“As life becomes harder and more threatening, it also becomes richer, because the fewer expectations we have,
the more the good things of life become unexpected gifts that we accept with gratitude.” ― Etty Hillesum
At A Network for Grateful Living we often refer to gratefulness as an orientation to life with an unconditional and expansive embrace. One that isn’t reserved for that which is pleasant, desired, or going our way, rather an embrace that accepts and includes the great fullness of life — the entirety of our experience. Such an embrace opens us to the teachings and opportunities within every moment. It offers us what we need not merely to survive difficult times but to appreciate their gifts, even when the gifts take time to reveal themselves. When life feels too small or too big to handle, too predictable or too uncertain, this is when we need gratefulness most.
In the midst of times of uncertainty it serves us to reflect on how gratefulness might help to calm us, reduce fears and expectations, open us to greater clarity and love, and fuel action grounded in our deep intentions. Gratitude is not a panacea. It may not cure or solve our anxiety or concerns but it can foster ease, connection, kindness, and well-being – all valuable qualities which would be good to “go viral” these days. Gratitude cannot save us from sickness or suffering, but it can change how we experience sickness, and it may change our relationship to suffering.
So, what might this mean with regard to how we respond to the immediate concerns of COVID-19? How might gratefulness impact what we do, how we do it, and who we are during this time? How might we seek out and treasure the unexpected opportunities of the moment? In the midst of losses, how can we direct our attention toward the gifts that remain in our lives so as to build greater capacity to face what is challenging?
Here are some possibilities:
- Reflect on Goodness — Reflect with gratitude on the sacrifices of health and service workers and all those who are self-quarantining; adjusting habits and lives; working overtime to do research, make tests and vaccines, and provide important, accurate and timely information. Notice opportunities to orient your attention to all the ways that people are caring for fellow human beings around the globe.
- Wash your Hands — The 20 seconds recommended to “lather up” offer us an opportunity to slow down to experience gratitude for the gift of hot and cold running water, the miracle of soap, and the wonder of our hands themselves. Consider making a sacred ritual of washing your hands, welcoming the opportunity to meditate on these blessings.
- Stay Connected — In this time of physical distancing, might this be an opportunity to connect by phone, text or email with family, friends, and neighbors to see how they’re doing? How does it feel to reflect with gratitude on the relationships in our lives and let people know we care about them? Keep in touch and offer connection in all the ways that you can.
- Be Generous — Extend compassion to those whose lives are impacted most by this crisis. Recognize that people’s health and livelihoods are in jeopardy and nervous systems are taxed. Try being more patient, kinder, take a deep breath before responding, offer smiles and gratitude freely. Give to organizations whose operations and fundraising efforts are being impacted but whose services will be needed more than ever. Support local businesses struggling as many of us stay home. Consider making a donation in someone’s honor or buying gift certificates.
- See the Privileges of the Ordinary — In the midst of a focus on how much is being lost, keep noticing all the blessings that remain. Allow yourself to appreciate and be in awe of what is available to you: phones, electricity, showers, the beauty and resilience of the natural world, all the parts of your body that work, the services and systems that serve your ability to function, and so much more.
- Commit to that which Sustains You — Allow yourself to stay grounded in the things that preserve your integrity and reinforce the beliefs that help you have faith and hope in difficult times. Maintain or increase the rituals, traditions, reminders, and practices that help you to find calm in the midst of any storm. Read, write, or share poetry. Treat yourself and/or others to A Grateful Day.
And finally we offer you this poem currently being shared widely on social media:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
— Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
When life becomes more trying and challenging, may each of us discover the gifts of gratefulness, and the promise of our love — for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.
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Lovely…thank you ?
Thanks for your blog, dear team.
visiting this site and feeling your presence is a balm.
I’m not used to staying at home all day long … my old parents are confused and look at me (I live next to them), my sons at home from morning to night to morning trying to study, to do their exams in video conference, to invent new hobbies…. I’m trying to learn patience, learn the tools of technology, stay in touch with friends, reflect … keep on, never losing hope.
I also feel a sense of helplessness and worthlessness in thinking about hard physical and psychological work in hospitals and I am at home doing nothing.
Thanks for joining us. God bless you.
Dear Anna, you say you are “at home doing nothing”. I am retired and also at home. I believe by us sending out positive energy to the world and staying centered and at peace in ourselves as much as we can, we are doing a great service to our world. May we shine a light on the darkness of our world.
God bless you, dear Anna.??
So true Sheila ? this is a big gift to you and the world ??
God bless you as well, dear Sheila.
Thank You so much Gratefulness Team for this wonderful post! This is THE most powerful post of the thousand of posts I have enjoyed and cherished over many years of visiting your beautiful site and community. I look forward to revisiting it often – especially during these troubled times. I also plan to dive deep into all the links you have been so kind to provide in this post. I am grateful for ALL that you do!
Dear Gratefulness companions, your thoughts are inspirations to take this moment and consider the blessings of one another and actually embrace the opportunity to not only slow down but maybe even stop. Many are taking to the outdoors as a safe place – what a wonderful way to rediscover our rootedness to all that is.
Drew, I take a walk outdoors everyday, weather permitting. It is very healing to be out in Nature! It is so true that the best things in life are free!
Bless you, Drew.??
Thank you Drew. Indeed, directing our attention – and our bodies – to the beauty and tenaciousness of the natural world is a gift. We are blessed when the weather allows us to meet people outdoors, to walk with birds and clouds and trees and notice their invitations toward peace. Yesterday I saw a family flying a kite in the field down the street and people out walking I had never seen before in my neighborhood. Social distancing can allow us intimacy with aspects of life we have neglected. Bless your reminders. Blessings to you and yours, Drew – K
Thank you dear Gratefulness Team for your wise words, wisdom and calm in these extraordinary times. This morning upon awakening I was reminded of the gratefulness practice I participated in about a month ago, being grateful for “a normal day”. Ah yes, an ordinary normal day…..
Right now I am thankful for the rain that is falling here in Northern California, a rare wonder of late. I am thankful for this site and all the ordinary days I have experienced after visiting here, with a heightened sense and awareness for the ordinary. Thank you for being here. I/We need this site more than ever.
Sending love to All of You and Love out to our hurt, anxious world.
Dear PKR – Your beautiful, generous reflection on the recent “Normal Day” practice is so resonant for me. May nothing of life be lost on us. May we take none of the gifts of life for granted. This is how we will stay attuned to what matters in any and all circumstances. Your kindness goes deep. Thank you for showing up here. And remaining, Blessings now and always – K
Kristi, thank you for all you do and for your team. ❤️?❤️
Dear Gratefulness Team, thank-you for offering and sharing this most uplifting, inspiring and encouraging message! It is so needed right now! This time offers us so many opportunities. Life is such a precious gift! Marianne Williamson said, “The Miracle often lies outside our comfort zone”.
Peace, love and blessings to all, Sheila ???
Dear Sheila – Thank you for your visit and comment here. Your companionship on this journey and commitment to gratefulness go deep into the heart of the matter for all of us. Your love and support are sustaining. Like the sun on a gray day, you are a perpetual gift. Please stay well – K
Dear Kristi, thank-you so much for your very kind reply! It touched my heart.?
May God’s peace be with us all.?