Daily Gratitude and Letting Go Practice for Parents (and kids!)
“Practicing gratitude increases our appreciation for life.
It brings balance to those parts of the self that have cultivated attachment to our suffering, causing us to feel victimized by life, making God's imagined dial tone all too appealing. Although we might suspect that gratitude would cause us to tarry, to grasp at more, it actually potentiates our letting go into life and death with an open heart.”
-Stephen Levine, A Year To Live
I am currently in the 6th month of a meditation practice based on Stephen Levine’s book, A Year To Live, where the group members challenge themselves to live this year as if it was their last. And though over the last few years, after reading blog after blog and watching countless TED Talks and Oprah Super Soul Conversations about the benefits of gratitude, it wasn’t until this past month that the practice of Gratitude really settled in on an experiential level. The combination of Gratitude with a Letting Go practice opened my mind and my heart to this very simple universal truth - when you can be grateful with what you have, the world opens up to you.
For me, I was feeling overwhelmed with everything happening outside of me, what people were doing TO me. How could I find peace or even a moment of calm when the world around me showed me nothing but how unhappy it was with me or how unhappy I was with it? I was holding on to grudges…with family…with friends…with enemies…with the guy at the grocery store. Holding on to so much and not even realizing I was holding on! I thought to let go of some of these old grievances meant I was letting other people “win.” I thought it somehow meant that I was weak.
As I began to look at my life as if I only had a year…one year left with my family…my friends…my enemies, I was pressed to confront what is it I want to leave behind. As I looked deeper, I saw so much I was hanging on to that was manifesting in my health and relationships. I saw so many moments for gratitude and healing missed because I couldn’t get out of my own way. So I buckled down and I did what Stephen Levine tells us to do in the book. I started to practice Gratitude and Forgiveness every day.
Forgiveness comes from the Latin word meaning to give up completely or to let go. So much of what we hold on to comes from a place of lack. We can ease into letting go of things that no longer serve us by first seeing our world full of possibility and abundance. Simply put: be thankful for what you already have. Thanks to my group’s facilitator, we added another easy step to this journaling process. It has been transformational.
Morning Gratitude and Letting Go Practice
Step 1: I write one thing you are thankful for. It could be a person, a place, a thing, an experience.
*Over time, build your Gratitude List. You may find it easier to list more and more things. But in the beginning, if you can only think of one thing, start where you are.
Step 2: Write down one thing you are ready to let go of. It could be anything - a fear, a relationship, physical pain, judgments, grudges, anger, sadness, coffee. ANYTHING you want to let go of.
Step 3: Write down what you want to fill that space in your life with, once you’ve let go.
Step 4: Spend some quiet time contemplating what you’ve written.
Gratitude and Forgiveness with kids
At Worthy Beyond Purpose, we have been bringing these practices into our after-school programs. Here’s a very simple way to start introducing Gratitude into your child’s life:
Step 1: Have a short discussion about people, places, experiences or things you and your child are thankful for in your lives and why.
Step 2: Both of you can close your eyes and put your hands on your hearts. Find a comfortable position either seated or lying down.
Step 3: Take 3 deep long breaths together with the breath focused in the heart.
Step 4: As their breathing returns to normal, ask your child to bring to mind the person, place, experience or thing that they are thankful for. Silently send love to whatever is in their mind’s eye. Ask them to remember why they are thankful for it. How do they feel being thankful for it? Hold the image in their head, breathing into their heart for a few minutes.
Step 4: Take 3 long deep breaths together again and open your eyes.
Step 5: Consider having another discussion about how the experience felt.
In the same way that we open up discussions with the kids about gratitude and appreciation, we also discuss how it feels to be angry or mad at people in their lives. What it feels like in the body to hold on to grudges. What it feels like to forgive and be forgiven.