Shepherds, Angels and Wisemen; a gratitude exercise for the holiday
The holidays, regardless of which one or how you celebrate, are typically bursting with nostalgic looks back at memories from days past. While this can be beautiful and warming to the spirit. It can also be a way to enamor ourselves with things more distant and leave us forgetting appreciate the good things we have had most recently. In a year like this one, an actual exercise or practice of gratitude may be more needed than ever.
Because the nativity holds a special place for me in reflection this time of year, I like to use subjects from it. You can rename the three subject titles however best fits your family’s traditions, beliefs or practices.
And yes, this can be adapted for use with kids as well. It can be a great way to share a practice of acknowledging what we have and hold dear in life. And adults can be an example by participating and sharing about ourselves as well. Might make a nice new family tradition?
So, here we go.
First, get some paper or use your journal. Yes, keep it ‘old school’ and hand write this. (it matters in several ways – including brain/memory). Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit with your thoughts and put them to paper without much distraction.
These are people from your same walk of life, your neighborhood, old friends, coworkers – people who come from familiar territory; even if they have different roles, tasks. They are diligent, reliable and fierce defenders of your goodness. And, they support you and honor the ‘real’ you in some manner.
Write down the names of 3 people who have been shepherds to you in the past year and a few examples for each of them of how you have benefited from their presence in your life; how you have felt their support, love and camaraderie.
These are people whose presence in your life has come to a conclusion this past year or a significant change. It could be a relationship that ended, it could be the result of a change of residence or career, or even someone who has passed away. The presence of them has added to your life, your learning, your appreciation or in some other way. Big or small, they have impacted your life and you will remember them.
Write down the names of 3 people who have been angels to you in the past year and few examples for each of how you have benefited from their presence in your life and why that matters to you. (Try to focus on ones from the past year. It’s sometimes easier to jump to larger losses of the past – try to refrain from this and focus on exits from this past year).
Wisemen (and Wisewomen);
These are the people who are very different from you. They may hold different careers, have different lives, perhaps have different faith traditions and cultures. Their lives are very different from yours and yet they have served as a guide to you; knowingly or unknowingly. They have gifted you a very different perspective. They do not challenge or dismiss you, but their presence has brought something new and unexpected into your way of living life. They may inspire, invite or share – but in all their action, they honor who you truly are.
Write down the names of 3 people who have been wisemen/wisewomen to you in the past year and a few examples of what their presence in your life has brought you; what you have learned, how you have changed or grown.
Finally, to bring this exercise into full resonance, share your answers for this year with someone else – talk about it. Elaborate on your responses and talk about the gratitude you hold for all of these people and your experiences. Put into words, aloud, how you are a better person for it. How your life has been added to by having them in it.
To really stretch – you can also opt to contact those people whom you can from your answers and let them know that you appreciate them being in your life and some of the ways who they have been to you in the past year has been impactful.
At bare minimum, when you complete the written exercise (not typed – handwritten), put it down for a while and come back to it a few hours later. When you do, read it out loud – not just the answers, but “One of my shepherd this year was _____ because she/he __________, _________ and __________. I am grateful for them and my life has grown in ways such as ______________________ and __________________.” (or something similar).
Don’t forget you can change the titles ‘shepherd’, ‘angel’ and ‘wisemen’ to whatever subject titles best fit your spiritual beliefs and practices.
Handwriting, reading and hearing are all different paths into memory. Discussion with someone else adds layers to this as well. Gratitude must be practice for the brain to learn to seek it out. The more we visit gratitude in our thoughts, the more readily and frequently we are to recognize the other things to be grateful for. Things that have always and will always come through life – if we only see and acknowledge them.
Peace, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones this holiday and in the year to come.
Pace’ Tutti –