This morning I was listening to an interview by Dr. Sheila Forman with MJ Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude. MJ was speaking about the many benefits of a gratitude practice — and in doing so, she emphasized the importance of stopping to truly experience our moments of gratitude. Not to just write things down or speak of them by rote.
I tried a little experiment for myself and could feel the difference between when I would think, “I’m grateful for my son.” Versus when I would stop and picture my son in my mind and think of him telling me a joke and then actually feel my outpouring of love for him. The sense of well-being was definitely there in the second experience, but in the first one nothing even registered in my body.
Along these lines, MJ spoke about how our culture has gotten confused about the difference between manners and gratitude. She talked about how we’re all taught from an early age to say “thank you” but few of us are taught how to feel gratitude. I saw for myself how often throughout the day I might say “thank you” … but how seldom I stop to experience receiving something — and then speak of my gratitude from that place. How often I am not even present when I am expressing thanks to someone?
I’m wondering whether I’ve become somewhat immune to the words, “thank you.” I’ve decided to embark on a little experiment to see if I can find other ways to express gratitude so that I’m not just blurting out thank you’s that have no heart or presence to them.
You can be my first guinea pigs, okay? I’m so happy and grateful to have people who read my blog. It makes me feel connected to people and not so alone in the world. I’m grateful for having a place to express my thoughts and float questions out there. It’s so delightful to have you on the other end of these words. Thank you for being a part of my community; it means a lot to me.
Oh, wow, that was fun. Whether or not it feels any different to the person I’m speaking to, I can easily see how good it feels inside me to be present to my authentic gratitude.
So, of course, I’m not advocating that we all stop saying “thank you.” (That was just a ploy to get you to read this post!). But I am suggesting that maybe we can play around with our experience of saying “thank you.” Maybe those two words that were taught to us as part of manners can become an authentic part of our gratitude practice.
If you try it, will you let me know how it goes for you?
Speaking of Dr. Sheila, I’m going to a guest on her show tomorrow morning at 8am PST. I’ll be talking about gift giving. Hope you’ll listen in.