Gratitude The Art of Paying Attention

Since COVID-19 emerged in our lives, our collective perception of time has been turned upside down.

With the never-ending ping of extraordinary news, with nowhere to go, no one to see and too much to do, we feel trapped in a time warp.

Nevertheless, amidst the pain and monotony, time is forging ahead and change is happening all around us. Cherry blossoms are blooming. Daffodils have sprouted. Small and big feats are taking place everywhere.

There is much to be grateful for.

But it can be hard to pay attention and feel grateful amidst suffering. And even if we do, it can feel absurd and even cliche to speak of in a moment like this.

And yet, it is precisely in this moment that it is urgent to be grateful for the gifts of our physical, emotional and spiritual health and to take the time to celebrate when we can.

Gratitude (Hakarat Hatov) — which we know intuitively from moments of prayer and connection and empirically from the countless scientific studies like the one linked below — makes your life better and functions as an infinite feedback loop, creating and returning positivity.

Psychologist and author Melody Beattie taught that "Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

And although we know the benefits, it can still be hard to practice and at times to take seriously.

So how do we become grateful?

How do we open our hearts up and begin to pay attention?

To investigate these questions, M² has launched Days of Gratitude - an initiative filled with resources, prompts and activities to help you and those around you share and express gratitude.

In this Value Spark, you will get a taste of the many ways that you can express gratitude in order to start developing the muscles needed to navigate through the world in times of normalcy, celebration and sorrow.

One must bless for the bad as one blesses for the good, and for the good as one blesses for the bad.

Jewish tradition teaches that a person should aspire to say 100 blessings a day. It is both required to say a blessing when good things happen in life but also when bad things happen in life.

How are you counting your blessings? And how can you turn your present reality into a moment of recognition?

Writing | 15 minutes

Contemporary liturgist Alden Solovy composed two prayers and blessings for our specific times to bless heroes on the front lines as well as medical scientists working tirelessly to find a cure.

Inspired by Solovy’s prayers, write your own prayer of gratitude towards those who care for you.

The Kotzker rebbe, a Hasidic master, once approached his students and asked them to eulogize their master. Describing him they allegedly said there was no particular area in life that he excelled in, but whatever he was doing at the moment he was completely present.

When life is uncomfortable in the present, we remember the past and speak of its glory. Alternatively, we resort to the future and prophesize how great life will be.

But how can we stay grounded in our present moment and realize that there is power in the now?

Mindfulness, Meditation, or Art | 30 minutes

Hazon offers three exercises to practice mindfulness, ranging from activities that can be done here and now to practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine.

Try one, two or all three of these exercises to discover the power in the now.

Open my lips, Lord, so my mouth may declare Your praise.

This blessing appears in the daily central prayer. Gratitude isn’t only a private mediation, but a public one in which we express our gratitude and help uplift others.

Being the recipient of someone’s gratitude has tremendous power.

What is the benefit for the person expressing that gratitude?

Find out by watching this fascinating social experiment.

Expression | 15 minutes

Are you up for the Gratitude Challenge?

The practice of gratitude isn’t a one-size-fits-all. It’s about finding the method that works for you.

It also isn’t a cure-all. We can’t erase the pain or sorrow but we can broaden our perspective by gently settling our attention on something positive.

Interested in learning more about Days of Gratitude?

Curious about additional M² Value Sparks?

Feel free to share and learn this Value Spark with your friends, family, students and colleagues.

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Created with images by Daiga Ellaby - "Yellow flowers white petals" • John Baker - "You Are Here" • Melissa Di Rocco - "untitled image" • Clark Van Der Beken - "Blending watercolors blue and yellow to create orange and green on canvas"