It’s the Thanksgiving break on campuses in the United States, and I’m recovering from another surgery, so this week’s post will be brief. I’ve been enjoying the daily “I’m thankful for…” posts by many of my Facebook Friends this month. They’ve ranged from humorous to heartfelt to tragic. While gratitude journals have been popular for some time, this public sharing seems to be encouraging others to participate as well. Among other things, they reflect the intentional work of being fully present, aware of the here and now–elements of mindfulness.
When I was very sick, a friend introduced me to HappyRambles.com, a site that sends you an email every night (or whenever you want) asking, “What are you grateful for today?” You simply reply to the email, and the site collects each day’s response in a private, daily journal you can return to when needed. I’ve responded to the prompt every day since January 28. In addition to helping me through some very bad health days, it focused my attention to recognize specific details about my life. In other words, it’s supported my mindful practice by encouraging me to notice–well, just about everything.
I was just looking back through all of my posts (collected in the word cloud to the left), and a few patterns emerged. The results aren’t at all what I would have predicted. First, I see far more references to work than I’d expected. (Between you and me, I honestly thought my cats and “naps” might be the biggest words.) Instead, apparently my work has been more important to my sense of gratitude (or, as HappyRambles translates it, my happiness) than I probably realized. Next, I see the details about the work that have made the greatest impact on my life.* I’m fortunate to have a job I love, but even in this circumstance, it’s been useful to be “forced” regularly to think of what in particular I like about it. I see my colleagues (in general and a few by name), as well as specific work-related projects, activities, and traits.
Truthfully, I haven’t looked back through my entries until just now. I was waiting until I really needed it, and the holidays are hard for me, so I looked today. I’m glad I did–not just to help with the blues, but to also see yet another way my life has been affected by committing to a mindful practice. (In this case, responding to a simple email every day.)
Gratitude meditations are fairly common, so I’ll simply share one here.
I’ve most liked the ones like the link to the left: rather than calls for abstract gratitude for anything and everything, it guides you to focus on a specific object of gratitude.
It’s just 6:32 long.
* I have not taught an undergraduate course this calendar year, so “students” and “class” don’t appear here. However, some of the specific graduate students and the SoTL program I teach are in there–if you know the names and terminology.