By Sara Rauch
“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.”
~ Gertrude Stein
Every morning, I wake up in my comfortable bed, often with a cat or two purring by my side. I rise and go downstairs where there is a pot of fresh coffee waiting (the perks of living with a teacher: no matter how early I wake, she is often awake before me). Pour a cup, kiss good morning, pet any cats lingering in the kitchen and go back upstairs.
Every morning, I take out an old Lisa Frank notebook, open it up to a blank page and write out my gratitudes. I make myself write five—though often I write more.
Sometimes, though, five is tough.
Not because I don’t have a zillion things to be grateful for (my hands, my courage, my health, my cats, my family, my partner, my home, my sanity), but because in the face of life, holding a space for all that matters can be the hardest thing in the world.
Those days when finding five things to be grateful for is tough are the days I need this practice most.
Several years ago, I discovered simple living and through that, what I’ve come to see as my true practice in this world: finding and appreciating beauty, everywhere I may look.
But it wasn’t until a few months ago, feeling a little rough around the edges, and despising myself for it—I mean, what woman as lucky as me, with the time and space to stay home and write full-time, dislikes herself so much?—that I re-discovered the practice of gratitude in a hand-me-down magazine from my mother.
I began with five gratitudes a day, because it seemed manageable, and I began writing them down between coffee and journaling; in this way, it becomes a routine, a practice, one that I cannot skip, any more than I can skip a cup of coffee.
In just a few short months of practicing gratitude, my life has regained equilibrium: I’ve gone from worry that I was wasting my time and money to a steady confidence that I am on the right path.
It would be a lie to say that I never have a bad day, or a negative day, any more. I do. But when I feel the negative urge rise, I return to that bright-colored notebook and flip through a few pages: cat faces, kale salad, $1 bills, long weekend afternoon naps, Amy Ray playing the mandolin, candlepin bowling, Sasha’s skin, hip openers, red pens, storm doors, pomegranates from California.
It’s hard to look away when the abundance of life looms large across a page.
Practice is one of my favorite words these days: I have a yoga practice and a writing practice, I practice seeing beauty everywhere, I practice mindful eating, I practice patience and I practice awareness.
What I love so much about practice is that it does not require perfection.
Just because I practice, does not mean I am very good—though it usually means I am getting better. I tend to think of practice as a synonym for living.
Practicing gratitude means taking a good look at the world around you—even if it is messy, even if it is busy, even if things are falling apart (and they do, because falling apart is a fact of life)—and saying thank you.
Writing down your words of gratitude makes them real, breathes spirit into them.
As a writer, I know the power of words. I’ve spent almost all of my adult years cultivating a life surrounded by them.
No matter how tiny a step it may seem (no step is too tiny), no matter how trivial the things that go onto your list, practicing gratitude will change you for the better.
Establishing a practice of gratitude is possibly the most profound step you can take in transforming your life. All it requires is a piece of paper and a pen and a few minutes a day.
There simply is no act more powerful than this—sitting down, with a steaming cup of coffee, in the early morning light, and being grateful, giving thanks, for all that you have.
And there is always, always more.
Sara Rauch loves coffee, kale, big cities, and quiet time.
She is a writer and an appreciator of all things small.
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