and said, “Really?” She nodded. And he smiled the biggest grin and was ready to be tucked in.
With this gratitude ritual, I have found that the older sisters appreciate a lot of our efforts as parents. Frequently, they list the things that we think they don’t notice. I try to encourage them to be grateful for the challenges too. When we talk about things that may not have gone their way, I point out how things could have been worse or the good that came out of it. Sometimes I tell them that it happened because it was supposed to happen and we still don’t really know if it’s good or bad.
Gratitude is not just acceptance for what is, it is a feeling of contentment. It is a shift in perspective from lack and disconnection to abundance and wholeness. To see perfection in each moment is where I found the seat of gratitude. If I could surrender to the moment, and open my heart to the unknown, there was no need to search for things to be grateful for – I was already there.
Today I finished reading The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection by Michael A. Singer. The story explained what I couldn’t. I have watched in awe at how my life has unfolded. Everything I thought was a handicap or a challenge turned out to be the greatest spiritual lessons of my life. This past year has involved some pretty amazing shifts in my life that all began with an intention to have faith which led to a path into the unknown which I now know is the path of surrender.
For me, surrender has meant giving up. I was a fighter and so the thought of surrender had always been unsettling. Surrender meant defeat and submission. Until this year, I didn’t realize that surrender could also mean freedom. In giving up control and trusting to be guided by something greater than me, I have given myself permission to really live without fear.
My husband is beginning a new project that is both scary and exciting. He is passionate about this project but was anxious about putting it out there. He is following his heart and intuition and is going for it. All signs have pointed that this is the right time for him to launch it now. He has surrendered his fears and is taking a leap. I fully support him and am so proud of how he aligns his work with what he believes in.
We have decided to try out this “Surrender Experiment” that Singer talks about in his book. It will be an adventure for us as a couple and as a family. For a month, we are going to surrender. I’m not sure what this will look like in terms of documenting this project but of course, I am surrendering to the process.
Can we completely surrender to the moment? As opportunities and situations arise that challenge us, can we stop resisting and stop letting our personal preferences get in the way and roll with whatever comes? Can we let it go and be simply be excited at the unexpected?