Sometimes, in the society we find ourselves in, we get consumed with making a big impact; finding our purpose, and encouraging change in the lives of others. While I believe that this is a great motivation to have, we must start with ourselves. Before we can change the course of the present, future, and future past, we must grow ourselves into an individual with the capacity to recognize strife and deliver love and empathy in return. While this is a lifelong journey, I believe that to become these people we must begin by practicing gratitude. And what better season to begin embracing gratitude than spring, when the earth and skies bloom with life and song.
As a child of spring, I feel personally connected to this season when the Earth, our first mother, reinvigorates the life which dwells within and aside her. Not only does the soil sprout colors of joy, but the skies fill with warmth and continuous gleeful song. Many of us feel that after the cold winter, spring is the time for us all to blossom like a California Poppy and dazzle, shedding our outer icy layer from winter and allowing our ears, eyes, and mind to attune to our greater and livelier surroundings.
For many of us, spring melts away seasonal sorrows and brings a brighter day with more optimism and exposed skin. The moment I hear the spring birds begin chirping in the early morning my heart truly lights up and I wake up knowing that whatever happens, it is going to be a good day. Spring is a great time to re-center ourselves in the mind, body, and spirit while practicing gratitude. “Gratitude” is a word of weight, meaning many things. It might seem overwhelming to envision a practice of gratefulness, but if we break it down, this Buddhist practice can make every day not only good, but great! Not only does practicing gratitude light us up from within like the sun on our skin, but it extends to those around us spreading joy, kindness, and smiles.
When I think of the word “gratitude”, I simplify it to “grateful”; what am I grateful for? It really is that simple! For me, the practice of being grateful is to acknowledge the things in life that light me up, as simple or complex as they might be. I allow and challenge myself to sit in this feeling while acknowledging my appreciation, carrying that pleasant feeling forward into the rest of my day. This allows for my gratitude to further influence my interactions with others, sharing the sun I feel within with those around me. This is something we all have the capacity for, if not an innate instinct for.
Oftentimes, gratitude feels quite peaceful and lives in silent moments of self-love. Especially in the spring, I find myself feeling the sun on my face and hearing the birds chirp and I think to myself, through a gentle smile, “I love hearing the birds and feeling this warmth on my skin. It makes me feel happy and full of life. I am so grateful for my ability to perceive these simple life pleasures. I am so grateful.” If we can recognize these pleasures and name them, we can always simplify them to gratitude. The final step is turning this gratitude outward towards those who can receive that sensation and continue to share it.
Gratitude, as I’ve suggested, can take many forms. It can mean many things. One day I’m grateful for the smile a stranger shared with me and the tank tops I can wear to repair my summer glow. Another day I am grateful for the clouds and the way leaves float through the sky on the currents of the crisp spring wind. The next moment I could be enjoying the bright green leaves freshly sprouted on the trees downtown and the dogs enjoying their provided shade. Whatever it is, allow yourself to truly see it, name it, sit in it, and let someone else into the experience of sharing it.