Six years ago I started a gratitude practice. I flipped open a page in a journal and for several days I wrote what I was grateful for. It was in the days after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I recently signed up for postpartum doula training, I was getting extensive physiotherapy for a herniated disc in my lumbar spine, I had a baby and a toddler and was healing from postpartum depression, and I was completely overwhelmed.
During this intense time, there was a part of me that just knew; that part made itself loud and clear: focus on gratitude. And do this now because it is important. Do this now because it is healing. Do this now because you will need it. However, despite the best of intentions, after a couple of weeks I stopped.
I didn’t get it then and as life does, it gave me another opportunity to learn. In the two years following my mother’s diagnosis, she passed away, my daughter was hospitalized in a foreign country with an unknown illness, my marriage fell apart, I experienced anxiety like never before, and I endured a completely sleepless summer.
It was that summer when I began exploring meditation, I happened to stumble upon Tree Meditation by The Algonquin Medicine Man. In this meditation he talks about gratitude. The simple yet powerful statement “Gratitude is the greatest gift that we can give back to the Universe. It’s basically saying thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for watching out for me” set me back on course.
Feeling heavy with grief and trauma, I made the commitment to listen to Tree Meditation everyday. And once again I picked up my pen and began writing what I was grateful for. As the days, weeks, and months passed I knew the commitment to this practice was life-long. What I did not know then was how impactful it would be.
As I listened to the Algonquin Medicine Man share in his matter of fact yet very convincing tone “If you can practice gratefulness and gratitude in your everyday life, everything that you do will be greatly amplified and returned to you at least three times that amount.” I would think to myself “Oh yeah, bring it. I’d like to see that happen in my life” as if egging on the Universe. And despite the heaviness I felt, an anticipatory smile would spread through me.
In the years that followed, I learned not only do things come back to you in unimaginable ways, but that gratitude is healing. It wraps you in appreciation and comfort. It lets you know that things are good and right in the world, whatever you are enduring. It allows you to truly see beauty, fully experience joy, and most importantly, choose what you want to express and put out in the world and what you want to bring into your life.
I admit there are times it is hard, there are days I miss doing the practice, and days I simply have to dig deep to find it. And there are the days I simply do not feel it, as has been the case in these past difficult weeks. While supporting my cousin as he watched his young son slip away, my heart aching with sadness, I had neither the desire nor the feeling.
But yesterday, I woke up and that part made itself loud and clear again: wrap yourself in gratitude once more. Do this now. So I took a moment in the morning and set the intention. As the day progressed I allowed myself to reconnect with the feeling of gratitude. And the many things I was grateful for flooded in. I was even grateful for my gratefulness and for having a gratitude practice.
Not so coincidentally then, in the evening, I received this message: “I am so grateful for your relationship with your cousin and I know his wife is too. Much Love.” It was from the longtime friend of my cousin’s wife, a woman I had just met while we spent time together at the children’s hospice. In that moment, the gratitude I was putting out was circulating and coming back to me in a way I least expected it. And it touched my heart deeply. It is truly one of the greatest gifts I have received since I began this practice.
It has been three years since I fully stepped into gratitude. In that short time, I have learned much. I have learned sometimes you may only find one thing to be grateful for and it may be as simple as having a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it feels like you are going through the motions, and sometimes you are. And that is ok. Stick with the practice even when you have a hard time connecting with the feeling. Trust the feeling will come, and it will, perhaps when you least expect it.
Share it with others, it can be infectious. Tell them what it is you are grateful for about them. It will open both of your hearts. Gratitude is not only a medicine that heals, it is a remedy that uplifts the Spirit. Gratitude is a feeling, an expression, and a consciousness. We can create it, feel it, and share it. By doing so, just as the Algonquin Medicine Man states, everything in your life will be greatly amplified with meaning, awareness, and a deep appreciation for what you do have.
And when you wake up one morning and forget to put it on, that’s ok. After time and with practice, it becomes like an invisible cloak that permeates your life. And it will find you, no matter how long it hangs on the rack.
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” ~Rumi