Being grateful

When I read this

the first time I dove into You Can Heal Your Life, I was like, "Yeah right." Louise was writing about her simple morning gratitude practice. She said it had a great impact on her day.

I was skeptical. It seemed too easy.

Then I tried it on a morning walk. Usually my mind revolved around:

  • the to-do list
  • the fearful what ifs
  • the what I don’t haves

I made myself stop. I made myself focus on what I was grateful for.

Honestly, my mind went blank.

Then I focused on what I was doing, and I was grateful to be able to go on a morning walk.

Then I noticed that my legs were strong enough to walk, so I was grateful for my legs.

Then I said I was grateful it wasn’t raining and that it was sunny.

Then I checked in with my heart and my body.

I was shocked.

I felt good. My body felt good. 

This was years ago. I still make this part of my morning. I've expanded it in lots of ways that continue to feel good.

Try it. Tell me what you notice. 

What 10 Days of Silence Taught Me

It seemed like a good idea ... 

but when it was time to leave for the 10-day silent meditation retreat that I signed up for a few weeks prior, I was having serious second thoughts. The idea of prolonged silence made me panic. After torturing myself about going or not going, I decided to just start driving the 4-hour trip to the retreat center and see what happened.

I made it there. The next day, I took the vow of Noble Silence, which meant that I did not speak, make eye contact, use body language or draw attention to myself for the next 10 days. Additionally, I couldn't read, journal, doodle or do yoga. I was to immerse myself in the silence and learn/practice the meditation technique.

During this period of silence, I noticed and learned many things.

One of the things I noticed is that my mind, without any prompting, produced thoughts in an endless stream. Past memories and future possibilities. I recalled the entire Saturday morning cartoon line-up from 1972 to 1977, lyrics of Led Zeppelin songs, boys I'd had crushes on, vacations I wanted to take, meals I was going to cook, past hurts and future joys. Everything. All on its own.

The meditation technique I learned was to simply watch the thoughts go by, like watching leaves fall -- one after the other -- without reacting or attaching myself to any of the thoughts. I was to be mindful of what my mind was doing.

It was not easy. I thought about leaving every day, until about day 7. The whole retreat pretty much kicked my butt. That was 15 years ago. Even though much time has passed, I still use this mindfulness technique. It remains as powerful and as useful as ever.