I’ll admit it – I was cranky. After the initial coronavirus changes had sort of settled down we tried again and again to find some rhythms, but they seemed elusive. One morning I was feeling the weight of having to adjust yet again, in hopes of finding a rhythm and was particularly grumpy about the process. I knew my heart attitude didn’t affect just me, but it could easily spread to each person in my home. As I sat there on my couch in the silence, God brought to mind the transforming practices I had learned through the Enneagram training I had participated in with the Spiritual Formation Society of Az.
I pulled out my notes and for me, one of my transforming practices is gratitude. I wasn’t sure how gratitude would really change anything, but I was willing to give it a try. It seemed easy enough, right? I took myself on a short bike ride to the park so I could have some uninterrupted space and began to think about what I could hold in gratitude. And then I realized I had a question. What is the difference between thankfulness and gratitude?
As I sat on the hill in the pine needles, the answer began to reveal itself. When I was thankful, or said “thank you”, I was showing my appreciation for something done or given to me outside of myself. I quickly looked up the word thankful and read that it is defined as “pleased or relieved.” But gratitude was defined as “the feeling or quality of being grateful.” The words so often used interchangeably were definitely nuanced. So what was this gratitude I was looking for? How was it different?
I decided to set a timer for 10 minutes and see what would rise to the surface. One by one thoughts and feelings of deep appreciation began to name themselves. It wasn’t just a “I’m thankful for my family” thought, but it was a “I’m grateful for my family because…” thought. Each gratitude brought forth was coupled with a specifically named deep feeling of appreciation. Each one I held in the sacred space with God for a few moments and then released it. As I left the park that day my heart was renewed and encouraged, my spirit felt lighter and my attitude changed to joy.
Practicing gratitude has become a way of acknowledging the movement of God in many areas of life in a deeper way. Setting aside time for the practice at the beginning has transformed into spontaneous bursts/prayers of gratitude in daily life as I acknowledge the deep affection and kindness shown to me.
What do you hold in gratitude today? How do you practice gratitude? Has the practice of gratitude been transforming to you?
Blog contributor: Sheli Sloterbeek
Sheli is a spiritual director, writer and artist who is passionate about being a peacemaker, and loving and advocating for those on the margins locally and globally. She has a deep love for the “whole” person – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically – to be alive and live fully as the beloved. She is a partner to John, mom of Claire and dog mom to one sassy schnauzer Layla and emotionally needy rescued dog, Duke. She loves being in nature, photography, creating, poetry, traveling and trying new things. You can find her online at: https://ssloterbeek.wixsite.com/theslojourney.