I’ve been teaching for 15 years and for 15 years I’ve asked my students to focus on gratitude during their yoga practice in November. November, because it seems natural in the same way that we work on heart openers and compassion in February. Back then budding yogis met it with enthusiasm and expectation.
Today, with all the blogs and websites asking us to be grateful, people meet the idea of gratitude month and gratitude in general with rolled eyes and knowing smiles. It’s just more of the touchy-feely-hippy-dippy thinking, is what I hear them think. Whether that’s true or not, gratitude has made a difference, for the better, in my life.
I make gratitude my practice year round. I try every day, but sometimes days go by and I see the word or read a post about gratitude and realize I’ve been a slacker.
Gratitude is the perfect way to be present with all the little things in my life. In November I’m extra-attentive. This is the month that I might not only notice that my kids did something when asked or something extra nice for me and be grateful, but also I’ll tell them how much I appreciate them and their efforts. I would love to say I do this on a daily basis, and I do try, but November is the month that I’m extra-attentive. It’s when I take a moment to acknowledge the people who mean a lot to me every single time that feeling comes up.
This is also the month that I’m likely to visit my very favorite places, just because. I include parks, restaurants, museums to my outings.I revel in how lucky I am to live in a place with a great exhibit and now that I live 30 seconds from the ocean, I find myself thanking the universe every time I leave my house and walk past Salem Harbor.
My favorite thing ever is spending time near water. Especially in the fall. As some of you know, I grew up in Chicago and spent the summers at our house in Michigan, on the lake. I’m a water baby. I don’t really care what season it is. I think I like being on a shore more in the fall and winter than in the summer. Fall is my FAVORITE season, so long walks along the beach are perfect…not too hot, not too cool yet. It’s the time when I’m quiet and I focus on how lucky I am to live on the ocean and how much water calms and centers me.
Think what you want about gratitude. Maybe you don’t believe all the studies that tell us how good it is for us. Maybe you don’t think it makes your life better. Maybe it’s just a once a year, go-around-the-table on turkey day kinda thing. That’s okay. You don’t have to agree with me and you don’t have to believe.
For me, it offers an opportunity to be real about what is in my life. There are so many days of the year when I’ve got angst or feelings of overwhelm and focusing on what’s good helps me realize my life isn’t as terrible as I sometimes believe.
It may not be as life-changing as so many articles/blogposts/tweets would like you to believe, but you can’t deny that it’s better than our angst/overwhelm/pessimism. It is, undeniably, a good thing.
If you haven’t spent time focusing on gratitude before in your life, I highly recommend it. Tell me how it goes.