For many years I wore a string of prayer beads on my left wrist, to act as a reminder of the important and powerful practice of gratitude. There were 27 beads and each morning upon awakening, I would touch a bead and be grateful for something -- my kids, my health, the antics of our small zoo of animals. Most mornings the first dozen things would come easily, but often the last ten were more of a stretch -- chocolate, cappuccino, my silk dressing robe. It always, always felt good to start my day reflecting upon abundance. It was nice to consider what was really good about life as one of my first thoughts each day, rather than seizing lists and worries, before my eyes were fully opened.
Day after day, I touched those beads and thought of things that I was grateful for. And after saying 27 things every morning it wasn’t as difficult to think of things. It was going well. Then something interesting happened. Those beads began to change me. Ok, so maybe not the beads, but the thoughts. It’s pretty hard to say the word 'cappuccino', without thinking of the intoxicating morning aroma, that perfect frothy concoction... yummy. It’s even harder to say my puppy Blue, without conjuring up that soft golden retriever muzzle, and those goofy puppy paws. After awhile I began to not only think the words but feel the words. Each thought became more vivid and sensory. I began to see, and smell and hear the very thing I was grateful for. It felt good to visit these people and things.
Later, several years later, the practice changed again. It became an extraordinary and magical thing. After awhile the list of things began to no longer be a list. There was no longer a real consciousness around thinking” of things, what I was grateful for would just wash over me, words were hardly needed. My list became more of a communion. A communion with spirit. My heart literally began to soften and expand. I could feel it in my body. My chest started to open up, I felt light caressing me like the most delicious blanket. I would sit up in my bed, and feel tears of joy and gratefulness pour down my face. I was feeling my way into a dialogue with spirit. Gratefulness literally filled me up each morning. After a few minutes in the morning, I would start my day of meetings, making breakfast for the kids, answering calls and driving to appointments. But I was noticing in a way I had not before. I would catch myself breathing the sea air deeply, stopping in the middle of breakfast and saying “this is so good!” noticing the little kindnesses people did for each other. I was so grateful for these things.
Several years ago, the string on my bracelet broke open scattering the 27 beads at my feet. As I scrambled around trying to gather each and every bead, I suddenly stopped and smiled. I didn’t need those beads anymore. Gratitude has been a gateway, and a powerful one at that, to accessing spirit and connecting to my heart. It started off as a bracelet and a simple challenge to touch 27 beads. It became the most transforming practice of my life.
I invite you to start your own practice of gratitude. Commit to it. Set aside a time each day to reflect on the things you're most grateful for. I promise you that this will be one of the most fulfiling habits you'll ever start.