During the month of November, with the anticipation of Thanksgiving, it is often the easiest time to find the spirit of “gratitude.” But what happens during the remainder of the year, when our appreciation can wane a bit, when busy schedules, hectic lifestyles and endless media can bog down our days?
In this month’s workshop, we contemplated exactly what it is we are grateful for …. be it little, or big. Our daily encounters with beauty, the divine, the simple and the smallest occurrences can bring us joy. But the first step is to recognize them in order to learn to be grateful ~ for 365 days of the year. It takes being mindful and paying attention to the present moment; of course, this is a recurring theme in all of our workshops; and never more important than when we try to cultivate gratitude.
The girls learned basic bookmaking skills ~ creating a one-of-a-kind Gratitude Journal to document their observations and ‘thanks.’ Through a series of prompts and self-awareness the girls were gently guided to reflect upon their own unique experiences. To dig deep and find the smallest, simplest events of their days for which to give thanks. They all experimented with a variety of art journalling techniques such as mixed media, pen and ink, illustration ~ and supplies, such as pencils, gel pens, sumi ink and pen/nibs to beautifully illustrate their journals. Isn’t it important to bring our inner creative spirits into the process as well. Just one more thing to be grateful for! It is our hope that the girls will use their journals daily ~ for at least twenty-one days straight, and develop a habit of gratitude.
But it was equally important to bring the gratitude spirit home, and back to parents and siblings. Using a creative concept from Paper Coterie we decorated canning jars to fill it full of your family’s responses to a series of fun and unique gratitude prompts. Perhaps to be used as a dinnertime activity which is collected each evening, and on Thanksgiving Day they can be read aloud and shared among friends and families. Or better yet: why not keep it going all year long and next Thanksgiving, you’ll have a full year of blessings to reflect on and be grateful for. As a family, we did this last November and then created a ‘garland’ of gratitude that still decorates our home. The possibilities are endless for this family activity.
It is always inspiring and lovely to see the girls express their heartfelt feelings—and what a perfect time of year to scatter a little kindness along the way! So in our sacred circle we experienced “Metta” ~ a word that means “loving kindness. Try Metta Loving Kindness Meditation for yourself with this guideline. It is a meditation practice where we actively cultivate some very positive emotional states toward others, as well as toward ourselves. It helps to bring more harmony into our relationships with others, so that we experience fewer conflicts, resolve existing difficulties, and deepen our connections with people with whom we already get along well. This meditation can also help us overcome anger, resentment, and hurt. We learn to be more patient, empathize more, and appreciate others more, concentrating more on their positive qualities and less on their faults. Loving kindness meditation helps us feel more positive, accepting, kind, and patient toward ourselves, in order to be more compassionate and loving with others.