“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
Dawn and I have been thinking a lot lately about simple, yet life-changing practices that you can do with the children in your life, to remember what’s important, and bring you closer together. I had a great experience during the month of November, while focusing on Gratitude with my kids. Gratitude practice is huge in my life, and I have so much to be thankful for. My life isn’t perfect, yet focusing on all that I love about my life has really transformed mine into the happiest life I’ve ever known. I really want my daughters to grow up with the knowledge of this truth: what you appreciate, appreciates.
In September, while at a yoga festival in Chicago, I picked up a beautiful, hand-carved wooden box imported from Bali. Kim, the beautiful lady who sold it to me, called it a “Gratitude box,” and I thought, “Perfect, we’ll use this for focusing on Gratitude in November,” as I had planned. On the morning of November 1st, my girls woke up sad and disappointed that Halloween fun was over. That’s when I said, “I have just the thing!” and went to retrieve the sacred box. I explained to them that during the month of November, we are each going to write one thing we’re grateful for each day, and put it in the box. And at the end of the month, we’d do a “ceremony.”
They were so excited when I showed them the beautiful box! Halloween was quickly forgotten, and we got down to the business of Gratitude. I cut small squares out of paper, and placed them with a pen next to the box in the dining room, where we eat all our meals. (I found this was a good location, because most of our meaningful discussions take place at mealtime.) The girls got started immediately writing out their “grateful for” items: family, food, and water. I’d walk them to school, and then remind them to think about something to put into the box while at school. I loved the idea of them going to school with the intention of looking for things for which to be grateful. Over time, the items my girls wrote down became deeper. Vivian (age 8) wrote, “I am grateful for my life and all its ups and downs.” Naya (age 5) wrote, “I am grateful for my heart,” and “I am grateful for myself.”
On the evening of November 30th, they eagerly awaited the “ceremony,” which I’ll admit I made up as I went along, though it turned out beautifully. I set 3 cushions on the carpet, and placed a candle and some flowers in the center. (I highly recommend a candle, because it really feels special to the kids. If you have very small children, consider a flameless candle that will safely do the trick.) We divided up the squares of paper, so that we each had the ones we had written throughout the month. We placed the box in the center of our circle (or triangle, really) and sat together by candlelight. We took turns going around, each reading one item at a time. At one point, Vivian read, “I’m grateful for a little sister to rely on.” The two girls looked at each other with precious appreciation, and it melted my heart.
After we were done reading all the gratitude slips, I set my “Insight Timer” app (it’s free, and I highly recommend it, by the way), and we meditated for just one minute on all we had read. It was a beautiful and poignant practice, and at the end of it, Vivian said, “I’m grateful to be here doing this ceremony with you.” At that moment, and during the whole ceremony really, we were fully present with each other. We didn’t want it to end.
Later this month, we are going to write our intentions for 2018, and put them in the sacred box. I’ll share the experience with you here. In the meantime, if you have a practice that you do with children in your life, we’d love to hear about it! Please share it with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.