Who would have thought rain could bring such a feeling of gratefulness? After months of near drought conditions here where I live the rain started to fall yesterday. I went for a walk, juggling my umbrella and my cellphone to capture an out-of-focus image of dripping flowers in someone's garden. The photo I took wasn't a masterpiece, but the moment certainly was. It felt like the whole world had just stepped into the shower and there was all this singing going on. I don't usually like rain, and if it hadn't been for that flower catching my attention and shifting me into gratitude I could possibly have started grumbling about it as the novelty wore off and the day wore on. Instead I was filled with a pleasure that has lasted in such a delicious way. A day later I am still thinking about that hot pink flower dripping raindrops on the lawn. Such a simple humble thing really and yet for that brief moment yesterday it was my everything.
When we allow ourselves to stop and feel grateful we are no longer peering out into a future that doesn't yet exist. Now we're really living, in the only place it is possible for us to live -- the here and now. That's what I loved most about that moment yesterday. I was nowhere else. I wasn't thinking of my problems. I wasn't planning where I'll be next year or what I'll say to this person or that person. I was just feeling gratitude for the rain and how beautiful and fresh and pink it made that flower look in this moment.
It's so easy to see life as that ticker tape in Times Square and let our attention be dragged along by it. Gratitude pauses the ticker tape, reminding us that instead of scrolling onward at a frenetic pace life is actually offering itself up to us in little moments one by one. Whether or not we choose to stop long enough to celebrate whatever is there in any given moment is up to us. If we do that, even now and then, we get to extract the good things from life and that brings all sorts of benefits that improve our overall sense of well being. Because we live in a world that judges our worth according to our productivity, shifting our gaze from that ticker tape to the present moment can seem counter-productive. These little moments of gratitude are not time wasted however. Because they replenish us in mind body and soul they may even leave us more productive in the long run.
Celebrating the present in little moments of gratitude is not hard. It just takes a little conscious planning to begin with. After a while it becomes second nature, but to begin with you may have to think about it. Here's some ideas about how you can do that. Things that have worked for me:
1) Set your intention at the start of the day -- to notice, take pleasure from and be grateful for at least one small thing. If you don't set an intention chances are the day will go flying by and you'll have missed all sorts of gorgeous things you won't even know you missed. Gratitude doesn't come as naturally as grumbling does, and to begin with it's a good idea to be intentional and conscious about this. It's worth the effort. It pays off in spades as far as a sense of well being is concerned.
2) Now keep your appreciation antenna up as you move through your day. Be open to the possibility that what you're looking for is all around you. You'll be amazed at what you notice that you may have overlooked before, and you'll get better and better at this. It might the sound of a violin being played by a busker outside your supermarket. Or a tree silhouetted against a stark blue sky. Or patterns of sunlight dancing on the wall of your bedroom. Or the vibrant colors in a painting on a cafe wall. The little things are the greatest gifts of all.
3) When you come across something that makes you feel grateful stop and be still. Breathe into that moment, even just for a few seconds. Allow it to occupy your full attention. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, "Be here. Now." Depending on where you are that might mean that you have to find a way to set yourself apart from the hustle and bustle around you. When I stopped in the street to look at raindrops on those hot pink flowers I wrapped my umbrella around me to shut out the noise of passing cars and create a little private space. If there is something you can do to build on the intimacy and power of the moment do it.
4) Record the moment in some way. I love my cellphone because it makes it easy for me to take a photo of what I see, or to write a quick little note about how it made me feel. I never manage to capture the full power of these moments of course, but I do try. As time goes on, if you get into the habit of recording these moments, you'll start to see how richly blessed you are, no matter what is going on in your life. We all know that so much of what is precious in life can be taken from us in a flash but rest assured, this collection of little grateful moments will be yours forever.