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June 25, 2023

Gratitude When You’re Not Grateful. Think Pink.

The baby blue alarm clock rang, but I lay awake, already braced. Only 26 days since I’d paused a relationship, changed jobs, and committed to homeschooling a 7th grader and a 9th grader. Thinking about the hours ahead made me seasick.

I don’t have a doppelganger who can step in and be resilient for me. Is there a class-action suit I can join for that? While I’m waiting, some positive psychology mind hacks have caught my attention.

In seasons full of annoyances and griefs, what rosy dawn can clear the gloom? It’s said that gratitude is that precious hue. When things are toughest, we’re advised to tap into a resource we may not know we have.

Here’s how I broke it down.

  1. Bottom Basement Gratitude:


Have thanks for what Dr. Rick Hanson calls a “basic okayness” right now. If you’re breathing, and there’s cereal in the cupboard, and you snag 15 minutes to exhale, we find a bit of dignity in that simplicity. Inhale, exhale, notice basic “okayness”.

Even though pushed by conflicting winds of friends’ opinions and relatives’ values, I can sense a sweetness when I look at my aging hands, tilt my gaze at the passing clouds, and know a tiny measure of trust in life.

Skeptics memo…be playful with trying out gratitude. It might stir anger. It might make you question your own strength and agency (if I have to be so grateful, am I helpless on my own?).

We can take a hummingbird’s sip of gratitude and congratulate ourselves on feeding our hearts.

2. Next Level Gratitude

Reflect on the old advice—”most growth happens during times of difficulty”. I am wildly grateful for all the sages, dead and alive, who tweeze out the possibility from hardship. King David from the Old Testament left us the 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want
He restoreth my soul

I could remember that I’m not alone in my precarious walk of life. Can we think of wise elders, poets, artists, civil rights leaders, humanitarians, and the teachers on our path? Whose kind heart and vision have helped us get this far?

I feel encouraged when calling forth gratitude for my parents, Jack Kornfield, Rainer Maria Rilke, Tara Brach, Georgia O’Keefe, and so many more.

Skeptics memo… Who are we being grateful to? If you sense a divine presence in the world, offer loving gratitude to that presence: either religious or from a gut intuition. If this isn’t you, still you might have a recognition of interconnection. This is the web of activity that allows food to get from the farm to the plate, or caring actions to exist at all.

         3. Sweet Spot Gratitude:

Stop now if you’re full! But if we want to go deeper, we can be grateful for the difficulties which “blow our cover” and force us to adopt courage and patience.

Since life is bubbling up anyway and we tend to resist the changes, one way we get booted out of complacency might be through hardships. Pema Chodron, that witty Buddhist teacher, has this to say about being “grateful to everyone”.

Now, having both simplified our awareness of our basic good fortune and deepened our attention to beloved wise beings, we may feel a little lighter.

After smacking the baby blue alarm, and saying a one-liner of thanks for the miracle of rising, I color my lips with Bare Raspberry and Super Strawberry. I go for a walk with our dog Cedar, past honeysuckle and mint, kind of amazed that I still get to play here, without pretending my heart is always light.

Sure, we can rattle off the research which shows how gratitude is good for us.  

However, what if we don’t look for the payoff? What if we don’t need a signed contract promising dopamine in order to rest in our true nature? What if our true nature has been aching to express love and appreciation all the while our brains were busy fidgeting?

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