When I was a minister, everything was a sermon. Every experience, every book or movie, every conversation, every confrontation – sermons lurked around every corner just waiting to be preached. When I worked in hospice, everything was death (and life, and love and reckoning and singing.) Now I am taking a drawing class, and everything is form, pattern, texture, beauty.
I am a magnet for noticing how my life is not as perfect as it could, ideally, be. My mind collects copious data on the subject. Given a lovely Facebook post by a friend about their beautiful children or their beautiful day or their radical political action, my mind files it under “Yet again, I’ve totally missed the boat.” There are so many other options. It could be filed in “I’m so happy for my friend,” or “that gives me a great idea” or “I’m so glad there are people like that in the world, and I’m lucky to know them.”
Once upon a time I thought that counting your blessings or keeping a gratitude journal was sort of cheap spirituality, lacking depth, glossing over the hard stuff that I considered the real substance (learning from my suffering, which requires spending some serious time investigating and focusing on the suffering, and creating a really effective suffering filter). I’ve learned that for me, however, training my mind to filter for gratitude - for picking out and noticing all the joy and love and caring and beauty – is one of the most powerful and radical practices I can engage.