Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gratitude and the red barns



What is most meaningful to me in my life? Right now?

Creativity
Beauty
Nature
Seeing
Art 
Travel
Discovery
Learning
Connection
Helping
Love



I think that looks good. It is a start, plus I can imagine where all the many subsets of things that I adore fit into these blocked out categories (food is creativity to me, reading is discovery as well as learning). Best not to over think, especially, certainly when these are what I hope to base the next chapter of my life upon. What kind of alchemy will be required to make a path out of this I have no idea but for now I am gathering the ingredients with intention. And yes, I realize well that a lot of these items are already present in my day to day.



My instinct tells me that gratitude provides the force of a common denominator, un lien. "How can that be?" you might wonder, lips pursed. "How can appreciating what is bring about what is not yet present?" It is a good question but I will just give you the annoyingly vague, redhead mystical answer that I am "going on a hunch."



Whatever gets you through, n'est-ce pas?


And gratitude, at least using it in an active not platitudinal sense, has been a key element of just that during these past seven months. I have several practical posts that I have been preparing regarding the backbones of this Project of Me but that same subtle voice suggested that I throw this one out en plus, hoping that it will roll out like a stone skipping across the water, "just in case." Someone might need this today.


When I first arrived back in the States in March, I remember blinking through my jet lag under the harsh lights of the pharmacy. I was torn about whether or not to spend the money - less than $5 but I have to be that careful these days - on pens plus a black and white composition book that could fit in the palm of my hand. Through my haze, I remembered back to a bad depression in my 20s when, despite so much promise glowing nearly visibly, I had to make a list of all that I was grateful for to get me moving in the mornings. I knew that the same practice would be a wire to hold onto while walking forward through the dark times ahead. And it has been. Everyday I scribble out a list of ten things that I am grateful for; it takes me less than a minute. Simple but truly effective.



I just picked up that notebook and dared to read backwards for the first time since I started it. It gives my heart balance to see that, yes, there is a progression. Here are a few examples starting from mid-March to present...

"I'm breathing"
"the baby bird on the roof"
"Hot tea"
"a comfortable bed"
"Family"
"Ellie, friends near and far"
"my old posts on the blog"
"feta cheese"
"That I am ok with the quiet today"
"the crickets song"
"A sense of home in my heart"
"That hate isn't winning"
"getting better"
"meditation"
"Feeling safe"
"stars"
"tears" 
"unconditional love of dogs"
"my senses working"
"Learning"
and from my last list:
"Feeling whole"
"optimism"



 So, with the insistence of a missionary I am going to yet again invoke psychologist, author and meditation teacher Tara Brach, who, in the podcast that I was listening to this morning called "Happiness for No Reason, Part Two" (I also highly recommend Part One)  talked her listeners through a small exercise of whispering out loud to finish the phrase..."I am grateful for..." and then feeling how the answer lands or resonates within us before asking it again. It felt lovely to do, a bit like unspooling a prayer or building a safe place to wait out a storm, such as the husk of the local barns.



So what do you think, do you want to try it? It's ok if you feel foolish, I bet most people do. This is just something that you are doing for yourself anyway. This may be stating the obvious but I could feel my responses warming up my heart with a quite comforting song.


Do you feel like sharing what came up for you? It is more than ok if you don't, it is just a thought.


Thank goodness that we are all in this together. I intend to keep saying it because there is no day when that idea isn't needed. You all mean more to me than you can ever possibly know. The love that I feel for you (and receive from you) helps me to love better in my life. 

With much gratitude (je suis désolée mais c'est vrai),
Heather


50 comments:

  1. Oh yes, I did need this, how did you know ;-) And I'm going to start my day this way from now on. But for starters: my husband and two sons; Karina; friends who stay in touch; fresh, local vegetables; tea with milk; books; health; that little cafe in town that allows dogs; the Bard swimming pool; Instagram; blog posts like this one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really enjoyed this post. Love Barns, and this time of year is so wonderful to go to the country. Apple picking and Pumpkins it's my favorite time. Seize the day! Yvonne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is funny in Michigan, Yvonne. I keep hearing "Oh no, not yet!" for autumn. Yes, it is here...

      Delete
  3. The attitude of gratitude turned my life around...it was many years ago and I was suffering from depression...in peri-menopause and those raging hormones bur like you I wrote in a journal...counted my blessings and slowly inched my way out of the fog.
    Your red barns here look like a beacon of hope and I love your post Heather...
    take care,
    Leslie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leslie, I am sorry to hear that you went through a depression but am very glad that it is behind you now. Gratitude is such a simple and powerful tool.
      It is so lovely what you wrote about a beacon of hope!

      Delete
  4. Yes...gratitude. We all need to remember this. A sunny day...a compliment from a stranger. The smell of fresh bread. That first sip of coffee in the morning...yes gratitude.
    Ali

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gratitude is a powerful thing, and is something I practice regularly - at this moment - the almost full moon, my husband munching dried apples, a glut of tomatoes, the pool of light from the lamp.
    Beautiful post, Heather. Blessings for the road ahead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt that I was right there with you seeing these elements Lorrie. xo

      Delete
  6. I saw Oprah Live at the end of 2015 and she spoke about a gratitude journal, and I love keeping mine. I find that gratitude and extremely low expectations are Key. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! So I have something in common with Oprah? Well, I am rather chuffed about that!
      Yes, expectations are so tricky aren't they? Mine have been lowered to non-existant, not a good thing either. So I suppose the trick is finding balance...

      Delete
  7. Thank you! So my list: I reread some of Ellies and I am grateful because I can walk, wash myself, go swimming. I saw many homeless at the centre of Athens, so I am grateful for my nice home, for my food and for my good friends known and unknown. And I am grateful too because I can always remember.
    Many many kisses

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am very humbled by your list, Maria. Thank you. And yes, Ellie's reminders are still very present. I was thinking of her so much all day today.

      Delete
  8. I have so much to be grateful for, my husband, our children, but right now as I read this and reply, it's the simplest of things that makes me grateful. I am staring out of the open French doors in the kitchen, down the garden. The sun is bathing the lawn in a warm yellow early morning glow, our cat is on the prowl, birds are singing and leaves are dancing in the gentle breeze. I really don't need any more than this, the simple pleasures of life. Have a great upcoming weekend xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such a gorgeous moment that you captured and shared with us, Susan. My goodness. And yet so many of us have those things but fail to see them for as important as they are...

      Delete
  9. I am grateful that when I couldn't sleep, I checked your blog and found the most exquisite photos. I am grateful that Ellie did not suffer as she became an angel. I am grateful that when I am in pain with my arms, my knees aren't bothering me and vice versa. I am grateful for the fall produce in my freezer. Most of all, after 8 weeks of unrelenting rain that the skies are blue and the aspen trees yellow. That my washing machine was still under warranty and that I now have clean clothes again. That I have clean water to drink and just enough food to eat. I am grateful to my dear mother whom I miss as she will always be my BFF. I am grateful for beautiful light that gives special moments.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Gratitude brings so much goodness in our lives, which we then give to others. Even in our darkest moments there is much to be thankful for.

    I loved reading the things you have written that you are grateful for. Blessings on you.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am always, always so very grateful for your blessings and continued kindness. Love and hugs right back to you.

      Delete
  11. I like what I hear from you. You are turning the corner. A year ago, the pain came through in your writing, though you didn't say what you were struggling with. Now I hear you uncovering your internal strength, emerging into a new life.
    I am grateful above all for my daughter. She is my sunshine.
    I am grateful to be healthy, to not be poor (my budget requires I cut my own hair, but poor--that is not having enough to eat), to be American and to live in lovely France, to have wonderful family and friends.
    Thank you for reminding us to think about this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope that you are right, C. And I love cutting my own hair! I find it quite empowering. :) How lovely your list is.

      Delete
  12. There really are silver linings Heather, even in the darkest days. I think you are doing a wonderful job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I didn't do so fabulously today, Donna, really. So I came to reread and respond and that has helped to have such lovely people as yourself here.

      Delete
  13. Yes, I needed this today.. Sometimes just know that gratitude is possible is something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Julie. I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh and he reminds that there is always something to be grateful for - even just for the miracle of our bodies working as well as they do.

      Delete
  14. I think you do it right Heather...
    written text and loud said words like a mantra are very powerful. Carry on and you
    will notice how life will change for your benefits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. R, I am just starting to work with saying mantras and affirmations aloud. My confidence is low so I feel shaky doing so but it is a powerful practice to be sure.
      I believe you.

      Delete
    2. as longer you will do it (but do it daily) you will become more and more
      confident.

      Delete
  15. This is such a good reminder, thank you. I've done gratitude journals in the past, let them slide of late. Now I'll start again.
    So, I'm grateful for being able to read about gratitude, which has now set off all manner of thoughts racing down the road ahead of me.
    Those barn pictures are just glorious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merci, Emm. Your response made me smile - you often have a way of doing that!

      Delete
  16. My son Andre (I have raised him all on my own since he was born. He is now 15). Alexander Beetle ~ Melanie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Daniel, you have me stumped on your musical selection for once and I will have to google, then discover, so thank you. In the meantime, please accept a virtual toast to you and Andre. Cheers.

      Delete
  17. oh so many things!! Thank you for the reminder to focus on gratitude! I have been forgetting recently. xoxox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You actually strike me as someone who is quite aware of all of the good things, Rebecca. Hope you are on the mend. xo

      Delete
  18. Beautiful photos and an excellent reminder that there is something to be grateful for in everyday. I have kept a gratitude on and off for years and what I have discovered is that when my life seems like it is at its worst and spiraling out of control is when I write in it the most. It is almost as if my journal keeps me sane.

    I am grateful for my pups who keep me company each day, for my husband and for my family. I am grateful that I rediscovered yoga and the mental and physical challenge focuses my brain and me. I grateful for blogs like yours that are "real" and for friends like you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I for friends like you, Elizabeth. Such a wonderful list that you were so kind to share...and yes, that is spot on in that the more we need it, the more we write! Thank goodness for that.

      Delete
  19. I would like to add a few words from Lao Tzu:
    “When you realize there is nothing lacking,
    the whole world belongs to you.”

    Thank you for the wonderful photos and your meditation on gratitude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that something, Edgar? Certainly, in the past few months I have been given ample opportunity to understand that we need far less than we think and that what matters is so seldom material save beyond the basics we need for survival. The rest is love and luxury.

      Delete
  20. Thank you Heather. This is a reminder to get back to my gratitude journal which I’ve abandoned. I started to write the journal on 1 January this year. Each night before I turned off my bedside lamp I would write 3 things that happened that day for which I was grateful. On investigation, it appears that I stopped the entries when life became pressured and frantically busy in May - a time when I really needed the benefits of gratitude practice. So tonight I will open up my precious journal and make a long overdue entry, one of which will be for the special people in this world who continue to enrich my life. Travel safely on your journey of discovery Heather. Bisous
    PS I've surprised myself by uploading a blogpost - a toe in the water!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have! Oh that is wonderful news! You have surprised me too. :) And that I have had such great folks as yourself say that they will take the practice back up is reassuring to me - that I was right to write this post!

      Delete
  21. Gratitude and the practice of is such a game changer! It enhances ...everything! While I don't faithfully keep a gratitude journal, it is part of my daily meditation.
    So happy to see you moving forward on the path, Heather!
    Thank you for your beautiful words and pics. Love these red barns! Mwahs, T xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trying, Trudye - again, some days better than others. :) Mwahs right back!

      Delete
  22. Oh, you are a pleasure. Love your photos. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful. Yes, in the darkest of night, it is my way of getting to the light. Thank you. You are a pleasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you are very kind, Sandy. I just feel that gratitude can be something to hold onto when it is very much needed.

      Delete
  23. I hope that whatever you are going through has a happy ending. I love your photos- they are so real!
    It is so easy to forget all the good things in one's life when one is going through difficult times, either physical or emotional. I am grateful that I am alive and able to wake up every morning to a beautiful day, whether the sun is shining or there is mist over the hills. I am grateful that I have enough to eat, that I have wonderful children, and most of all a partner who understands and loves me unconditionally. Thank you for making me think about all these things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ingrid, I was quite touched by your list! Thank you for sharing all of these beautiful things to be grateful for. You know, I am not sure what a happy ending is any more but I am very glad to still be here to keep moving forward and hopefully growing in the process.

      Delete
  24. Hey Heather......
    I am grateful for my ability to adapt,for my inquisitive nature, and I am grateful to be able to find solutions to difficult problems. It's not very glamorous or romantic, but it is enough
    and I am grateful to be enough.
    Well okay come to think of it I'm also grateful I've finally finished tiling my kitchen backsplash. I hand painted one hundred and eighty six ties. rented a tile cutter, cut each one, palm sanded each one, primed each one, painted each one, installed them all , grouted the lot, sealed it all. pheww!
    Oh and humour, I'm especially grateful for humour.
    Love Bernadette
    So thank you dear Heather for this post.
    I'm not sure if that last bit was gratitude or a rant, but i am grateful to get that off my chest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bernadette? I am flabbergasted that you have done all that. Truly. 186 tiles? All by you?? You, Madame, are amazing. Enough said. Brava.

      Delete
  25. Breath deep. inhale gratitude and exhale fears.at my lowest point I am forever grateful that I live in a democratic country with all my rights and duties.

    ReplyDelete

Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com...