The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day offers some space to reflect back on the year that is drawing to a close. News outlets do this with “Best of” lists (e.g., Best Books of the Year, Best Movies of the Year) and with annual recaps (e.g., the Top Ten Stories of the Year).
The close of the year also offers space to reflect back in a practice of gratitude – to take time to notice what has happened in our lives – and to name and to savor the experiences for which we are grateful.
For our Thanksgiving worship this year, I did a good bit of reading on gratitude practices – across a number of traditions – Christian, Buddhist, secular, scientific. What stood out most was the clear consensus that gratitude is good for us and good for the world. Please note: The gratitude we’re talking about isn’t being artificially happy when we’re not. It’s standing in the days of our life – even when those days feel more bad than good – being honest about that – and, in the midst of that, finding and naming the things for which we are grateful. Another common thread emerged in these practices – specific questions/prompts to find our gratitude – often practices that were fairly similar across traditions.
I made a list. And in these closing days of the year, I thought I’d share it – for however it might be of interest and use to you.
A Gratitude Practice for Year's End
If you’re inclined to reflect back over your year, you could settle in with this list – really settle in, find a comfortable space, take a few deep breaths. Then, take a long, loving look back over your year – what did you experience in these seasons of your life?
Then, consider this question – “For what am I grateful?” Does anything in this list resonate? --
some experience of the natural world/creation
some experience in community, or some personal interaction
someone who is with us now, or someone who is no longer with us
something good in this past year that you did not earn or deserve
someone who has helped you along the way (notice that in that moment this person had your best interests at heart)
something about yourself (a skill you learned or used, a particular gift you bring to the world, a recent doing)
something about your work or service in the world
some care or tenderness you received
something you may overlook or pass by in the regular flow of life, but for which you can say you are grateful
and, one of my favorites for when our days aren’t going well, ask: “What is NOT going wrong?”
and of course, what else comes to your heart?
And then, when you’re ready, you can say, “Thank you. Amen.”
That’s all. And of course, I’m grateful for you. New Year’s blessings, and see you soon!
Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo
Sources: The gratitude prompts listed here were gleaned from my reading and from a year of mindfulness practice with the Ten Percent Happier app (highly recommended). For a great book on gratitude, check out Diana Butler Bass’s Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.
Photo credit: Ravi Sharma, used with permission via Unsplash