Why is The Art of Gratitude a Practice?

Ellen Padnos
Ellen Padnos

I woke up this morning with a slight sore throat and without a full night’s sleep.  I knew I couldn’t do yoga today, and I desperately need my yoga.  My four year-old was sobbing because his waffles weren’t ready – in his world, he can’t watch a show until he has food in front of him and he needed that show now. My mind immediately went to my list: laundry, feed everyone healthy food (which would mess up my house that was miraculously clean), do a “New Years” card (which if I’m lucky will go out by January 5), return a few emails (which I’m already late returning) and do this all while my 16 month-old is doing what is developmentally appropriate – (saying “Mommmeeee” or “Elmo” every second, wanting to be held but wanting to be independent, wanting to taste every food in the kitchen but eat nothing, and of course, putting everything in her mouth) – but still driving me crazy.

Then Lola walked up.  In my previous post I talked about her recent health issue and the fact that it is pure luck/grace/a miracle – call it what you will – that she is here.  At that moment, all I cared about is Lola’s breath.  Every breath from that sweet dog was a miracle, and I was grateful.  Grateful for every single breath.

It got me thinking, why can’t we be grateful for every breath we take, for every second we have, for every time my baby says “Mommmeeee”?  Why do we have to refocus our perspective in order to live in the moment and appreciate how lucky we are?

Recently a friend who describes her husband as a “Jewddist”, was telling a story about him going to a 7-day Buddhist quiet retreat.  She was not at the retreat and for whatever reason they drove separate cars back from Ojai.  Under normal circumstances, he would have made it back to LA at least 30 minutes before her.  When they go out together she always drives because she is afraid of driving with him.  As they pulled up to the light at the exit ramp near their house, she looked over and saw a calm and happy Glen, with a placid smile on his face and a sweet wave.  When they got home he remarked about how crazily and dangerously people drive.

My friend and I talked about that place, that peace, that Zen, that balance – HOW DO YOU KEEP THAT? How do you drive slowly and enjoy that drive every day?

For me, it’s my yoga. Or on occasion, I get lucky and get a beautiful, conscious jolting moment like I had this morning with Lola.  But it is a practice.  I force myself to do all those cliché things like “breathe deeply”, really LOOK at my children, think about the world more globally and remember that I am so darn lucky that I got to drink clean water today.  That alone should make me the happiest person in the world.  Yet, try as we may, we fall in to the traps – wanting a new handbag because my girlfriend just got an awesome new one, wanting a private school for my kids (it must be better if you pay for it, right? – kidding) or wanting my stomach to be a little bit flatter.  Why, why, why can’t I completely rid myself of those thoughts?

I’m doing my best and will DEFINITELY continue to practice gratitude.  I read something awesome recently that I’ve been using a lot.  In her book God Never Blinks, Regina Brett talks about two words that changed her life: “get to”.  Never use the words “have to” again. I’ve been doing that and the paradigm shift is incredibly powerful.

So today, I get to do laundry, I get to nourish my family with healthy and beautiful food that I get to buy at a Farmer’s market, I get to love my toddler at this incredible time of her development and I get to be a daughter, a wife a mother and a friend.  All while being able to reach for a glass of clean water any time I want!

Click here to see more articles on MeaningfulWomen.com by Ellen Padnos.

Ellen Padnos lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with her husband, Ben, her children Anthony (4), and Annie (1), and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lola. You can also follow her on Twitter (@ellenpadnos).

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