This summer I was invited to be in a gratitude group. It was kind of an experiment – do this for 21 days and it will transform your thinking. Each day you are writing a list of 10 things you love or you’re grateful for AND you’re reading everyone else’s. Some days there were 90 items on the love list. And they were beautiful! Here are a few:
The pilot light of forgiveness I have for my father,
That my marriage is like bamboo- we bend and sway, sometimes to the point of breaking.. but we don’t.
The sound of waves at the beach.
My wife for being an amazing mom to our kids
Light- for allowing us to experience this magnificent planet through sight and color.
That I live in a rare point in time when marriage equality exists
Beethoven’s Ninth at Tanglewood
Extra sharp Vermont cheddar on crackers
It was a wonderful practice and had a noticeable affect on my thoughts and actions. And then something outlandish happened on the love list. Things started appearing on there that were counterintuitive: my blue mood, how I lose things, my belly fat, the fight with my husband that eventually led to a hug. We were on to something.
At first it felt phony and facetious but then we asked the question: who would we be if we brought love to the things we hate? What would happen to those things? Might we no longer hate them? And how would life be if in every day, every moment even, we sought love?
After hearing of this, a friend asked this question, "Please talk about how you can come to love your challenges." Well, that is a life-long endeavor if there ever was one! None-the-less, I shared with her this translation from Stephen Mitchell's Book of Psalms, my favorite I think in the whole book (see photo).
We may not "love" our challenges the way we love our dog...or chocolate. But we can walk the middle way by practicing as the Buddhists do - non-hate. And by doing so we might eventually come to open up to appreciation - of ALL that we're given, even what feels icky. Do I "love" my belly fat, nope. But by putting it out there on my gratitude list, it became an invitation for all of us to include the shadow - and that was not only a relief, it was a healing.