Recently, James Baraz and his writing partner Shoshana Tembeck Alexander posted a blog here describing a gratitude practice that James taught his 89-year-old mother. They write about how James' mom mentioned she had a tendency to view life more as a glass that is half empty than one that is half full. So James, a well-established meditation teacher, suggested that the key to happiness lies in how we frame our experience. His mom was curious to learn more so together they devised a game where James' mom agreed that every time she complained about something, she'd add the following words to the end of the sentence: "and my life is blessed". Judging from James' post it seems that his mom was truly blessed. At 89 years old she had not only the love and support of her family but was still up to playing a competitive game of Scrabble.
I attended a meditation-for-lawyers retreat with James over ten years ago at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre California. There were a bunch of intense lawyers at Spirit Rock that weekend and I was one of them. It was a tough room and I was impressed by James' ability to gently facilitate a crowd of hard-nosed corporate attorneys. The retreat was meaningful to me so after reading his post I figured I'd try the gratitude game he played with his mom.
I mentioned this to my husband tonight and he was willing to humor me so when we made dinner together, every time one of us complained about something that happened this week, we added the post-script "and my life is blessed". The banter continued throughout dinner with our son and by the time we were cleaning up the dishes the practice had become an integral part of the conversation -- and cause for laughter every time one of us stopped ourselves mid-kvetch to say "and my life is blessed."
And indeed, it's true. Thanks to James and his mom for this playful reminder.