Experience: Primal Gratitude. 20 miles before the end of the journey, we’d nearly run out of water. The sun was setting. Stream beds were dry everywhere we looked…and the few people we ran into shook their heads dejectedly. We had too little water to cook with and not enough for drinking. Things didn’t look good.
Happening upon an abandoned high sierra station called Sunrise Camp, we searched for any sign of working pumps, trickling streams, or other potable sources. We bushwhacked up the hills and studied the maps. Nothing. Doubt then dread started to fill my mind. What if we had no more water? We’d have to ration for the next 24 hours using the 2 liters left between us while eating only dried food.
After searching around the camp for almost an hour my friend Chris gave a welcome cry from across the darkening hillside. “I found some.” A tiny trickle gurgled out of a shallow hole: enough water to fill our thirsty filtering bags. I was overcome with relief. My heart beat fast and my mouth quivered with a mixture of smiling, laughing, and crying. I felt a resolved doubt in the ability of the trail to give us what we needed to survive. Nature and the trail, once again, had provided. We cooked our last couple of meals in pure bliss…enjoying every drop of water from the filtering bags into our pots and cups. This water would easily take us to the end of the trail! Gratitude welled up inside of my belly, warming my entire body head to toe. It was a massive gift of life. I was awash in primal gratitude.
Relevance: Pure Appreciation
People who work in groups often expect their processes and systems to be in order: the machines powered, the supplies stocked, and the floors cleaned. When basic processes fall short or shut down, groups can revert to blame or panic. We have become so accustomed to things being taken care of that we lose sight of what is working in the background to support us and what it takes to deliver the goods. Practicing gratitude in a full-bodied way enables not only kindness but also humility. It acknowledges that we can’t do things by ourselves. Being actively aware of this can move us from a dim glow of thanks to a shining light of pure appreciation.
Practice: Long Term Gratitude
Here are a few ways of practicing gratitude. (1) At the beginning and end of every meeting or event take a moment to share words of appreciation. Start with the facility and food, and then work your way to those who put in extra time to ensure copies were made and data available. It may feel awkward at first but over time this muscle of gratitude will strengthen. (2) Stop to thank people for the job they are doing in the moment. Share a gracious word with the person cleaning the bathrooms. Give a smile to someone pouring water in your cup. (3) Before you go to sleep, take time to recall acts of help or sustenance you received. Bring these thoughts front and center; allow them to circulate in your belly, heart, and mind. This practice can help you sleep and over time deepen into long term gratitude.