Practicing Gratitude

Two weeks ago was my last day at my last job. Night before the last day, while meditating, an idea bulb went off in my head – “thank you cards!”. I cashed in. I wrote a personalized note for every single person. Most of them I only saw briefly as we changed shifts. But as I committed to this [great] idea, it became my duty to invest my time and heart in each one.

It was humbling and a great reflective exercise! I thought about each person one-by-one and recalled something specific about them, something that I had come to appreciate in them, something I would be reminded of when I think of them. As I did this, I observed the rise of subtle pleasant sensations throughout my body. By focusing on the good in each of these people, and appreciating them for it, I was practicing metta (loving-kindness meditation), I concluded (but I don’t know whether that’s correct or not, opinions welcome).

Writing thank you cards has never been a habit of mine, I don’t even recall if it were ever emphasized in my childhood. By extension, the part of my brain that focuses on gratitude barely got any exercise if any. I became aware of this in early 2013. By that time I had been out of work, by choice, for almost 1.5 years; I was focusing on internal healing and growth. I had just concluded my long-term service at Dhamma Patapa and was transitioning back into “normal” life. During the past months, in spite of not having an income, I had food, shelter, and clothes. I had developed wonderful friendships, and I was much more grounded in myself. Yet, I didn’t feel gratitude.

I raised the question of, “how do I develop gratitude?” to my adopted mother. Amongst other things she mentioned making a habit of writing thank you cards; she has been practicing it weekly for years. I took it in, thought about it, and finally put it into action two weeks ago (almost 1.5 years after taking it in).

It feels great to be on the other side of this journey. I am thankful to myself for being kind to myself as I took my time with this new practice. And I look forward to whatever’s next.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be here without Vipassana.

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