My spouse’s blue eyes filled with kindness as he says “goodbye” to me no matter the kind of morning we’ve all had.
My daughter’s kind words as she looks over my shoulder at the work I am doing.
My son pats on my back at the end of a hug between us before he catches his ride to school.
The way my mom smiles at me excitedly and lovingly every single time I see her.
My dad texting me that he read my latest blog post and thinks I’m an amazing writer.
A neighbor in our new town brings over homemade cookies – just when I’m feeling, “I wonder if we’ll really get to know people here.”
The seamstress at the tailor vulnerably sharing with me that she just lost her mother-in-law while my daughter and I listen.
Listening to a client and getting a deep intuitive sense of the deeper calling/longing/invitation, sharing this with the client, and guiding the client into an experience of her own nervous system knowing how to heal an old wound and pattern.
Looking out the windows in the back of our house each night at the sun setting over the mountains.
The way our dog is truly a “therapy dog” as he gently lays his head in a person’s lap.
Warm sheets, warm slippers that my sister-in-law gave to me, hot water for a shower at the turn of a knob.
These are the precious gems I notice when I pause and incline my mind toward gratitude. They open me, make me tender, and connect me to my own heart, nature, the world around me, my dear ones, and people who I see in a day. Though it comes more naturally for me these days because I’ve been intentional about gratitude, it is still not easy ALL THE TIME. I get frustrated. I have my own triggers. But then some Grace calls my attention, “Look here. See this. Linger here. Notice this.” And I pause. A lot.
Though I am pretty good at noticing the good, something happened this past spring that called me to a deeper practice of gratitude: my mom had a heart attack.
I got a call that makes you go numb for a moment and then you jump into action. I found myself driving down 270 at 4 a.m. wondering if the clothes I was wearing would be the ones in which I would say goodbye to my mom. Watching while they wheeled my mom into the operating room, standing there holding my dad’s hand – something changed in me.
I realized that while I can “notice the good” and be grateful, I didn’t SHARE my gratitude so easily. With strangers and people I’m not too close to – no problem. But those closest to me?! I’d back away from sharing my gratitude. Why? Honestly, because it made me feel vulnerable and tender. I felt like my tears would be too messy. Me losing it would be too imperfect.
This is called the “gratitude gap.” And it turns out, I’m not alone. Based on a 2012 gratitude survey of over 2000 Americans, authors Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas and Jeremy Adam Smith write:
“The results so far show that gratitude is very important to Americans, and that they actively feel grateful for what they have. But how often, and in what circumstances, do people actually say thanks? The results reveal more evidence for a phenomenon sometimes called the gratitude gap—given how often they feel it, and how important they think it is, Americans do not express gratitude very often.”
My “word for the year” for 2018 is RISK. I don’t need to take risks like sky diving or snorkeling with sharks. The kind of “risk” that my Soul has called me to this year is to RISK VULNERABILITY. And so that’s what I have been risking. Risking vulnerability and SHARING my gratitude.
In my new Gratitude Meditation Bundle, I share two 20-minute guided meditations on gratitude and my Guide to Gratitude.
The first meditation is the meditation that I had practiced for years — recalling the day, imagining going through the day and mindfully noticing the good and cultivating gratitude. First we have to touch into the goodness that is RIGHT HERE in the very ordinariness of our lives. It’s like priming the pump. This is the meditation that I have led hundreds of people through, whether that’s one-on-one in psychotherapy and coaching, or with a group of colleagues in the consulting work I do. EVERY single time I do this meditation – alone, with one person, or with a group — I can literally feel my heart shining brighter. I can feel the energy of my heart expanding. And I can sense it in the other people I am with, too.
The second meditation is the next meditation that I practiced. It guides you through the experience of what it’s like to bring to mind someone you are grateful for, sensing into the appreciation you have for them, and then imagining what arises from this. This meditation can make the walls between us crumble as we touch into what really matters.
This past summer, I found myself doing these meditations more often in my own quiet time. And then I felt the prompting to RISK SHARING my gratitude. I believe I had the inner strength to start doing so because of two things: 1. my quiet meditation time, 2. being supported by my own SE practitioner (I believe everyone who works in a helping profession needs to see their OWN practitioner!). I started to RISK SHARING my gratitude – in small ways at first. They seem like little risks to me now. But I was building up to some bigger risks that I knew needed to come. i was “closing that gratitude gap.”
Then I started to risk sharing my gratitude with the people closest to me. In Lisa’s Guide to Gratitude, you’ll find a gentle invitation to write a gratitude letter to someone you love. You can do this with your children, too. I started to write letters to people I love, telling them what I appreciate about them. And I am still going. I am still being called to write some “big ones.” But I am so very clear how gratitude is shaping me, molding me, and making me both tender and incredibly fierce and focused — fierce about compassion, and focused on what is most sacred to me. THAT is the way I want to live.
Dear Ones, Our lives are often full and busy. There are lots of pulls on our attention. This can leave us feeling a bit stressed out most of the time. There is so much division in our world right now and we often find ourselves going from “fight or flight” into “freeze” (overwhelm). There’s an epidemic of loneliness, rising rates of anxiety and depression in our children, and awful things happen every day. It’s enough to turn us apathetic, overwhelm us, or make us “check out” and sensitive to everything around us.
When we take a moment to pause – when we intentionally cultivate gratitude — we are intentionally noticing the good in our lives, ourselves, and our dear ones. It nourishes our nervous systems. It helps to give us a fresh perspective on life. It helps us to see our dear ones with eyes of compassion. It softens our judgment. It helps us to refocus on what really matters. It moves us out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest” — and even “soften and savor.” Gratitude restores our humanity.
The research is clear – gratitude can give life meaning, improve our mental and physical health, and improve our relationships and communities. It can reduce our anxiety and depression, lift our mood, and bring us closer to one another.
When we bring our attention to the goodness in our lives, we are bringing alive the ordinary. We are seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. And that reconnects us to our own hearts, what matters, our dear ones, and something even bigger than our own selves. Then we can more easily BE THE GOOD in the world. That’s closing the gratitude gap.
This holiday season, I am taking the time to write gratitude letters. I am taking the time to practice these to meditations that I am sharing with you. It’s a gift I am giving my heart, body, and mind. And a gift I am giving to those I love — hoping that this gesture of risking to share my gratitude is a gift that will make a difference in their lives.
You can find my NEW Gratitude Meditation Bundle in my shop. Prime the pump, flex that gratitude muscle, and incline the mind toward gratitude. But, DON’T STOP THERE. Learn to RISK sharing your gratitude. These two beautiful meditations will help you prime that gratitude pump in a skillful way. Then my Guide to Gratitude will support you in taking the next step to sharing your gratitude in unique and healing ways.