When I have a dessert, I like to eat it with a teaspoon so I can magnify the taste and texture of every small mouthful.
Call it a gratitude practice, because it helps me to taste appreciation. I have a hunch the difference between talking about gratitude and practicing gratitude has something to do with enjoying life with a teaspoon.
We often express our gratitude in big themes: family, friends, lover, health, home, nature, travel, etc. We talk about gratitude broadly, thematically and sometimes passively. Gratitude in big gulps. Big gratitude has big inherent and shared meaning. It’s easy to recite, automatic even. We’ve all got a big gratitude response on speed dial, don’t we? Maybe the same one.
But I’m sure I’m not alone in letting “grateful for” and “for granted” sit too close, too often, in life. The things I am most grateful for can also be the things I take for granted in my daily awareness. We tend to get used to what’s familiar in our environment and perceive it less because we live amidst it.
Even though I am always grateful for my family, my home, my health and nature in my heart, if my attentiveness is not with gratitude, then I’m sure not experiencing life through it. Gratitude in her abstract grandness becomes a muted passenger sitting back seat in my ride, while anxiety or scarcity or despair fight over the wheel for my attention with some crowded mess of tangled hands.
The way we experience gratitude, the kind that pulses in our hearts and vivifies our lives, is often itsy and joyfully bitsy. It’s attentive. It’s teaspoon. Gratitude “happens” when my attention kisses the details, fills with the senses, sticks in the cracks, invites surprises and slows down to magnify the beauty of a pure moment, act, word, gesture, exchange, experience, story. Gratitude thrives on small.
If we want to live through gratitude, not just nod to it, we have to draw our attention to bite-size beauty. When I let an appetite for gratitude lead me, when I feed my awareness with the small and rich, my senses become more heightened to appreciation. I’ll see it unexpected places. Practicing gratitude of the small stuff is getting better at seeing through the heart and living from it.
One way we can get better at seeing through gratitude is to enjoy life with a teaspoon. Invite gratitude, morsel by morsel, to become a bigger presence in your life. Get specific, detailed, descriptive, sensory, present and itsy-bitsy with our appreciation, even when it comes to the big stuff. The stories that don’t just talk the theme of gratitude, but actually touch and fill our hearts with it and move us, are rich with the small stuff, small gestures and small kindnesses.
As a daily practice, you can practice small gratitude with journaling and let your journaling permeate your live perception. Get descriptive.
Lavish the detail, evoke the senses, wax poetic.
1. Write about your daily experience: how softly the rain falls on the thatch roof, the cool feather weight of the duvet against my skin, the smell of cowboy coffee as I prepare to sit at my desk.
2. Write about someone you love: the white star flecks in my niece’s child blue eyes, how her little hand holds mine as we walk together through the park, the way she taps her cheeks with her fingertips whenever she gets excited.
3. Write about you in self-appreciation, too. Your qualities, physical traits, personal growth and idiosyncracies.
This is also a practice you can do for the stuff or people it’s harder to do it for.
When we repetitively practice attuning our attention towards the small and sacred, our attention starts to stick to it. Practice seeing beauty and more appears. We value it more. Appreciation becomes a lens for experiencing life, rich teaspoon by rich teaspoon.
*Post originally published as "Want Gratitude? Pass the Teaspoon, Please." on elephant journal.