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The path of gratitude

When you see someone who is in that state of positivity and of gratitude, you just want it. It is like a little campfire, and you just want to go warm your hands on them.

— Anne Lamott, author

By Deborah Perdue

Reflecting on my life before 2000, I know I was rather ungrateful and even spoiled. I lived on a lovely Eucalyptus-wooded property in the Bay Area in California, worked in a beautiful studio on the property conducting my own graphic design business, was married to a handsome husband with family money, enjoyed many friends, pets, and my birth family even lived nearby. Still, I would go into moody dissatisfaction fairly often.

I remember a friend and employee who watched me complaining day after day. One day she burst out in frustration, "Girl, you have EVERYTHING!" insinuating that I had nothing to gripe about. Even at the time, I knew she was absolutely right.

Fourteen years later, I reside in Southern Oregon. I live in a serene abode in the country, with acreage and a vista view of forested mountains. I live with my second husband who is much more simpatico with me. I enjoy deeper, more numerous friendships, our joyful dogs and two cockatiels. Add to that a much better understanding of myself, living authentically, I find that I am able to watch my fluctuating moods pass by fleetingly like fog, until the sunshine of joy and peace within me comes out to shine again. I am no longer petulant. I have less money but it doesn't matter. I have learned, through my daily spiritual practice, to appreciate the gifts of spirit, and I am thankful each and every day. Life isn't perfect, of course, but my focus is on what is right.

All of this is to say that I recommend keeping a gratitude journal, like I do, to enter that space of inner peace more consistently; the peace always at our core. Start a journal, and write down at least five things you are grateful for each day. Try this practice for 40 days, and you begin a routine that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

It is very fulfilling to notice anything and everything within and around you that you are grateful for. No matter how down and out you may feel, I promise, if you apply this practice you will discover many thoughts of thanksgiving that will emerge, from little things one might take for granted to more momentous parts of life.

Just a few examples: The crunch of snow under boots in the wintertime; the sonorous songs of birds and crickets as spring gets closer; the clear, warm rivers in summer; the glorious red, yellow and orange leaves drifting down from trees in Autumn; the breaths our bodies automatically take; the strength of legs and feet to carry us; the way we can communicate with anyone in the world through our computers; the loving smile of a good friend or lover; the hush and majesty of a redwood forest as you stand in it … and on and on …

It is impossible to be depressed or feeling out of sorts when counting our blessings. You cannot simultaneously be angry or complaining while in a state of gratitude. Many psychologists know this fact to be true, and thus may suggest a gratitude practice to their clinically depressed patients.

Try a new practice of gratitude for 40 days. Or, if you already know of this practice, be more consistent about it. Let it become a natural part of your everyday life. I know, from the momentous change of attitude in my own life, that this simple practice can shift you into feeling more inner peace. Let others warm their hands in your gratitude, as Anne Lamott said. It's a lot more fun than being a chronic whiner, as I used to be.

Deborah Perdue, RScP, is a licensed practitioner at Center for Spiritual Living Rogue Valley and author of "Grace of Gratitude Journal."

Send 600 to 700 word articles on Inner Peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@live.com.