As I spoke the things I am grateful for a few hours ago, I looked around the circle and was overwhelmed with gratitude toward Solinda for the prompting and to the class for listening. Gratitude is something people talk about sometimes and I certainly feel sometimes but never before had I felt so privileged to express it. Part of this has to do with the genuine listening that was occurring in the container of the ceremony. In other modalities of life it would be unthinkable to see 100% of a large group looking at me and listening to me with such open hearts. However, in ceremony people come genuinely to community. Speaking my gratitude aloud made it feel real and validated by the group, my peers acted as the world I was looking at in thanks and substantiated the experience.
I spoke first in the circle and I was very appreciative that I had this chance to think for myself and not co-opt other people’s gratitudes. However, as the speaking progressed, I found myself wishing that I had thought to give thanks for what others were saying. I felt like I had forgotten things and squandered an incredible opportunity to offer verbal gratitude. Then I chastised myself. Why should I be annoyed that I have so much in my life to be grateful for? Why should I be annoyed that my peers were making me more aware of the beauty of my life and the people and experiences that surround me?
From that moment on, I realized that these gratitudes we were expressing were a form of shared prayer. With each uttered thanks 24 hearts joined in identifying with the sentiment, taking it inward and offering up an internal rendition of the thanks of another. This is perhaps why it felt so strong, this privileged group that I consider myself privileged to be a part of was all together, offering thanks with open hearts for all we have and all we’ve been given.
Gratitude is not limited to ceremonial moments like this one. Solinda said that we should try making a practice of offering thanks every night. Gratitude can in this way become a lifestyle. Neurologically we create and shape the synaptical pathways in our brain by nothing more than use. If we can simply use the path of gratitude we can literally restructure our brains. A life occupied by gratitude is so much richer and fuller than a life bogged down by the fears and greed. Many of the teachers of my life have passed on this message to me and it always slips away in time to the “abortive sorrows and short winded elations” of life’s wrinkled road. I want to thank Solinda for reminding me of the transformational power of gratitude.