Radical Gratitude


Thinking about gratitude, I asked myself: am I really being grateful for all my blessings? Perhaps not. That prompted me to do an appreciation re-boot. What if I said thank you for everything for one entire day? I wondered if I would feel any different. How would expressing gratitude influence my experiences? I would strive not to judge the experiences, or myself, just say thank you for them.

I don’t want to suggest anything I haven’t at least tried or thoroughly investigated, so recently I tried this. I distributed reminder notes onto the highly visual traffic spots around my house—and I wrote Thank You on the back of my hand with a lime green felt-tip pen. A few people did look askew at me, but sacrifices must be made in the name of research. 

I began by saying thank you to the Universe for a good night’s sleep, and continued on when I opened the shade and saw my newspaper bagged in plastic, safe and dry after an early morning shower. I was grateful for the gourmet coffee I am fortunate enough to have every morning, delighted that the pants I wanted to wear that day were clean, and even more grateful that they actually fit. A lot of “thank yous,” and it wasn’t even nine o’clock.

The rest of the day turned out to be a challenge, George, my dog, made a mess all over the freshly shampooed living room rug, and rain poured down from the moment I left the house. During the ten thousand errands I had to get done, I stayed damp and my hair looked like a bowl of spaghetti. I burned our dinner by not keeping a closer eye on the grill, and because of the rain, I had pulled the lighted grill under the porch which set off the smoke alarm. All true, all happening in one day and I am only recounting the high points.

Even then, I kept saying thank you for every muddy paw print on the kitchen floor because it meant that I was fortunate enough to have a dog and a house which he could make dirty.  I expressed my gratitude to the young girl at the dry cleaners who could not find the dress I planned to wear the next day, because she did her best to look for it. Besides, I realized that having clothing to take to the dry cleaner and money to pay for the service was more than many people could ever hope to enjoy. 

I offered effusive gratitude to the kind young man who helped me during an hour’s phone call to fix a computer problem that I could not clearly describe, nor follow his directions even after he had repeated them twice. I realized it was a great privilege to have a computer and the resources to pay a techie to spend an hour on the phone with me.

Each time I normally would have blurted out one of my favorite four-letter words, I chose to say thank you. When I slipped into the bathtub before bed, I again said thank you for the luxury of warm water, a private bath, and the time to indulge in a long soak in the tub. From this place of comfort and safety I continued to be grateful that I had actually made it to 10pm without even one piece of chocolate and I thought about the day. 

Instead of feeling like road kill, although I cannot honestly say I did not look like road kill, I felt calm and remarkably serene. Unlike how I usually felt by this time each night—lying in the warm water and actively planning how to chuck my life here and move to a tree house on a beach in Hawaii. I was grateful for this unusual state of peacefulness as well. I slid into bed and said one last thank you for my cool sheets and fluffy pillow.

Think of this practice of radical gratitude as an expanded Gratitude Meditation. See everything, I mean everything, as a gift. Say thank you from the second you open your eyes and are blessed with another day here on earth. Carry that thanks to the person who helped you at the teller window in the bank, through the repeated interactions with your least favorite co-worker, and finally to the warm meal and comfortable bed your hard work provides. 

Saying thank you for everything sounds daunting, but give it a try for a day, or even a few days. You might even want to take an extra page in your notebook or journal to list some, or all, of the things you were grateful for today. 

Finally, notice how you feel as you close your eyes to sleep, and no less importantly, how you feel tomorrow, and the next day.

Until next time….Be Vibrant!

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