November is a month of Thanksgiving and it’s a time to literally “give thanks” for the bounty in our life. We rejoice in the major highlights but in reality it’s the little micro-moments of joy that give us the strength to carry on. These precious, seemingly insignificant moments can be stored as a resource for us to draw on when times are tough. Life isn’t easy, and this is true for all of us. The immutable value we focus on in the Choose Love Movement is love, but there is another one that connects us as human beings — pain. We all experience difficulty. I know this because my six-year-old son, Jesse, was murdered in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It happened almost nine years ago yet I still feel the heartbreaking pain and sadness. I’m an artist, so the best way I can describe it is as if it is a tinted varnish that covers the landscape of my life and impacts everything I do. However, I don’t let the loss destroy my spirit. I am continuously inspired by the seemingly precognitive chalkboard message Jesse left, for all of us, shortly before he died: Nurturing Healing Love. I will forever be guided each day by the tenets in this message that remind me to choose love.
I never thought I would lose Jesse the way I did. In fact, no one knows what the future holds for them so we need to be cognizant of how we spend our precious lives in the here and now. Amazingly, the majority of our time is spent thinking about things that happened in the past, or planning or fearing for the future. Many years ago, when both my boys were very young, I donated our television to Goodwill so I could be present with them. By doing this, we were able to spend more quality time together reading, playing, singing and dancing, and enjoying our “aminals” (as Jesse called them). But still, as I recall those days that were filled with so much fun and togetherness, it wasn’t enough. We realize after the fact how fast time goes by so we need to capture every moment as a gift, no matter how big or small, and let ourselves be nourished by all the goodness that surrounds us. Our brains are designed to focus on the negative so it’s important for us to make a conscious effort to turn those lower energy thoughts into positive ones by using gratitude.
The wonderful thing about gratitude is that there is always something to be grateful for. I lost my son yet I still find many things in my life that make me happy. I know everyone can do the same. Every day I wake up I thank God for another day to serve as an instrument of peace. When I’m not traveling on the Choose Love Bus Tour, I internally express gratitude for my Bulletproof coffee with MCT oil and ghee each morning. I find joy in feeding my chickens and collecting their colorful eggs! I love going on long, meandering walks in nature with my dogs, reading good books, learning something new, riding my horse, deeply inhaling the luscious fragrance of the many colorful roses in my yard in the summer, having tea with my mother, and playing ping pong with my older son in our barn (and winning, of course!) Take a moment, bring yourself to the present moment, and contemplate all that you have in your life. It can be big, such as your home, your family, or even your car that gets you to work every day, or it can be something small, like the breathtaking colors of the Autumn leaves, your cozy Sherpa blanket, or that pint of ice cream waiting for you in the freezer. Make a list so you can visualize it and see, exactly, all that gives you feelings of gratitude. You can use this list then to remind yourself when, as kids say, you’re having a thumbs down day.
Gratitude is one of the essential character values of the Choose Love Formula that enable you to flourish, along with Courage, Forgiveness, and Compassion-in-Action. There are many physical as well as psychological health benefits in practicing gratitude, including fostering a more positive attitude, showing appreciation and kindness toward yourself and others, increasing your mindfulness and presence in the here and now where life is happening, enhancing your ability to see others’ perspectives and show empathy, and much more. Practicing gratitude helps you to be happier and this positively impacts every aspect of your life including how you show up for your significant others, at work, for your kids, and even yourself!
Thinking about how precious life is leads me to a quote by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.” Wow, he sums it all up in two sentences. Look at every minute of your day to uncover what it holds for you and be grateful for YOU, all that you are and all that you have. Through finding our own self worth we see all that we have to give to others. I used to be critical of myself, in almost every way. Now I literally give myself a hug and thank my body and mind for always rising to the occasion.
Make a promise to yourself this month to shift your focus to gratitude. Your entire family will benefit. What you focus on grows! Take a quiet moment to reflect on all the micro-moments of joy you experience each day. Relish them. Embrace them. Feelings of gratitude will warm your heart, inspire you to live each day to the fullest, and face each day with a positive mindset. All of this goes back to Nurturing Healing Love. We can create the lives we want as well as the world we want to live in by modeling this for ourselves. We begin by having the courage to face difficulty in our lives, the gratitude to focus on what we have, forgiveness to let the pain, shame and blame go, and compassion in action to take what we’ve learned in life and use that wisdom to help others. This is Choosing Love.
Join me as we practice gratitude every day with our 30 Days of Gratitude for the month of November. Learn more at chooselovemovement.org.