Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Counting My Blessings

I wouldn't consider myself a negative person. In fact, I tend to be the optimist in the room. I generally try to see the bright side of a situation, almost always give a person the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't mean I don't have negative days or get discouraged when disappointing things happen around me. And while I'm pretty easy on other people, I am almost always VERY hard on myself.

Today's Gratitude Challenge exercise is to count my blessings, to take five minutes and focus on all the wonderful things in my life. I'm doing this stream-of-consciousness style because I believe that one tiny mustard seed of gratitude can build a mountain of thankfulness.

I'm grateful for a mother who has been wonderful to me all my life, for a family who supports me, for friends who surround me with love even from hundreds of miles away.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to travel near and far, to see people and places I'd never seen before and experience cultures that were new to me.

I am grateful for my education, both in the classroom and in the world.

I am grateful for the ability and opportunity to read until my heart is content and to learn from the words and stories of others.

I am grateful for my desire to tell my own stories, for my love of words and the ability to weave them into sentences, paragraphs and pages that will eventually (hopefully) convey meaning to others.

I am grateful for a community of writers, both in person and online, that inspires me, encourages me and teaches me every day.

I am grateful for a job that allows me to both pay my bills and do what I love.

I am grateful for opportunities to expand my abilities and skills and to use those abilities and skills to help myself and others grow.

I am grateful for my home and the things in it.

I am grateful for the compassion I feel toward others and my desire and ability to act on it in the best ways I can.

I am grateful for my spiritual development and the life I have.

I am grateful for every breath I have taken and every moment I have lived.

I am grateful for the nature and beauty I am surrounded by.

I am grateful for trees and sun and warmth and cool breezes and freshly cut grass and fallen leaves and the first snowflakes of the season--not only for the experiences of them, but for the memories of them.

I am grateful for life.

What are you grateful for today? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad Isn't Always Bad

As part of The Gratitude Challenge, today I'm supposed to write a thank-you note for some of the "negative" things in my life. It's not easy to look at the things I consider bad or disappointing or negative and say, "Hey thanks, Universe, I'm really grateful for that crap you've been sending me lately." The more I think about it, though, the more I know there is a positive spin to all that stuff I've been resisting. It may not be obvious and it may not take away all the troubles of the negatives, but it certainly makes them more bearable.

Dear Universe,

Thanks for all the family drama. There's certainly been a lot of it. Of most recent note was that family spat last week that had my stomach tied up in knots. The conflict wasn't exactly a blessing, but in the midst of it I realized how grateful I am to still have a father, to be able to talk to him every week and tell him I love him. I recognized that despite the strain among members of my family and the problems that broken homes can cause, I have love and support almost everywhere I turn. It may not come from the people I expect, and it may not be the result of blood ties, but it is there and it buoys me every day.

Thanks, too, for helping me step out of my comfort zone and walk the spiritual path that is right for me. Having been part of a particular group and then losing that integral connection in my life, I've been carrying around hurt and anger for quite some time. But in a conversation with a friend over the weekend, I also realized that I'm grateful for those broken ties and rejections of the past, as well as for the connections that remain despite what I like to call "the break-up". I'm healing and I'm finding that I'm stronger and more courageous for having lost that community. I wish it hadn't been that way...I wish I hadn't had to let go of that part of my life. But in the end, I was able to hold onto those things that I strongly believe in and let the conflict and doubt dissipate. It's not easy to turn away from something that has been ingrained into my being for so long, but having to defend my position and stand firm in my beliefs has strengthened them (and me) in a way that I never could have imagined possible.

Thanks, Universe, for showing me the way and helping me to see things from new vantage points. Sometimes life is hard, sometimes things suck, but in the end I will find meaning and purpose in all of it--even if it's only a tiny glimmer of hope.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gratitude ABCs

Today's gratitude assignment, compliments of The Gratitude Challenge, is to make a list of things I'm grateful for using the letters of the alphabet as my prompt.

I am grateful for:

A - Autumn and the apples that come with it, straight from the tree
B - Books of all kinds, ones that make me think, inspire me, or just plain entertain
C - Chocolate of course...the dark creamy kind that melts slowly in your mouth
D - Dreams and the chance to chase them
E - Exciting opportunities and open doors for new experiences
F - Friends that support and love me no matter what idiotic things I do or say
G - Giggles and uncontrollable laughter
H - Hugs at the exact moment when I need them; health and happiness
I - Ice cream on a hot summer day; individuality; independence
J - Just enough of everything I need
K - Kisses that make me weak in the knees
L - Love in all its shapes and forms
M - My Mom, whose love and strength I can only hope to emulate
N - Nature and the chance to spend time enjoying it
O - Organic farmers and the food they produce
P - Pretty things
Q - Quiet time
R - Respect (given and received)
S - Sister that put up with my big-sister-stuff for all those years and still trusts me
T - Travel to places I've never been before, as well as to places I know and love
U - Unexpected blessings
V - Vitamins and vegetables
W - Words and the opportunity to use them, shape them and make them my own
X - X-tended vacations
Y - Yeses
Z - Zest for life

This wasn't easy--especially X, Y and Z. But it was fun and really forced me to consider all the big and little things that I'm grateful for. What are your ABCs of gratitude?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Living a Life of Gratitude

I've decided to start a little project. Learning to practice gratitude has become an important goal for my life and I want to nourish the development of that practice. I have had a hard time in the past doing things like journaling about gratitude regularly, though. So when I recently came across The Gratitude Challenge, sponsored by Tiny Prints, I felt it was a prompt from the Universe to help me practice gratitude more consistently.

As you see, I downloaded the pledge and signed it and I'm ready to give consistent, purposeful gratitude a chance. I believe that cultivating an attitude of gratitude in my life is important for my own well-being, as well as the well-being of those I encounter. I trust that expressing gratitude in all situations, for all things--good and bad, easy and difficult, desired and unexpected--will help me grow and develop, allowing me to live my best, most purposeful life. It may sound hokey, but I honestly feel that gratitude can change the world.

For the next 21 days, I will consciously choose to recognize the things in my life for which I can be grateful--especially when it seems difficult to locate those tiny glimmers of gold hiding among the pebbles. Today, I am grateful for this challenge to change my perspective and make a shift toward a life filled with gratitude.

How do you practice gratitude? If you're not already practicing gratitude in your daily life, are you willing to join me in this journey? I'll be sharing my gratitude experience with you. If you decide to take the challenge, too, I hope you'll come back and let me know how it's going. And if you blog about your gratitude journey, feel free to leave me a link to your blog or posts so that we can all visit and cheer each other on.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday Scribbling: Hungry

It's been quite some time since I've written a Sunday Scribblings post, but the prompts over the last few weeks have been tickling my muse. I've finally got a few minutes and thought I'd dig in and see what she produces when I let her loose.

Prompt #181: Hungry

It starts as a general sense of emptiness. I notice it because it feels like nothing, as if I am only recognizing what was there now that it is gone. I continue on with my task, making my bed and putting away clothes, straightening up my room.

After several minutes, the grumbling begins, occasional and quiet at first, so that only I can hear it. Inside the churning is slight and bearable. As I shake out sheets and tuck in corners, I consider food, what to eat, what my body would like today, now, for this meal.

My stomach persists in its demands and then other body parts join in. We are hungry, my head tells me, aching a bit as I bend over to pick up a pair of shoes. We need to eat, my mouth says, salivating so much I have to swallow before hanging up my shirt. Feed us, my stomach screams, gurgling so loudly my cat lifts her head from the bed and meows.

OK, I relent. I am hungry. My body has spoken. I must feed it now, bless it with nourishment, treat it with respect.

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